In November, 1817, William Wright married Phebe Wierman, (born on the 8th of February, 1790,) daughter of a neighboring farmer, and sister of Hannah W. Gibbons, wife of Daniel Gibbons, a notice of whom appears elsewhere in this work. Phebe Wright was the assistant of her husband in every good work, and their married life of forty-eight years was a long period of united and efficient labor in the cause of humanity. She still (1871) survives him. William and Phebe Wright began their Underground Rail Road labors about the year 1819. Hamilton Moore, who ran away from Baltimore county, Maryland, was the first slave aided by them. His master came for him, but William Wright and Joel Wierman, Phebe Wright’s brother, who lived in the neighborhood, rescued him and sent him to Canada.
In the autumn of 1828, as Phebe Wright, surrounded by her little children, came out upon her back porch in the performance of some household duty, she saw standing before her in the shade of the early November morning, a colored man without hat, shoes, or coat. He asked if Mr. Wright lived there, and upon receiving an affirmative reply, said that he wanted work. The good woman, comprehending the situation at a glance, told him to come into the house, get warm, and wait till her husband came home. He was shivering with cold and fright. When William Wright came home the fugitive told his story. He came from Hagerstown, Maryland, having been taught the blacksmith’s trade there. In this business it was his duty to keep an account of all the work done by him, which record he showed to his master at the end of the week. Knowing no written character but the figure 5 he kept this account by means of a curious system of hieroglyphics in which straight marks meant horse shoes put on, circles, cart-wheels fixed, etc. One day in happening to see his master’s book he noticed that wherever five and one were added the figure 6 was used. Having practiced this till he could make it he ever after used it in his accounts. As his master was looking over these one day, he noticed the new figure and compelled the slave to tell how he had learned it. He flew into a rage, and said, “I’ll teach you how to be learning new figures,” and picking up a horse-shoe threw it at him, but fortunately for the audacious chattel, missed his aim. Notwithstanding his ardent desire for liberty, the slave considered it his duty to remain in bondage until he was twenty-one years old in order to repay by his labor the trouble and expense which his master had had in rearing him. On the evening of his twenty-first anniversary he turned his face toward the North star, and started for a land of freedom. Arriving at Reisterstown, a village on the Westminster turnpike about twenty-five miles from Baltimore and thirty-five miles from Mr. Wright’s house, he was arrested and placed in the bar-room of the country tavern in care of the landlady to wait until his captors, having finished some work in which they were engaged,