John came from Maryland, and brought with him a good degree of pluck. He satisfied the Committee that he fully believed in freedom, and had proved his faith by his works, as he came in contact with pursuers, whom he put to flight by the use of an ugly-looking knife, which he plunged into one of them, producing quite a panic; the result was that he was left to pursue his Underground Rail Road journey without further molestation. There was nothing in John’s appearance which would lead one to suppose that he was a blood-thirsty or bad man, although a man of uncommon muscular powers; six feet high, and quite black, with resolution stamped on his countenance. But when he explained how he was enslaved by a man named John B. Slade, of Harford Co., and how, in some way or other, he became entitled to his freedom, and just as the time arrived for the consummation of his long prayed-for boon, said Slade was about to sell him,—after this provocation, it was clear enough to perceive how John came to use his knife.
John Hillis was a tiller of the ground under a widow lady (Mrs. Louisa Le Count), of the New Market District, Maryland. He signified to the mistress, that he loved to follow the water, and that he would be just as safe on water as on land, and that he was discontented. The widow heard John’s plausible story, and saw nothing amiss in it, so she consented that he should work on a schooner. The name of the craft was “Majestic.” The hopeful John endeavored to do his utmost to please, and was doubly happy when he learned that the “Majestic” was to make a trip to Philadelphia. On arriving John’s eyes were opened to see that he owed Mrs. Le Count nothing, but that she was largely indebted to him for years of unrequited toil; he could not, therefore, consent to go back to her. He was troubled to think of his poor wife and children, whom he had left in the hands of Mrs. Harriet Dean, three quarters of a mile from New Market; but it was easier for him to imagine plans by which he could get them off than to incur the hazard of going back to Maryland; therefore he remained in freedom.
Charles Ross was clearly of the opinion that he was free-born, but that he had been illegally held in Slavery, as were all his brothers and sisters, by a man named Rodgers, a farmer, living near Greensborough, in Caroline county, Md. Very good reasons were given by Charles for the charge which he made against Rodgers, and it went far towards establishing the fact, that “colored men had no rights which white men were bound to respect,” in Maryland. Although he was only twenty-three years of age, he had fully weighed the matter of his freedom, and appeared firmly set against Slavery.