“’Farewell, thou brave and kind old Friend! The prayers of ransomed ones ascended to Heaven for thee, and a glorious company have welcomed thee to the Eternal City.’”
Referred to by John Hunn, was also a brave conductor on the Underground Rail Road leading down into Maryland (via Hunn’s place). Mr. Burris was a native of Delaware, but being a free man and possessing more than usual intelligence, and withal an ardent love of liberty, he left “slave-dom” and moved with his family to Philadelphia. Here his abhorrence of Slavery was greatly increased, especially after becoming acquainted with the Anti-slavery Office and the Abolition doctrine. Under whose auspices or by what influence he was first induced to visit the South with a view of aiding slaves to escape, the writer does not recollect; nevertheless, from personal knowledge, prior to 1851, he well knew that Burris was an accredited agent on the road above alluded to, and that he had been considered a safe, wise, and useful man in his day and calling. Probably the simple conviction that he would not otherwise be doing as he would be done by actuated him in going down South occasionally to assist some of his suffering friends to get the yokes off their necks, and with him escape to freedom. A number were thus aided by Burris. But finally he found himself within the fatal snare; the slave-holders caught him at last, and Burris was made a prisoner in Dover jail. His wife and children were thereby left without their protector and head. The friends of the slave in Philadelphia and elsewhere deeply sympathized with him in this dreadful hour. Being able to use the pen, although he could not write without having his letters inspected, he kept up a constant correspondence with his friends both in Delaware and Philadelphia. John Hunn and Thomas Garrett were as faithful to him as brothers. After lying in prison for many months, his trial came on and Slavery gained the victory. The court decided that he must be sold in or out of the State to serve for seven years. No change, pardon or relief, could be expected from the spirit and power that held sway over Delaware at that time.
The case was one of great interest to Mr. McKim, as indeed to the entire Executive Committee of the Pennsylvania Anti-slavery Society, who felt constrained to do all they could to save the poor man from his threatened fate, although they had not advised or encouraged him in the act for which he was condemned and about to suffer. In viewing his condition, but a faint ray of hope was entertained from one single direction. It was this: to raise money privately and have a man at the auction on the day of sale to purchase him.