The sheriff’s daughter had heard her father’s conversation with the constable, accordingly she sent word on First-day morning, to my revered friend, Thomas Garrett, of Wilmington, five miles distant, in regard to the matter, inviting him to see the fugitives. Early on Second day morning (Monday), Thomas went over with John Wales, attorney at law. The latter soon obtained a writ of habeas corpus from Judge Booth of New Castle, which was served upon the sheriff; who, therefore, brought the whole party before Judge Booth, who discharged them at once, as being illegally detained by the sheriff. Thomas Garrett, with the consent of the judge, then hired a carriage to take the woman and four children over to Wilmington, Samuel and the two older boys walked, so they all escaped from the man-hunters. They went from Wilmington to Byberry, and settled near the farm of Robert Purvis. Samuel Hawkins and wife have since died, but their descendants still live in that neighborhood, under the name of Hackett.
Soon after the departure of the fugitives from New Castle jail, the constable arrived with new commitments from William Streets, and presented them in due form to the sheriff; who informed him that they had been liberated by order of Judge Booth! A few hours after, William Hardcastle arrived from Philadelphia, expecting to take Samuel Hawkins and his family to Queen Ann’s county, Maryland. Judge of his disappointment at finding they were beyond his control—absolutely gone! They returned to Middletown in great anger, and threatened to prosecute William Streets for his participation in the affair.
After the departure of the Hawkins family from Middletown, I returned home to see what had become of S.D. Burris and his four men. I found them taking some solid refreshment, preparatory to taking a long walk in the snow. They left about nine P.M., for Wilmington. I sent by S.D. Burris a letter to Thomas Garrett, detailing the arrest and commitment of S. Hawkins and family to New Castle jail. They all arrived safely in Wilmington before daylight next morning. Burris waited to hear the result of the expedition to New Castle; and actually had the pleasure of seeing S. Hawkins and family arrive in Wilmington.
Samuel Burris returned to my house early on Third day morning, with a letter from Thomas Garrett, giving me a description of the whole transaction. My joy on this occasion was great! and I returned thanks to God for this wonderful escape of so many human beings from the charnel-house of Slavery.
[Illustration: JOHN HUNN]
[Illustration: SAMUEL RHOADS]
[Illustration: WILLIAM WHIPPER]
[Illustration: SAMUEL D. BURRIS]
Of course this circumstance excited the ire of many pro-slavery editors in Maryland. I had copies of several papers sent me, wherein I was described as a man unfit to live in a civilized community, and calling upon the inhabitants of Middletown to expel such a dangerous person from that neighborhood! They also told exactly where I lived, which enabled many a poor fugitive escaping from the house of bondage, to find a hearty welcome and a resting-place on the road to liberty. Thanks be to God! for His goodness to me in this respect.