Almost within the lions’ den, in daily sight of the enemy, in the little slave-holding State of Delaware, lived and labored the freedom-loving, earnest and whole-souled Quaker abolitionist, John Hunn. His headquarters were at Cantwell’s Bridge, but, as an engineer of the Underground Rail Road, his duties, like those of his fellow-laborer Thomas Garrett, were not confined to that section, but embraced other places, and were attended with great peril, constant care and expense. He was well-known to the colored people far and near, and was especially sought with regard to business pertaining to the Underground Rail Road, as a friend who would never fail to assist as far as possible in every time of need. Through his agency many found their way to freedom, both by land and water.
The slave-holders regarding him with much suspicion, watched him closely, and were in the habit of “breathing out threatenings and slaughter” very fiercely at times. But Hunn was too plucky to be frightened by their threats and menaces, and as one, commissioned by a higher power to remember those in bonds as bound with them he remained faithful to the slave. Men, women or children seeking to be unloosed from the fetters of Slavery, could not make their grievances known to John Hunn without calling forth his warmest sympathies. His house and heart were always open to all such. The slave-holders evidently concluded that Hunn could not longer be tolerated, consequently devised a plan to capture him, on the charge of aiding off a woman with her children.
[John Hunn and Thomas Garrett were conjointly prosecuted in this case, and in the sketch of the latter, the trial, conviction, etc., are so fully referred to, that it is unnecessary to do more than allude to it here].
These noted Underground Rail Road offenders being duly brought before the United States District Court, in May, 1848, Judge Taney, presiding, backed by a thoroughly pro-slavery sentiment, obviously found it a very easy matter to convict them, and a still easier matter to fine them to the extent of every dollar they possessed in the world. Thousands of dollars were swept from Hunn in an instant, and his family left utterly destitute; but he was by no means conquered, as he deliberately gave the court to understand in a manly speech, delivered while standing to receive his sentence. There and then he avowed his entire sympathy with the slave, and declared that in the future, as in the past, by the help of God, he would never withhold a helping hand from the down-trodden in the hour of distress. That this pledge was faithfully kept by Hunn, there can be no question, as he continued steadfast at his post until the last fetter was broken by the great proclamation of Abraham Lincoln.
He was not without friends, however, for even near by, dwelt a few well-tried Abolitionists. Ezekiel Jenkins, Mifflin Warner, and one or two others, whole-souled workers in the same cause with Hunn; he was therefore not forgotten in the hour of his extremity.