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´╗┐Title: The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave
Author: Brown, William Wells, 1816?-1884
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave" ***

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    --Is there not some chosen curse,
    Some hidden thunder in the stores of heaven,
    Red with uncommon wrath, to blast the man
    Who gains his fortune from the blood of souls?






[Illustration: William W. Brown.]


Thirteen years ago, I came to your door, a weary fugitive from chains
and stripes. I was a stranger, and you took me in. I was hungry, and you
fed me. Naked was I, and you clothed me. Even a name by which to be
known among men, slavery had denied me. You bestowed upon me your own.
Base indeed should I be, if I ever forget what I owe to you, or do
anything to disgrace that honored name!

As a slight testimony of my gratitude to my earliest benefactor, I take
the liberty to inscribe to you this little Narrative of the sufferings
from which I was fleeing when you had compassion upon me. In the
multitude that you have succored, it is very possible that you may not
remember me; but until I forget God and myself, I can never forget you.

Your grateful friend,




DEDHAM, JULY 1, 1847.


MY DEAR FRIEND:--I heartily thank you for the privilege of reading the
manuscript of your Narrative. I have read it with deep interest and
strong emotion. I am much mistaken if it be not greatly successful and
eminently useful. It presents a different phase of the infernal
slave-system from that portrayed in the admirable story of Mr. Douglass,
and gives us a glimpse of its hideous cruelties in other portions of its

Your opportunities of observing the workings of this accursed system
have been singularly great. Your experiences in the Field, in the House,
and especially on the River in the service of the slave-trader, Walker,
have been such as few individuals have had;--no one, certainly, who has
been competent to describe them. What I have admired, and marvelled at,
in your Narrative, is the simplicity and calmness with which you
describe scenes and actions which might well "move the very stones to
rise and mutiny" against the National Institution which makes them

You will perceive that I have made very sparing use of your flattering
permission to alter what you had written. To correct a few errors, which
appeared to be merely clerical ones, committed in the hurry of
composition, under unfavorable circumstances, and to suggest a few
curtailments, is all that I have ventured to do. I should be a bold man,
as well as a vain one, if I should attempt to improve your descriptions
of what you have seen and suffered. Some of the scenes are not unworthy
of De Foe himself.

I trust and believe that your Narrative will have a wide circulation. I
am sure it deserves it. At least, a man must be differently constituted
from me, who can rise from the perusal of your Narrative without feeling
that he understands slavery better, and hates it worse, than he ever did

I am, very faithfully and respectfully,

Your friend,



The friends of freedom may well congratulate each other on the
appearance of the following Narrative. It adds another volume to the
rapidly increasing anti-slavery literature of the age. It has been
remarked by a close observer of human nature, "Let me make the songs of
a nation, and I care not who makes its laws;" and it may with equal
truth be said, that, among a reading people like our own, their books
will at least give character to their laws. It is an influence which
goes forth noiselessly upon its mission, but fails not to find its way
to many a warm heart, to kindle on the altar thereof the fires of
freedom, which will one day break forth in a living flame to consume

This little book is a voice from the prison-house, unfolding the deeds
of darkness which are there perpetrated. Our cause has received
efficient aid from this source. The names of those who have come from
thence, and battled manfully for the right, need not to be recorded
here. The works of some of them are an enduring monument of praise, and
their perpetual record shall be found in the grateful hearts of the
redeemed bondman.

Few persons have had greater facilities for becoming acquainted with
slavery, in all its horrible aspects, than William W. Brown. He
has been behind the curtain. He has visited its secret chambers. Its
iron has entered his own soul. The dearest ties of nature have been
riven in his own person. A mother has been cruelly scourged before his
own eyes. A father,--alas! slaves have no father. A brother has been
made the subject of its tender mercies. A sister has been given up to
the irresponsible control of the pale-faced oppressor. This nation looks
on approvingly. The American Union sanctions the deed. The Constitution
shields the criminals. American religion sanctifies the crime. But the
tide is turning. Already, a mighty under-current is sweeping onward. The
voice of warning, of remonstrance, of rebuke, of entreaty, has gone
forth. Hand is linked in hand, and heart mingles with heart, in this
great work of the slave's deliverance.

The convulsive throes of the monster, even now, give evidence of deep

The writer of this Narrative was hired by his master to a
"_soul-driver_," and has witnessed all the horrors of the traffic, from
the buying up of human cattle in the slave-breeding States, which
produced a constant scene of separating the victims from all those whom
they loved, to their final sale in the southern market, to be worked up
in seven years, or given over to minister to the lust of southern

Many harrowing scenes are graphically portrayed; and yet with that
simplicity and ingenuousness which carries with it a conviction of the
truthfulness of the picture.

This book will do much to unmask those who have "clothed themselves in
the livery of the court of heaven" to cover up the enormity of their

During the past three years, the author has devoted his entire energies
to the anti-slavery cause. Laboring under all the disabilities and
disadvantages growing out of his education in slavery--subjected, as he
had been from his birth, to all the wrongs and deprivations incident to
his condition--he yet went forth, impelled to the work by a love of
liberty--stimulated by the remembrance of his own sufferings--urged on
by the consideration that a mother, brothers, and sister, were still
grinding in the prison-house of bondage, in common with three millions
of our Father's children--sustained by an unfaltering faith in the
omnipotence of truth and the final triumph of justice--to plead the
cause of the slave, and by the eloquence of earnestness carried
conviction to many minds, and enlisted the sympathy and secured the
co-operation of many to the cause.

His labors have been chiefly confined to Western New York, where he has
secured many warm friends, by his untiring zeal, persevering energy,
continued fidelity, and universal kindness.

Reader, are you an Abolitionist? What have you done for the slave? What
are you doing in his behalf? What do you purpose to do? There is a great
work before us! Who will be an idler now? This is the great humanitary
movement of the age, swallowing up, for the time being, all other
questions, comparatively speaking. The course of human events, in
obedience to the unchangeable laws of our being, is fast hastening the
final crisis, and

    "Have ye chosen, O my people, on whose party ye shall stand,
    Ere the Doom from its worn sandal shakes the dust against our land?"

Are you a Christian? This is the carrying out of practical Christianity;
and there is no other. Christianity is _practical_ in its very nature
and essence. It is a life, springing out of a soul imbued with its
spirit. Are you a friend of the missionary cause? This is the greatest
missionary enterprize of the day. Three millions of _Christian_,
law-manufactured heathen are longing for the glad tidings of the Gospel
of freedom. Are you a friend of the Bible? Come, then, and help us to
restore to these millions, whose eyes have been bored out by slavery,
their sight, that they may see to read the Bible. Do you love God whom
you have not seen? Then manifest that love, by restoring to your brother
whom you have seen, his rightful inheritance, of which he has been so
long and so cruelly deprived.

It is not for a single generation alone, numbering three
millions--sublime as would be that effort--that we are working. It is
for humanity, the wide world over, not only now, but for all
coming time, and all future generations:--

    "For he who settles Freedom's principles,
    Writes the death-warrant of all tyranny."

It is a vast work--a glorious enterprize--worthy the unswerving devotion
of the entire life-time of the great and the good.

Slaveholding and slaveholders must be rendered disreputable and odious.
They must be stripped of their respectability and Christian reputation.
They must be treated as "men-stealers--guilty of the highest
kind of theft, and sinners of the first rank." Their more guilty
accomplices in the persons of _northern apologists_, both in Church and
State, must be placed in the same category. Honest men must be made to
look upon their crimes with the same abhorrence and loathing, with
which they regard the less guilty robber and assassin, until

    "The common damned shun their society,
    And look upon themselves as fiends less foul."

When a just estimate is placed upon the crime of slave-holding, the work
will have been accomplished, and the glorious day ushered in--

    "When man nor woman in all our wide domain,
    Shall buy, or sell, or hold, or be a slave."

J.C. Hathaway.

--Farmington, N.Y., 1847.



I was born in Lexington, Ky. The man who stole me as soon as I was born,
recorded the births of all the infants which he claimed to be born his
property, in a book which he kept for that purpose. My mother's name was
Elizabeth. She had seven children, viz: Solomon, Leander, Benjamin,
Joseph, Millford, Elizabeth, and myself. No two of us were children of
the same father. My father's name, as I learned from my mother, was
George Higgins. He was a white man, a relative of my master, and
connected with some of the first families in Kentucky.

My master owned about forty slaves, twenty-five of whom were field
hands. He removed from Kentucky to Missouri, when I was quite young, and
settled thirty or forty miles above St. Charles, on the Missouri, where,
in addition to his practice as a physician, he carried on milling,
merchandizing and farming. He had a large farm, the principal
productions of which were tobacco and hemp. The slave cabins were
situated on the back part of the farm, with the house of the overseer,
whose name was Grove Cook, in their midst. He had the entire charge of
the farm, and having no family, was allowed a woman to keep house for
him, whose business it was to deal out the provisions for the hands.

A woman was also kept at the quarters to do the cooking for the field
hands, who were summoned to their unrequited toil every morning at four
o'clock, by the ringing of a bell, hung on a post near the house of the
overseer. They were allowed half an hour to eat their breakfast, and get
to the field. At half past four, a horn was blown by the overseer, which
was the signal to commence work; and every one that was not on the spot
at the time, had to receive ten lashes from the negro-whip, with which
the overseer always went armed. The handle was about three feet long,
with the butt-end filled with lead, and the lash six or seven feet in
length, made of cowhide, with platted wire on the end of it. This whip
was put in requisition very frequently and freely, and a small offence
on the part of a slave furnished an occasion for its use. During the
time that Mr. Cook was overseer, I was a house servant--a situation
preferable to that of a field hand, as I was better fed, better clothed,
and not obliged to rise at the ringing of the bell, but about half an
hour after. I have often laid and heard the crack of the whip, and the
screams of the slave. My mother was a field hand, and one morning was
ten or fifteen minutes behind the others in getting into the field. As
soon as she reached the spot where they were at work, the overseer
commenced whipping her. She cried, "Oh! pray--Oh! pray--Oh! pray"--these
are generally the words of slaves, when imploring mercy at the hands of
their oppressors. I heard her voice, and knew it, and jumped out of my
bunk, and went to the door. Though the field was some distance from the
house, I could hear every crack of the whip, and every groan and cry of
my poor mother. I remained at the door, not daring to venture any
farther. The cold chills ran over me, and I wept aloud. After giving her
ten lashes, the sound of the whip ceased, and I returned to my bed, and
found no consolation but in my tears. It was not yet daylight.


My master being a political demagogue, soon found those who
were ready to put him into office, for the favors he could render them;
and a few years after his arrival in Missouri, he was elected to a seat
in the Legislature. In his absence from home, everything was left in
charge of Mr. Cook, the overseer, and he soon became more tyrannical and
cruel. Among the slaves on the plantation, was one by the name of
Randall. He was a man about six feet high, and well-proportioned, and
known as a man of great strength and power. He was considered the most
valuable and able-bodied slave on the plantation; but no matter how good
or useful a slave may be, he seldom escapes the lash. But it was not so
with Randall. He had been on the plantation since my earliest
recollection, and I had never known of his being flogged. No thanks
were due to the master or overseer for this. I have often heard him
declare, that no white man should ever whip him--that he would die

Cook, from the time that he came upon the plantation, had frequently
declared, that he could and would flog any nigger that was put into the
field to work under him. My master had repeatedly told him not to
attempt to whip Randall, but he was determined to try it. As soon as he
was left sole dictator, he thought the time had come to put his threats
into execution. He soon began to find fault with Randall, and threatened
to whip him, if he did not do better. One day he gave him a very hard
task,--more than he could possibly do; and at night, the task not being
performed, he told Randall that he should remember him the next morning.
On the following morning, after the hands had taken breakfast, Cook
called out to Randall, and told him that he intended to whip him, and
ordered him to cross his hands and be tied. Randall asked why he wished
to whip him. He answered, because he had not finished his task the day
before. Randall said that the task was too great, or he should have done
it. Cook said it made no difference,--he should whip him. Randall stood
silent for a moment, and then said, "Mr. Cook, I have always tried to
please you since you have been on the plantation, and I find you are
determined not to be satisfied with my work, let me do as well as I may.
No man has laid hands on me, to whip me, for the last ten years, and I
have long since come to the conclusion not to be whipped by any man
living." Cook, finding by Randall's determined look and gestures, that
he would resist, called three of the hands from their work, and
commanded them to seize Randall, and tie him. The hands stood
still;--they knew Randall--and they also knew him to be a powerful man,
and were afraid to grapple with him. As soon as Cook had ordered the men
to seize him, Randall turned to them, and said--"Boys, you all know me;
you know that I can handle any three of you, and the man that lays hands
on me shall die. This white man can't whip me himself, and therefore he
has called you to help him." The overseer was unable to prevail upon
them to seize and secure Randall, and finally ordered them all to go to
their work together.

Nothing was said to Randall by the overseer, for more than a week. One
morning, however, while the hands were at work in the field, he came
into it, accompanied by three friends of his, Thompson, Woodbridge and
Jones. They came up to where Randall was at work, and Cook ordered him
to leave his work, and go with them to the barn. He refused to go;
whereupon he was attacked by the overseer and his companions, when he
turned upon them, and laid them, one after another, prostrate on the
ground. Woodbridge drew out his pistol, and fired at him, and brought
him to the ground by a pistol ball. The others rushed upon him with
their clubs, and beat him over the head and face, until they succeeded
in tying him. He was then taken to the barn, and tied to a beam. Cook
gave him over one hundred lashes with a heavy cowhide, had him washed
with salt and water, and left him tied during the day. The next day he
was untied, and taken to a blacksmith's shop, and had a ball and chain
attached to his leg. He was compelled to labor in the field, and perform
the same amount of work that the other hands did. When his master
returned home, he was much pleased to find that Randall had been subdued
in his absence.


Soon afterwards, my master removed to the city of St. Louis,
and purchased a farm four miles from there, which he placed under the
charge of an overseer by the name of Friend Haskell. He was a regular
Yankee from New England. The Yankees are noted for making the most cruel

My mother was hired out in the city, and I was also hired out there to
Major Freeland, who kept a public house. He was formerly from Virginia,
and was a horse-racer, cock-fighter, gambler, and withal an inveterate
drunkard. There were ten or twelve servants in the house, and when he
was present, it was cut and slash--knock down and drag out. In his fits
of anger, he would take up a chair, and throw it at a servant; and in
his more rational moments, when he wished to chastise one, he would tie
them up in the smoke-house, and whip them; after which, he would cause
a fire to be made of tobacco stems, and smoke them. This he called
"_Virginia play_."

I complained to my master of the treatment which I received from Major
Freeland; but it made no difference. He cared nothing about it, so long
as he received the money for my labor. After living with Major Freeland
five or six months, I ran away, and went into the woods back of the
city; and when night came on, I made my way to my master's farm, but was
afraid to be seen, knowing that if Mr. Haskell, the overseer, should
discover me, I should be again carried back to Major Freeland; so I kept
in the woods. One day, while in the woods, I heard the barking and
howling of dogs, and in a short time they came so near, that I knew them
to be the blood-hounds of Major Benjamin O'Fallon. He kept five or six,
to hunt runaway slaves with.

As soon as I was convinced that it was them, I knew there was no chance
of escape. I took refuge in the top of a tree, and the hounds were soon
at its base, and there remained until the hunters came up in a half or
three quarters of an hour afterwards. There were two men with the dogs,
who, as soon as they came up, ordered me to descend. I came down, was
tied, and taken to St. Louis jail. Major Freeland soon made his
appearance, and took me out, and ordered me to follow him, which I did.
After we returned home, I was tied up in the smoke-house, and was very
severely whipped. After the Major had flogged me to his satisfaction, he
sent out his son Robert, a young man eighteen or twenty years of age, to
see that I was well smoked. He made a fire of tobacco stems, which soon
set me to coughing and sneezing. This, Robert told me, was the way his
father used to do to his slaves in Virginia. After giving me what they
conceived to be a decent smoking, I was untied and again set to work.

Robert Freeland was a "chip of the old block." Though quite young, it
was not unfrequently that he came home in a state of intoxication. He is
now, I believe, a popular commander of a steamboat on the Mississippi
river. Major Freeland soon after failed in business, and I was put on
board the steamboat Missouri, which plied between St. Louis and Galena.
The commander of the boat was William B. Culver. I remained on her
during the sailing season, which was the most pleasant time for me that
I had ever experienced. At the close of navigation, I was hired to Mr.
John Colburn, keeper of the Missouri Hotel. He was from one of the Free
States; but a more inveterate hater of the negro, I do not believe ever
walked on God's green earth. This hotel was at that time one of the
largest in the city, and there were employed in it twenty or thirty
servants, mostly slaves.

Mr. Colburn was very abusive, not only to the servants, but to his wife
also, who was an excellent woman, and one from whom I never knew a
servant to receive a harsh word; but never did I know a kind one to a
servant from her husband. Among the slaves employed in the hotel, was
one by the name of Aaron, who belonged to Mr. John F. Darby, a lawyer.
Aaron was the knife-cleaner. One day, one of the knives was put on the
table, not as clean as it might have been. Mr. Colburn, for this
offence, tied Aaron up in the wood-house, and gave him over fifty lashes
on the bare back with a cowhide, after which, he made me wash him down
with rum. This seemed to put him into more agony than the whipping.
After being untied, he went home to his master, and complained of the
treatment which he had received. Mr. Darby would give no heed to
anything he had to say, but sent him directly back. Colburn, learning
that he had been to his master with complaints, tied him up again, and
gave him a more severe whipping than before. The poor fellow's back was
literally cut to pieces; so much so, that he was not able to work for
ten or twelve days.

There was also, among the servants, a girl whose master resided in the
country. Her name was Patsey. Mr. Colburn tied her up one evening, and
whipped her until several of the boarders came out and begged him to
desist. The reason for whipping her was this. She was engaged to be
married to a man belonging to Major William Christy, who resided four or
five miles north of the city. Mr. Colburn had forbid her to see John
Christy. The reason of this was said to be the regard which he himself
had for Patsey. She went to meeting that evening, and John returned home
with her. Mr. Colburn had intended to flog John, if he came within the
inclosure; but John knew too well the temper of his rival, and kept at a
safe distance;--so he took vengeance on the poor girl. If all the
slave-drivers had been called together, I do not think a more cruel man
than John Colburn,--and he too a northern man,--could have been found
among them.

While living at the Missouri Hotel, a circumstance occurred which caused
me great unhappiness. My master sold my mother, and all her children,
except myself. They were sold to different persons in the city of St.


I was soon after taken from Mr. Colburn's, and hired to Elijah
P. Lovejoy, who was at that time publisher and editor of the "St. Louis
Times." My work, while with him, was mainly in the printing office,
waiting on the hands, working the press, &c. Mr. Lovejoy was a very good
man, and decidedly the best master that I had ever had. I am chiefly
indebted to him, and to my employment in the printing office, for what
little learning I obtained while in slavery.

Though slavery is thought, by some, to be mild in Missouri, when
compared with the cotton, sugar and rice growing States, yet no part of
our slave-holding country, is more noted for the barbarity of its
inhabitants, than St. Louis. It was here that Col. Harney, a United
States officer, whipped a slave woman to death. It was here that Francis
McIntosh, a free colored man from Pittsburgh, was taken from the
steamboat Flora, and burned at the stake. During a residence of eight
years in this city, numerous cases of extreme cruelty came under my own
observation;--to record them all, would occupy more space than could
possibly be allowed in this little volume. I shall, therefore, give but
a few more, in addition to what I have already related.

Capt. J.B. Brunt, who resided near my master, had a slave named John. He
was his body servant, carriage driver, &c. On one occasion, while
driving his master through the city,--the streets being very muddy, and
the horses going at a rapid rate,--some mud spattered upon a gentleman
by the name of Robert More. More was determined to be revenged. Some
three or four months after this occurrence, he purchased John, for the
express purpose, as he said, "to tame the d----d nigger." After the
purchase, he took him to a blacksmith's shop, and had a ball and chain
fastened to his leg, and then put him to driving a yoke of oxen, and
kept him at hard labor, until the iron around his leg was so worn into
the flesh, that it was thought mortification would ensue. In addition to
this, John told me that his master whipped him regularly three times a
week for the first two months:--and all this to "_tame him_." A more
noble looking man than he, was not to be found in all St. Louis, before
he fell into the hands of More; and a more degraded and spirit-crushed
looking being was never seen on a southern plantation, after he had been
subjected to this "_taming_" process for three months. The last time
that I saw him, he had nearly lost the entire use of his limbs.

While living with Mr. Lovejoy, I was often sent on errands to the office
of the "Missouri Republican," published by Mr. Edward Charles. Once,
while returning to the office with type, I was attacked by several large
boys, sons of slave-holders, who pelted me with snow-balls. Having the
heavy form of type in my hands, I could not make my escape by running;
so I laid down the type and gave them battle. They gathered around me,
pelting me with stones and sticks, until they overpowered me, and would
have captured me, if I had not resorted to my heels. Upon my retreat,
they took possession of the type; and what to do to regain it I could
not devise. Knowing Mr. Lovejoy to be a very humane man, I went to the
office, and laid the case before him. He told me to remain in the
office. He took one of the apprentices with him, and went after the
type, and soon returned with it; but on his return informed me that
Samuel McKinney had told him that he would whip me, because I had hurt
his boy. Soon after, McKinney was seen making his way to the office by
one of the printers, who informed me of the fact, and I made my escape
through the back door.

McKinney not being able to find me on his arrival, left the office in a
great rage, swearing that he would whip me to death. A few days after,
as I was walking along Main Street, he seized me by the collar, and
struck me over the head five or six times with a large cane, which
caused the blood to gush from my nose and ears in such a manner that my
clothes were completely saturated with blood. After beating me to his
satisfaction, he let me go, and I returned to the office so weak from
the loss of blood, that Mr. Lovejoy sent me home to my master. It was
five weeks before I was able to walk again. During this time, it was
necessary to have some one to supply my place at the office, and I lost
the situation.

After my recovery, I was hired to Capt. Otis Reynolds, as a waiter on
board the steamboat Enterprize, owned by Messrs. John and Edward Walsh,
commission merchants at St. Louis. This boat was then running on the
upper Mississippi. My employment on board was to wait on gentlemen, and
the captain being a good man, the situation was a pleasant one to
me;--but in passing from place to place, and seeing new faces every day,
and knowing that they could go where they pleased, I soon became
unhappy, and several times thought of leaving the boat at some landing
place, and trying to make my escape to Canada, which I had heard much
about as a place where the slave might live, be free, and be protected.

But whenever such thoughts would come into my mind, my resolution would
soon be shaken by the remembrance that my dear mother was a slave in St.
Louis, and I could not bear the idea of leaving her in that condition.
She had often taken me upon her knee, and told me how she had carried me
upon her back to the field when I was an infant--how often she had been
whipped for leaving her work to nurse me--and how happy I would appear
when she would take me into her arms. When these thoughts came over me,
I would resolve never to leave the land of slavery without my mother. I
thought that to leave her in slavery, after she had undergone and
suffered so much for me, would be proving recreant to the duty which I
owed to her. Besides this, I had three brothers and a sister there,--two
of my brothers having died.

My mother, my brothers Joseph and Millford, and my sister Elizabeth,
belonged to Mr. Isaac Mansfield, formerly from one of the Free States,
(Massachusetts, I believe.) He was a tinner by trade, and carried on a
large manufacturing establishment. Of all my relatives, mother was
first, and sister next. One evening, while visiting them, I made some
allusion to a proposed journey to Canada, and sister took her seat by
my side, and taking my hand in hers, said, with tears in her eyes,--

"Brother, you are not going to leave mother and your dear sister here
without a friend, are you?"

I looked into her face, as the tears coursed swiftly down her cheeks,
and bursting into tears myself, said--

"No, I will never desert you and mother."

She clasped my hand in hers, and said--

"Brother, you have often declared that you would not end your days in
slavery. I see no possible way in which you can escape with us; and now,
brother, you are on a steamboat where there is some chance for you to
escape to a land of liberty. I beseech you not to let us hinder you. If
we cannot get our liberty, we do not wish to be the means of keeping you
from a land of freedom."

I could restrain my feelings no longer, and an outburst of my own
feelings, caused her to cease speaking upon that subject. In opposition
to their wishes, I pledged myself not to leave them in the hand of the
oppressor. I took leave of them, and returned to the boat, and laid down
in my bunk; but "sleep departed from my eyes, and slumber from my

A few weeks after, on our downward passage, the boat took on board, at
Hannibal, a drove of slaves, bound for the New Orleans market. They
numbered from fifty to sixty, consisting of men and women from eighteen
to forty years of age. A drove of slaves on a southern steamboat, bound
for the cotton or sugar regions, is an occurrence so common, that no
one, not even the passengers, appear to notice it, though they clank
their chains at every step. There was, however, one in this gang that
attracted the attention of the passengers and crew. It was a beautiful
girl, apparently about twenty years of age, perfectly white, with
straight light hair and blue eyes. But it was not the whiteness of her
skin that created such a sensation among those who gazed upon her--it
was her almost unparalleled beauty. She had been on the boat but a short
time, before the attention of all the passengers, including the ladies,
had been called to her, and the common topic of conversation was about
the beautiful slave-girl. She was not in chains. The man who claimed
this article of human merchandize was a Mr. Walker,--a well known
slave-trader, residing in St. Louis. There was a general anxiety among
the passengers and crew to learn the history of the girl. Her master
kept close by her side, and it would have been considered impudent for
any of the passengers to have spoken to her, and the crew were not
allowed to have any conversation with them. When we reached St. Louis,
the slaves were removed to a boat bound for New Orleans, and the history
of the beautiful slave-girl remained a mystery.

I remained on the boat during the season, and it was not an unfrequent
occurrence to have on board gangs of slaves on their way to the cotton,
sugar and rice plantations of the South.

Toward the latter part of the summer, Captain Reynolds left the boat,
and I was sent home. I was then placed on the farm under Mr. Haskell,
the overseer. As I had been some time out of the field, and not
accustomed to work in the burning sun, it was very hard; but I was
compelled to keep up with the best of the hands.

I found a great difference between the work in a steamboat cabin and
that in a corn-field.

My master, who was then living in the city, soon after removed to the
farm, when I was taken out of the field to work in the house as a
waiter. Though his wife was very peevish, and hard to please, I much
preferred to be under her control than the overseer's. They brought with
them Mr. Sloane, a Presbyterian minister; Miss Martha Tulley, a neice of
theirs from Kentucky; and their nephew William. The latter had been in
the family a number of years, but the others were all new-comers.

Mr. Sloane was a young minister, who had been at the South but a short
time, and it seemed as if his whole aim was to please the slaveholders,
especially my master and mistress. He was intending to make a visit
during the winter, and he not only tried to please them, but I think he
succeeded admirably. When they wanted singing, he sung; when they wanted
praying, he prayed; when they wanted a story told, he told a story.
Instead of his teaching my master theology, my master taught theology to
him. While I was with Captain Reynolds, my master "got religion," and
new laws were made on the plantation. Formerly, we had the privilege of
hunting, fishing, making splint brooms, baskets, &c. on Sunday; but this
was all stopped. Every Sunday, we were all compelled to attend meeting.
Master was so religious, that he induced some others to join him in
hiring a preacher to preach to the slaves.


My master had family worship, night and morning. At night, the
slaves were called in to attend; but in the mornings, they had to be at
their work, and master did all the praying. My master and mistress were
great lovers of mint julep, and every morning, a pitcher-full was made,
of which they all partook freely, not excepting little master William.
After drinking freely all round, they would have family worship, and
then breakfast. I cannot say but I loved the julep as well as any of
them, and during prayer was always careful to seat myself close to the
table where it stood, so as to help myself when they were all busily
engaged in their devotions. By the time prayer was over, I was about as
happy as any of them. A sad accident happened one morning. In helping
myself, and at the same time keeping an eye on my old mistress, I
accidentally let the pitcher fall upon the floor, breaking it in pieces,
and spilling the contents. This was a bad affair for me; for as soon as
prayer was over, I was taken and severely chastised.

My master's family consisted of himself, his wife, and their nephew,
William Moore. He was taken into the family, when only a few weeks of
age. His name being that of my own, mine was changed, for the purpose of
giving precedence to his, though I was his senior by ten or twelve
years. The plantation being four miles from the city, I had to drive the
family to church. I always dreaded the approach of the Sabbath; for,
during service, I was obliged to stand by the horses in the hot broiling
sun, or in the rain, just as it happened.

One Sabbath, as we were driving past the house of D.D. Page, a gentleman
who owned a large baking establishment, as I was sitting upon the box of
the carriage, which was very much elevated, I saw Mr. Page pursuing a
slave around the yard, with a long whip, cutting him at every jump. The
man soon escaped from the yard, and was followed by Mr. Page. They came
running past us, and the slave perceiving that he would be overtaken,
stopped suddenly, and Page stumbled over him, and falling on the stone
pavement, fractured one of his legs, which crippled him for life. The
same gentleman, but a short time previous, tied up a woman of his, by
the name of Delphia, and whipped her nearly to death; yet he was a
deacon in the Baptist church, in good and regular standing. Poor
Delphia! I was well acquainted with her, and called to see her while
upon her sick bed; and I shall never forget her appearance. She was a
member of the same church with her master.

Soon after this, I was hired out to Mr. Walker; the same man whom I have
mentioned as having carried a gang of slaves down the river, on the
steamboat Enterprize. Seeing me in the capacity of steward on the boat,
and thinking that I would make a good hand to take care of slaves, he
determined to have me for that purpose; and finding that my master would
not sell me, he hired me for the term of one year.

When I learned the fact of my having been hired to a negro speculator,
or a "soul-driver" as they are generally called among slaves, no one can
tell my emotions. Mr. Walker had offered a high price for me, as I
afterwards learned, but I suppose my master was restrained from selling
me by the fact that I was a near relative of his. On entering the
service of Mr. Walker, I found that my opportunity of getting to a land
of liberty was gone, at least for the time being. He had a gang of
slaves in readiness to start for New Orleans, and in a few days we were
on our journey. I am at a loss for language to express my feelings on
that occasion. Although my master had told me that he had not sold me,
and Mr. Walker had told me that he had not purchased me, I did not
believe them; and not until I had been to New Orleans, and was on my
return, did I believe that I was not sold.

There was on the boat a large room on the lower deck, in which the
slaves were kept, men and women, promiscuously--all chained two and two,
and a strict watch kept that they did not get loose; for cases have
occurred in which slaves have got off their chains, and made their
escape at landing-places, while the boats were taking in wood;--and with
all our care, we lost one woman who had been taken from her husband and
children, and having no desire to live without them, in the agony of her
soul jumped overboard, and drowned herself. She was not chained.

It was almost impossible to keep that part of the boat clean.

On landing at Natchez, the slaves were all carried to the slave-pen, and
there kept one week, during which time, several of them were sold. Mr.
Walker fed his slaves well. We took on board, at St. Louis, several
hundred pounds of bacon (smoked meat) and corn-meal, and his slaves were
better fed than slaves generally were in Natchez, so far as my
observation extended.

At the end of a week, we left for New Orleans, the place of our final
destination, which we reached in two days. Here the slaves were placed
in a negro-pen, where those who wished to purchase could call and
examine them. The negro-pen is a small yard, surrounded by buildings,
from fifteen to twenty feet wide, with the exception of a large gate
with iron bars. The slaves are kept in the buildings during the night,
and turned out into the yard during the day. After the best of the stock
was sold at private sale at the pen, the balance were taken to the
Exchange Coffee House Auction Rooms, kept by Isaac L. McCoy, and sold at
public auction. After the sale of this lot of slaves, we left New
Orleans for St. Louis.


On our arrival at St. Louis, I went to Dr. Young, and told him
that I did not wish to live with Mr. Walker any longer. I was heart-sick
at seeing my fellow-creatures bought and sold. But the Dr. had hired me
for the year, and stay I must. Mr. Walker again commenced purchasing
another gang of slaves. He bought a man of Colonel John O'Fallon, who
resided in the suburbs of the city. This man had a wife and three
children. As soon as the purchase was made, he was put in jail for safe
keeping, until we should be ready to start for New Orleans. His wife
visited him while there, several times, and several times when she went
for that purpose was refused admittance.

In the course of eight or nine weeks Mr. Walker had his cargo of human
flesh made up. There was in this lot a number of old men and women, some
of them with gray locks. We left St. Louis in the steamboat Carlton,
Captain Swan, bound for New Orleans. On our way down, and before we
reached Rodney, the place where we made our first stop, I had to prepare
the old slaves for market. I was ordered to have the old men's whiskers
shaved off, and the grey hairs plucked out, where they were not too
numerous, in which case he had a preparation of blacking to color it,
and with a blacking-brush we would put it on. This was new business to
me, and was performed in a room where the passengers could not see us.
These slaves were also taught how old they were by Mr. Walker, and after
going through the blacking process, they looked ten or fifteen years
younger; and I am sure that some of those who purchased slaves of Mr.
Walker, were dreadfully cheated, especially in the ages of the slaves
which they bought.

We landed at Rodney, and the slaves were driven to the pen in the back
part of the village. Several were sold at this place, during our stay of
four or five days, when we proceeded to Natchez. There we landed at
night, and the gang were put in the warehouse until morning, when they
were driven to the pen. As soon as the slaves are put in these pens,
swarms of planters may be seen in and about them. They knew when Walker
was expected, as he always had the time advertised beforehand when he
would be in Rodney, Natchez, and New Orleans. These were the principal
places where he offered his slaves for sale.

When at Natchez the second time, I saw a slave very cruelly whipped. He
belonged to a Mr. Broadwell, a merchant who kept a store on the wharf.
The slave's name was Lewis. I had known him several years, as he was
formerly from St. Louis. We were expecting a steamboat down the river,
in which we were to take passage for New Orleans. Mr. Walker sent me to
the landing to watch for the boat, ordering me to inform him on its
arrival. While there, I went into the store to see Lewis. I saw a slave
in the store, and asked him where Lewis was. Said he, "They have got
Lewis hanging between the heavens and the earth." I asked him what he
meant by that. He told me to go into the warehouse and see. I went in,
and found Lewis there. He was tied up to a beam, with his toes just
touching the floor. As there was no one in the warehouse but himself, I
inquired the reason of his being in that situation. He said Mr.
Broadwell had sold his wife to a planter six miles from the city, and
that he had been to visit her,--that he went in the night, expecting to
return before daylight, and went without his master's permission. The
patrol had taken him up before he reached his wife. He was put in jail,
and his master had to pay for his catching and keeping, and that was
what he was tied up for.

Just as he finished his story, Mr. Broadwell came in, and inquired what
I was doing there. I knew not what to say, and while I was thinking what
reply to make, he struck me over the head with the cowhide, the end of
which struck me over my right eye, sinking deep into the flesh, leaving
a scar which I carry to this day. Before I visited Lewis, he had
received fifty lashes. Mr. Broadwell gave him fifty lashes more after I
came out, as I was afterwards informed by Lewis himself.

The next day we proceeded to New Orleans, and put the gang in the same
negro-pen which we occupied before. In a short time, the planters came
flocking to the pen to purchase slaves. Before the slaves were exhibited
for sale, they were dressed and driven out into the yard. Some were set
to dancing, some to jumping, some to singing, and some to playing cards.
This was done to make them appear cheerful and happy. My business was to
see that they were placed in those situations before the arrival of the
purchasers, and I have often set them to dancing when their cheeks were
wet with tears. As slaves were in good demand at that time, they were
all soon disposed of, and we again set out for St. Louis.

On our arrival, Mr. Walker purchased a farm five or six miles from the
city. He had no family, but made a housekeeper of one of his female
slaves. Poor Cynthia! I knew her well. She was a quadroon, and one of
the most beautiful women I ever saw. She was a native of St. Louis, and
bore an irreproachable character for virtue and propriety of conduct.
Mr. Walker bought her for the New Orleans market, and took her down with
him on one of the trips that I made with him. Never shall I forget the
circumstances of that voyage! On the first night that we were on board
the steamboat, he directed me to put her into a state-room he had
provided for her, apart from the other slaves. I had seen too much of
the workings of slavery, not to know what this meant. I accordingly
watched him into the state-room, and listened to hear what passed
between them. I heard him make his base offers, and her reject them. He
told her that if she would accept his vile proposals, he would take her
back with him to St. Louis, and establish her as his housekeeper at his
farm. But if she persisted in rejecting them, he would sell her as a
field hand on the worst plantation on the river. Neither threats nor
bribes prevailed, however, and he retired, disappointed of his prey.

The next morning, poor Cynthia told me what had past, and bewailed her
sad fate with floods of tears. I comforted and encouraged her all I
could; but I foresaw but too well what the result must be. Without
entering into any farther particulars, suffice it to say that Walker
performed his part of the contract, at that time. He took her back to
St. Louis, established her as his mistress and housekeeper at his farm,
and before I left, he had two children by her. But, mark the end! Since
I have been at the North, I have been credibly informed that Walker has
been married, and, as a previous measure, sold poor Cynthia and her four
children (she having had two more since I came away) into hopeless

He soon commenced purchasing to make up the third gang. We took
steamboat, and went to Jefferson City, a town on the Missouri river.
Here we landed, and took stage for the interior of the State. He bought
a number of slaves as he passed the different farms and villages. After
getting twenty-two or twenty-three men and women, we arrived at St.
Charles, a village on the banks of the Missouri. Here he purchased a
woman who had a child in her arms, appearing to be four or five weeks

We had been travelling by land for some days, and were in hopes to have
found a boat at this place for St. Louis, but were disappointed. As no
boat was expected for some days, we started for St. Louis by land. Mr.
Walker had purchased two horses. He rode one, and I the other. The
slaves were chained together, and we took up our line of march, Mr.
Walker taking the lead, and I bringing up the rear. Though the distance
was not more than twenty miles, we did not reach it the first day. The
road was worse than any that I have ever travelled.

Soon after we left St. Charles, the young child grew very cross, and
kept up a noise during the greater part of the day. Mr. Walker
complained of its crying several times, and told the mother to stop the
child's d----d noise, or he would. The woman tried to keep the child
from crying, but could not. We put up at night with an acquaintance of
Mr. Walker, and in the morning, just as we were about to start, the
child again commenced crying. Walker stepped up to her, and told her to
give the child to him. The mother tremblingly obeyed. He took the child
by one arm, as you would a cat by the leg, walked into the house, and
said to the lady,

"Madam, I will make you a present of this little nigger; it keeps such a
noise that I can't bear it."

"Thank you, sir," said the lady.

The mother, as soon as she saw that her child was to be left, ran up to
Mr. Walker, and falling upon her knees begged him to let her have her
child; she clung around his legs, and cried, "Oh, my child! my child!
master, do let me have my child! oh, do, do, do. I will stop its crying,
if you will only let me have it again." When I saw this woman crying for
her child so piteously, a shudder,--a feeling akin to horror, shot
through my frame. I have often since in imagination heard her crying for
her child:--

    "O, master, let me stay to catch
      My baby's sobbing breath,
    His little glassy eye to watch,
      And smooth his limbs in death,

    And cover him with grass and leaf,
      Beneath the large oak tree:
    It is not sullenness, but grief,--
      O, master, pity me!

    The morn was chill--I spoke no word,
      But feared my babe might die,
    And heard all day, or thought I heard,
      My little baby cry.

    At noon, oh, how I ran and took
      My baby to my breast!
    I lingered--and the long lash broke
      My sleeping infant's rest.

    I worked till night--till darkest night,
      In torture and disgrace;
    Went home and watched till morning light,
      To see my baby's face.

    Then give me but one little hour--
      O! do not lash me so!
    One little hour--one little hour--
      And gratefully I'll go."

Mr. Walker commanded her to return into the ranks with the other slaves.
Women who had children were not chained, but those that had none were.
As soon as her child was disposed of, she was chained in the gang.

The following song I have often heard the slaves sing, when about to be
carried to the far south. It is said to have been composed by a slave.

    "See these poor souls from Africa
    Transported to America;
    We are stolen, and sold to Georgia,
    Will you go along with me?
    We are stolen, and sold to Georgia,
    Come sound the jubilee!

    See wives and husbands sold apart,
    Their children's screams will break my heart;--
    There's a better day a coming,
    Will you go along with me?
    There's a better day a coming,
    Go sound the jubilee!

    O, gracious Lord! when shall it be,
    That we poor souls shall all be free;
    Lord, break them slavery powers--
    Will you go along with me?
    Lord break them slavery powers,
    Go sound the jubilee!

    Dear Lord, dear Lord, when slavery'll cease,
    Then we poor souls will have our peace;--
    There's a better day a coming,
    Will you go along with me?
    There's a better day a coming,
    Go sound the jubilee!"

We finally arrived at Mr. Walker's farm. He had a house built during our
absence to put slaves in. It was a kind of domestic jail. The slaves
were put in the jail at night, and worked on the farm during the day.
They were kept here until the gang was completed, when we again started
for New Orleans, on board the steamboat North America, Capt. Alexander
Scott. We had a large number of slaves in this gang. One, by the name of
Joe, Mr. Walker was training up to take my place, as my time was nearly
out, and glad was I. We made our first stop at Vicksburg, where we
remained one week and sold several slaves.

Mr. Walker, though not a good master, had not flogged a slave since I
had been with him, though he had threatened me. The slaves were kept in
the pen, and he always put up at the best hotel, and kept his wines in
his room, for the accommodation of those who called to negotiate with
him for the purchase of slaves. One day while we were at Vicksburg,
several gentlemen came to see him for this purpose, and as usual the
wine was called for. I took the tray and started around with it, and
having accidentally filled some of the glasses too full, the gentlemen
spilled the wine on their clothes as they went to drink. Mr. Walker
apologized to them for my carelessness, but looked at me as though he
would see me again on this subject.

After the gentlemen had left the room, he asked me what I meant by my
carelessness, and said that he would attend to me. The next morning, he
gave me a note to carry to the jailer, and a dollar in money to give to
him. I suspected that all was not right, so I went down near the landing
where I met with a sailor, and walking up to him, asked him if he would
be so kind as to read the note for me. He read it over, and then looked
at me. I asked him to tell me what was in it. Said he,

"They are going to give you hell."

"Why?" said I.

He said, "This is a note to have you whipped, and says that you have a
dollar to pay for it."

He handed me back the note, and off I started. I knew not what to do,
but was determined not to be whipped. I went up to the jail--took a look
at it, and walked off again. As Mr. Walker was acquainted with the
jailer, I feared that I should be found out if I did not go, and be
treated in consequence of it still worse.

While I was meditating on the subject, I saw a colored man about my size
walk up, and the thought struck me in a moment to send him with my note.
I walked up to him, and asked him who he belonged to. He said he was a
free man, and had been in the city but a short time. I told him I had a
note to go into the jail, and get a trunk to carry to one of the
steamboats; but was so busily engaged that I could not do it, although I
had a dollar to pay for it. He asked me if I would not give him the job.
I handed him the note and the dollar, and off he started for the jail.

I watched to see that he went in, and as soon as I saw the door close
behind him, I walked around the corner, and took my station, intending
to see how my friend looked when he came out. I had been there but a
short time, when a colored man came around the corner, and said to
another colored man with whom he was acquainted--

"They are giving a nigger scissors in the jail."

"What for?" said the other. The man continued,

"A nigger came into the jail, and asked for the jailer. The jailer came
out, and he handed him a note, and said he wanted to get a trunk. The
jailer told him to go with him, and he would give him the trunk. So he
took him into the room, and told the nigger to give up the dollar. He
said a man had given him the dollar to pay for getting the trunk. But
that lie would not answer. So they made him strip himself, and then they
tied him down, and are now whipping him."

I stood by all the while listening to their talk, and soon found out
that the person alluded to was my customer. I went into the street
opposite the jail, and concealed myself in such a manner that I could
not be seen by any one coming out. I had been there but a short time,
when the young man made his appearance, and looked around for me. I,
unobserved, came forth from my hiding-place, behind a pile of brick, and
he pretty soon saw me and came up to me complaining bitterly, saying
that I had played a trick upon him. I denied any knowledge of what the
note contained, and asked him what they had done to him. He told me in
substance what I heard the man tell who had come out of the jail.

"Yes," said he, "they whipped me and took my dollar, and gave me this

He showed me the note which the jailer had given him, telling him to
give it to his master. I told him I would give him fifty cents for
it,--that being all the money I had. He gave it to me, and took his
money. He had received twenty lashes on his bare back, with the

I took the note and started for the hotel where I had left Mr. Walker.
Upon reaching the hotel, I handed it to a stranger whom I had not seen
before, and requested him to read it to me. As near as I can recollect,
it was as follows:--

     "DEAR SIR:--By your direction, I have given your boy twenty lashes.
     He is a very saucy boy, and tried to make me believe that he did
     not belong to you, and I put it on to him well for lying to me.

     I remain,

     Your obedient servant."

It is true that in most of the slave-holding cities, when a gentleman
wishes his servants whipped, he can send him to the jail and have it
done. Before I went in where Mr. Walker was, I wet my cheeks a little,
as though I had been crying. He looked at me, and inquired what was the
matter. I told him that I had never had such a whipping in my life, and
handed him the note. He looked at it and laughed;--"and so you told him
that you did not belong to me." "Yes, sir," said I. "I did not know that
there was any harm in that." He told me I must behave myself, if I did
not want to be whipped again.

This incident shows how it is that slavery makes its victims lying and
mean; for which vices it afterwards reproaches them, and uses them as
arguments to prove that they deserve no better fate. I have often,
since my escape, deeply regretted the deception I practised upon this
poor fellow; and I heartily desire that it may be, at some time or
other, in my power to make him amends for his vicarious sufferings in my


In a few days we reached New Orleans, and arriving there in the
night, remained on board until morning. While at New Orleans this time,
I saw a slave killed; an account of which has been published by Theodore
D. Weld, in his book entitled, "Slavery as it is." The circumstances
were as follows. In the evening, between seven and eight o'clock, a
slave came running down the levee, followed by several men and boys. The
whites were crying out, "Stop that nigger; stop that nigger;" while the
poor panting slave, in almost breathless accents, was repeating, "I did
not steal the meat--I did not steal the meat." The poor man at last took
refuge in the river. The whites who were in pursuit of him, run on board
of one of the boats to see if they could discover him. They finally
espied him under the bow of the steamboat Trenton. They got a pike-pole,
and tried to drive him from his hiding place. When they would strike at
him, he would dive under the water. The water was so cold, that it soon
became evident that he must come out or be drowned.

While they were trying to drive him from under the bow of the boat or
drown him, he would in broken and imploring accents say, "I did not
steal the meat; I did not steal the meat. My master lives up the river.
I want to see my master. I did not steal the meat. Do let me go home to
master." After punching him, and striking him over the head for some
time, he at last sunk in the water, to rise no more alive.

On the end of the pike-pole with which they were striking him was a hook
which caught in his clothing, and they hauled him up on the bow of the
boat. Some said he was dead, others said he was "_playing possum_" while
others kicked him to make him get up, but it was of no use--he was dead.

As soon as they became satisfied of this, they commenced leaving, one
after another. One of the hands on the boat informed the captain that
they had killed the man, and that the dead body was lying on the deck.
The captain came on deck, and said to those who were remaining, "You
have killed this nigger; now take him off of my boat." The captain's
name was Hart. The dead body was dragged on shore and left there. I went
on board of the boat where our gang of slaves were, and during the whole
night my mind was occupied with what I had seen. Early in the morning, I
went on shore to see if the dead body remained there. I found it in the
same position that it was left the night before. I watched to see what
they would do with it. It was left there until between eight and nine
o'clock, when a cart, which takes up the trash out of the streets, came
along, and the body was thrown in, and in a few minutes more was covered
over with dirt which they were removing from the streets. During the
whole time, I did not see more than six or seven persons around it, who,
from their manner, evidently regarded it as no uncommon occurrence.

During our stay in the city, I met with a young white man with whom I
was well acquainted in St. Louis. He had been sold into slavery, under
the following circumstances. His father was a drunkard, and very poor,
with a family of five or six children. The father died, and left the
mother to take care of and provide for the children as best she might.
The eldest was a boy, named Burrill, about thirteen years of age, who
did chores in a store kept by Mr. Riley, to assist his mother in
procuring a living for the family. After working with him two years, Mr.
Riley took him to New Orleans to wait on him while in that city on a
visit, and when he returned to St. Louis, he told the mother of the boy
that he had died with the yellow fever. Nothing more was heard from him,
no one supposing him to be alive. I was much astonished when Burrill
told me his story. Though I sympathized with him, I could not assist
him. We were both slaves. He was poor, uneducated, and without friends;
and if living, is, I presume, still held as a slave.

After selling out this cargo of human flesh, we returned to St. Louis,
and my time was up with Mr. Walker. I had served him one year, and it
was the longest year I ever lived.


I was sent home, and was glad enough to leave the service of one who was
tearing the husband from the wife, the child from the mother, and the
sister from the brother,--but a trial more severe and heart-rending than
any which I had yet met with awaited me. My dear sister had been sold to
a man who was going to Natchez, and was lying in jail awaiting the hour
of his departure. She had expressed her determination to die, rather
than go to the far south, and she was put in jail for safe keeping. I
went to the jail the same day that I arrived, but as the jailor was not
in, I could not see her.

I went home to my master, in the country, and the first day after my
return, he came where I was at work, and spoke to me very politely. I
knew from his appearance that something was the matter. After talking
about my several journeys to New Orleans with Mr. Walker, he told me
that he was hard pressed for money, and as he had sold my mother and all
her children except me, he thought it would be better to sell me than
any other one, and that as I had been used to living in the city, he
thought it probable that I would prefer it to a country life. I raised
up my head, and looked him full in the face. When my eyes caught his, he
immediately looked to the ground. After a short pause, I said,

"Master, mother has often told me that you are a near relative of mine,
and I have often heard you admit the fact; and after you have hired me
out, and received, as I once heard you say, nine hundred dollars for my
services,--after receiving this large sum, will you sell me to be
carried to New Orleans or some other place?"

"No," said he, "I do not intend to sell you to a negro trader. If I had
wished to have done that, I might have sold you to Mr. Walker for a
large sum, but I would not sell you to a negro trader. You may go to the
city, and find you a good master."

"But," said I, "I cannot find a good master in the whole city of St.

"Why?" said he.

"Because there are no good masters in the State."

"Do you not call me a good master?"

"If you were, you would not sell me."

"Now I will give you one week to find a master in, and surely you can do
it in that time."

The price set by my evangelical master upon my soul and body was the
trifling sum of five hundred dollars. I tried to enter into some
arrangement by which I might purchase my freedom; but he would enter
into no such arrangement.

I set out for the city with the understanding that I was to return in a
week with some one to become my new master. Soon after reaching the
city, I went to the jail, to learn if I could once more see my sister;
but could not gain admission. I then went to mother, and learned from
her that the owner of my sister intended to start for Natchez in a few

I went to the jail again the next day, and Mr. Simonds, the keeper,
allowed me to see my sister for the last time. I cannot give a just
description of the scene at that parting interview. Never, never can be
erased from my heart the occurrences of that day! When I entered the
room where she was, she was seated in one corner, alone. There were four
other women in the same room, belonging to the same man. He had
purchased them, he said, for his own use. She was seated with her face
towards the door where I entered, yet she did not look up until I walked
up to her. As soon as she observed me, she sprung up, threw her arms
around my neck, leaned her head upon my breast, and, without uttering a
word, burst into tears. As soon as she recovered herself sufficiently to
speak, she advised me to take mother, and try to get out of slavery. She
said there was no hope for herself,--that she must live and die a slave.
After giving her some advice, and taking from my finger a ring and
placing it upon hers, I bade her farewell forever, and returned to my
mother, and then and there made up my mind to leave for Canada as soon
as possible.

I had been in the city nearly two days, and as I was to be absent only a
week, I thought best to get on my journey as soon as possible. In
conversing with mother, I found her unwilling to make the attempt to
reach a land of liberty, but she counselled me to get my liberty if I
could. She said, as all her children were in slavery, she did not wish
to leave them. I could not bear the idea of leaving her among those
pirates, when there was a prospect of being able to get away from them.
After much persuasion, I succeeded in inducing her to make the attempt
to get away.

The time fixed for our departure was the next night. I had with me a
little money that I had received, from time to time, from gentlemen for
whom I had done errands. I took my scanty means and purchased some dried
beef, crackers and cheese, which I carried to mother, who had provided
herself with a bag to carry it in. I occasionally thought of my old
master, and of my mission to the city to find a new one. I waited with
the most intense anxiety for the appointed time to leave the land of
slavery, in search of a land of liberty.

The time at length arrived, and we left the city just as the clock
struck nine. We proceeded to the upper part of the city, where I had
been two or three times during the day, and selected a skiff to carry us
across the river. The boat was not mine, nor did I know to whom it did
belong; neither did I care. The boat was fastened with a small pole,
which, with the aid of a rail, I soon loosened from its moorings. After
hunting round and finding a board to use as an oar, I turned to the
city, and bidding it a long farewell, pushed off my boat. The current
running very swift, we had not reached the middle of the stream before
we were directly opposite the city.

We were soon upon the Illinois shore, and, leaping from the boat, turned
it adrift, and the last I saw of it, it was going down the river at good
speed. We took the main road to Alton, and passed through just at
daylight, when we made for the woods, where we remained during the day.
Our reason for going into the woods was, that we expected that Mr.
Mansfield (the man who owned my mother) would start in pursuit of her as
soon as he discovered that she was missing. He also knew that I had been
in the city looking for a new master, and we thought probably he would
go out to my master's to see if he could find my mother, and in so
doing, Dr. Young might be led to suspect that I had gone to Canada to
find a purchaser.

We remained in the woods during the day, and as soon as darkness
overshadowed the earth, we started again on our gloomy way, having no
guide but the north star. We continued to travel by night, and
secrete ourselves in woods by day; and every night, before emerging
from our hiding-place, we would anxiously look for our friend and
leader,--the NORTH STAR.


As we travelled towards a land of liberty, my heart would at times leap
for joy. At other times, being, as I was, almost constantly on my feet,
I felt as though I could travel no further. But when I thought of
slavery with its Democratic whips--its Republican chains--its
evangelical blood-hounds, and its religious slave-holders--when I
thought of all this paraphernalia of American Democracy and Religion
behind me, and the prospect of liberty before me, I was encouraged to
press forward, my heart was strengthened, and I forgot that I was tired
or hungry.

On the eighth day of our journey, we had a very heavy rain, and in a few
hours after it commenced, we had not a dry thread upon our bodies. This
made our journey still more unpleasant. On the tenth day, we found
ourselves entirely destitute of provisions, and how to obtain any we
could not tell. We finally resolved to stop at some farmhouse, and try
to get something to eat. We had no sooner determined to do this, than we
went to a house, and asked them for some food. We were treated with
great kindness, and they not only gave us something to eat, but gave us
provisions to carry with us. They advised us to travel by day, and lye
by at night. Finding ourselves about one hundred and fifty miles from
St. Louis, we concluded that it would be safe to travel by daylight, and
did not leave the house until the next morning. We travelled on that day
through a thickly settled country, and through one small village. Though
we were fleeing from a land of oppression, our hearts were still there.
My dear sister and two beloved brothers were behind us, and the idea of
giving them up, and leaving them forever, made us feel sad. But with all
this depression of heart, the thought that I should one day be free, and
call my body my own, buoyed me up, and made my heart leap for joy. I had
just been telling mother how I should try to get employment as soon as
we reached Canada, and how I intended to purchase us a little farm, and
how I would earn money enough to buy sister and brothers, and how happy
we would be in our own Free Home,--when three men came up on
horseback, and ordered us to stop.

I turned to the one who appeared to be the principal man, and asked him
what he wanted. He said he had a warrant to take us up. The three
immediately dismounted, and one took from his pocket a handbill,
advertising us as runaways, and offering a reward of two hundred dollars
for our apprehension, and delivery in the city of St. Louis. The
advertisement had been put out by Isaac Mansfield and John Young.

While they were reading the advertisement, mother looked me in the face,
and burst into tears. A cold chill ran over me, and such a sensation I
never experienced before, and I hope never to again. They took out a
rope and tied me, and we were taken back about six miles, to the house
of the individual who appeared to be the leader. We reached there about
seven o'clock in the evening, had supper, and were separated for the
night. Two men remained in the room during the night. Before the family
retired to rest, they were all called together to attend prayers. The
man who but a few hours before had bound my hands together with a strong
cord, read a chapter from the Bible, and then offered up prayer, just as
though God sanctioned the act he had just committed upon a poor panting,
fugitive slave.

The next morning, a blacksmith came in, and put a pair of handcuffs on
me, and we started on our journey back to the land of whips, chains and
Bibles. Mother was not tied, but was closely watched at night. We were
carried back in a wagon, and after four days travel, we came in sight of
St. Louis. I cannot describe my feelings upon approaching the city.

As we were crossing the ferry, Mr. Wiggins, the owner of the ferry, came
up to me, and inquired what I had been doing that I was in chains. He
had not heard that I had run away. In a few minutes, we were on the
Missouri side, and were taken directly to the jail. On the way thither,
I saw several of my friends, who gave me a nod of recognition as I
passed them. After reaching the jail, we were locked up in different


I had been in jail but a short time when I heard that my master was
sick, and nothing brought more joy to my heart than that intelligence. I
prayed fervently for him--not for his recovery, but for his death. I
knew he would be exasperated at having to pay for my apprehension, and
knowing his cruelty, I feared him. While in jail, I learned that my
sister Elizabeth, who was in prison when we left the city, had been
carried off four days before our arrival.

I had been in jail but a few hours when three negro-traders, learning
that I was secured thus for running away, came to my prison-house and
looked at me, expecting that I would be offered for sale. Mr. Mansfield,
the man who owned mother, came into the jail as soon as Mr. Jones, the
man who arrested us, informed him that he had brought her back. He told
her that he would not whip her, but would sell her to a negro-trader, or
take her to New Orleans himself. After being in jail about one week,
master sent a man to take me out of jail, and send me home. I was taken
out and carried home, and the old man was well enough to sit up. He had
me brought into the room where he was, and as I entered, he asked me
where I had been? I told I had acted according to his orders. He had
told me to look for a master, and I had been to look for one. He
answered that he did not tell me to go to Canada to look for a master. I
told him that as I had served him faithfully, and had been the means of
putting a number of hundreds of dollars into his pocket, I thought I had
a right to my liberty. He said he had promised my father that I should
not be sold to supply the New Orleans market, or he would sell me to a

I was ordered to go into the field to work, and was closely watched by
the overseer during the day, and locked up at night. The overseer gave
me a severe whipping on the second day that I was in the field. I had
been at home but a short time, when master was able to ride to the city;
and on his return, he informed me that he had sold me to Samuel Willi, a
merchant tailor. I knew Mr. Willi. I had lived with him three or four
months some years before, when he hired me of my master.

Mr. Willi was not considered by his servants as a very bad man, nor was
he the best of masters. I went to my new home, and found my new mistress
very glad to see me. Mr. Willi owned two servants before he purchased
me,--Robert and Charlotte. Robert was an excellent white-washer, and
hired his time from his master, paying him one dollar per day, besides
taking care of himself. He was known in the city by the name of Bob
Music. Charlotte was an old woman, who attended to the cooking, washing,
&c. Mr. Willi was not a wealthy man, and did not feel able to keep many
servants around his house; so he soon decided to hire me out, and as I
had been accustomed to service in steamboats, he gave me the privilege
of finding such employment.

I soon secured a situation on board the steamer Otto, Capt. J.B. Hill,
which sailed from St. Louis to Independence, Missouri. My former master,
Dr. Young, did not let Mr. Willi know that I had run away, or he would
not have permitted me to go on board a steamboat. The boat was not quite
ready to commence running, and therefore I had to remain with Mr. Willi.
But during this time, I had to undergo a trial, for which I was entirely
unprepared. My mother, who had been in jail since her return until the
present time, was now about being carried to New Orleans, to die on a
cotton, sugar, or rice plantation!

I had been several times to the jail, but could obtain no interview with
her. I ascertained, however, the time the boat in which she was to
embark would sail, and as I had not seen mother since her being thrown
into prison, I felt anxious for the hour of sailing to come. At last,
the day arrived when I was to see her for the first time after our
painful separation, and, for aught that I knew, for the last time in
this world!

At about ten o'clock in the morning I went on board of the boat, and
found her there in company with fifty or sixty other slaves. She was
chained to another woman. On seeing me, she immediately dropped her head
upon her heaving bosom. She moved not, neither did she weep. Her
emotions were too deep for tears. I approached, threw my arms around her
neck, kissed her, and fell upon my knees, begging her forgiveness, for I
thought myself to blame for her sad condition; for if I had not
persuaded her to accompany me, she would not then have been in chains.

She finally raised her head, looked me in the face, (and such a look
none but an angel can give!) and said, "_My dear son, you are not to
blame for my being here. You have done nothing more nor less than your
duty. Do not, I pray you, weep for me. I cannot last long upon a cotton
plantation. I feel that my heavenly master will soon call me home, and
then I shall be out of the hands of the slave-holders!_"

I could bear no more--my heart struggled to free itself from the human
form. In a moment she saw Mr. Mansfield coming toward that part of the
boat, and she whispered into my ear, "_My child, we must soon part to
meet no more this side of the grave. You have ever said that you would
not die a slave; that you would be a freeman. Now try to get your
liberty! You will soon have no one to look after but yourself!_" and
just as she whispered the last sentence into my ear, Mansfield came up
to me, and with an oath, said, "Leave here this instant; you have been
the means of my losing one hundred dollars to get this wench back,"--at
the same time kicking me with a heavy pair of boots. As I left her, she
gave one shriek, saying, "God be with you!" It was the last time that I
saw her, and the last word I heard her utter.

I walked on shore. The bell was tolling. The boat was about to start. I
stood with a heavy heart, waiting to see her leave the wharf. As I
thought of my mother, I could but feel that I had lost

    "--the glory of my life,
    My blessing and my pride!
    I half forgot the name of slave,
    When she was by my side."


The love of liberty that had been burning in my bosom, had well nigh
gone out. I felt as though I was ready to die. The boat moved gently
from the wharf, and while she glided down the river, I realized that my
mother was indeed

    "Gone,--gone,--sold and gone,
    To the rice swamp dank and lone!"

After the boat was out of sight, I returned home; but my thoughts were
so absorbed in what I had witnessed, that I knew not what I was about
half of the time. Night came, but it brought no sleep to my eyes.

In a few days, the boat upon which I was to work being ready, I went on
board to commence. This employment suited me better than living in the
city, and I remained until the close of navigation; though it proved
anything but pleasant. The captain was a drunken, profligate,
hard-hearted creature, not knowing how to treat himself, or any other

The boat, on its second trip, brought down Mr. Walker, the man of whom I
have spoken in a previous chapter, as hiring my time. He had between one
and two hundred slaves, chained and manacled. Among them was a man that
formerly belonged to my old master's brother, Aaron Young. His name was
Solomon. He was a preacher, and belonged to the same church with his
master. I was glad to see the old man. He wept like a child when he told
me how he had been sold from his wife and children.

The boat carried down, while I remained on board, four or five gangs of
slaves. Missouri, though a comparatively new State, is very much engaged
in raising slaves to supply the southern market. In a former chapter, I
have mentioned that I was once in the employ of a slave-trader, or
driver, as he is called at the south. For fear that some may think that
I have misrepresented a slave-driver, I will here give an extract from a
paper published in a slaveholding State, Tennessee, called the
"Millennial Trumpeter."

"Droves of negroes, chained together in dozens and scores, and
hand-cuffed, have been driven through our country in numbers far
surpassing any previous year, and these vile slave-drivers and dealers
are swarming like buzzards around a carrion. Through this county, you
cannot pass a few miles in the great roads without having every feeling
of humanity insulted and lacerated by this spectacle, nor can you go
into any county or any neighborhood, scarcely, without seeing or hearing
of some of these despicable creatures, called negro-drivers.

"Who is a negro-driver? One whose eyes dwell with delight on lacerated
bodies of helpless men, women and children; whose soul feels diabolical
raptures at the chains, and handcuffs, and cart-whips, for inflicting
tortures on weeping mothers torn from helpless babes, and on husbands
and wives torn asunder forever!"

Dark and revolting as is the picture here drawn, it is from the pen of
one living in the midst of slavery. But though these men may cant about
negro-drivers, and tell what despicable creatures they are, who is it, I
ask, that supplies them with the human beings that they are tearing
asunder? I answer, as far as I have any knowledge of the State where I
came from, that those who raise slaves for the market are to be found
among all classes, from Thomas H. Benton down to the lowest political
demagogue, who may be able to purchase a woman for the purpose of
raising stock, and from the Doctor of Divinity down to the most humble
lay member in the church.

It was not uncommon in St. Louis to pass by an auction-stand, and behold
a woman upon the auction-block, and hear the seller crying out, "_How
much is offered for this woman? She is a good cook, good washer, a good
obedient servant. She has got religion!_" Why should this man tell the
purchasers that she has religion? I answer, because in Missouri, and as
far as I have any knowledge of slavery in the other States, the
religious teaching consists in teaching the slave that he must never
strike a white man; that God made him for a slave; and that, when
whipped, he must not find fault,--for the Bible says, "He that knoweth
his master's will, and doeth it not, shall be beaten with many stripes!"
And slaveholders find such religion very profitable to them.

After leaving the steamer Otto, I resided at home, in Mr. Willi's
family, and again began to lay my plans for making my escape from
slavery. The anxiety to be a freeman would not let me rest day or night.
I would think of the northern cities that I had heard so much about;--of
Canada, where so many of my acquaintances had found refuge. I would
dream at night that I was in Canada, a freeman, and on waking in the
morning, weep to find myself so sadly mistaken.

    "I would think of Victoria's domain,
      And in a moment I seemed to be there!
    But the fear of being taken again,
      Soon hurried me back to despair."

Mr. Willi treated me better than Dr. Young ever had; but instead of
making me contented and happy, it only rendered me the more miserable,
for it enabled me better to appreciate liberty. Mr. Willi was a man who
loved money as most men do, and without looking for an opportunity to
sell me, he found one in the offer of Captain Enoch Price, a steamboat
owner and commission merchant, living in the city of St. Louis. Captain
Price tendered seven hundred dollars, which was two hundred more than
Mr. Willi had paid. He therefore thought best to accept the offer. I was
wanted for a carriage driver, and Mrs. Price was very much pleased with
the captain's bargain. His family consisted besides of one child. He had
three servants besides myself--one man and two women.

Mrs. Price was very proud of her servants, always keeping them well
dressed, and as soon as I had been purchased, she resolved to have a new
carriage. And soon one was procured, and all preparations were made for
a turn-out in grand style, I being the driver.

One of the female servants was a girl some eighteen or twenty years of
age, named Maria. Mrs. Price was very soon determined to have us united,
if she could so arrange matters. She would often urge upon me the
necessity of having a wife, saying that it would be so pleasant for me
to take one in the same family! But getting married, while in slavery,
was the last of my thoughts; and had I been ever so inclined, I should
not have married Maria, as my love had already gone in another quarter.
Mrs. Price soon found out that her efforts at this match-making between
Maria and myself would not prove successful. She also discovered (or
thought she had) that I was rather partial to a girl named Eliza, who
was owned by Dr. Mills. This induced her at once to endeavor the
purchase of Eliza, so great was her desire to get me a wife!

Before making the attempt, however, she deemed it best to talk to me a
little upon the subject of love, courtship, and marriage. Accordingly
one afternoon she called me into her room--telling me to take a chair
and sit down. I did so, thinking it rather strange, for servants are not
very often asked thus to sit down in the same room with the master or
mistress. She said that she had found out that I did not care enough
about Maria to marry her. I told her that was true. She then asked me if
there was not a girl in the city that I loved. Well, now, this was
coming into too close quarters with me! People, generally, don't like to
tell their love stories to everybody that may think fit to ask about
them, and it was so with me. But, after blushing awhile and recovering
myself, I told her that I did not want a wife. She then asked me, if I
did not think something of Eliza. I told her that I did. She then said
that if I wished to marry Eliza, she would purchase her if she could.

I gave but little encouragement to this proposition, as I was determined
to make another trial to get my liberty, and I knew that if I should
have a wife, I should not be willing to leave her behind; and if I
should attempt to bring her with me, the chances would be difficult for
success. However, Eliza was purchased, and brought into the family.


But the more I thought of the trap laid by Mrs. Price to make me
satisfied with my new home, by getting me a wife, the more I determined
never to marry any woman on earth until I should get my liberty. But
this secret I was compelled to keep to myself, which placed me in a very
critical position. I must keep upon good terms with Mrs. Price and
Eliza. I therefore promised Mrs. Price that I would marry Eliza; but
said that I was not then ready. And I had to keep upon good terms with
Eliza, for fear that Mrs. Price would find out that I did not intend to
get married.

I have here spoken of marriage, and it is very common among slaves
themselves to talk of it. And it is common for slaves to be married; or
at least have the marriage ceremony performed. But there is no such
thing as slaves being lawfully married. There has never yet a case
occurred where a slave has been tried for bigamy. The man may have as
many women as he wishes, and the women as many men; and the law takes no
cognizance of such acts among slaves. And in fact some masters, when
they have sold the husband from the wife, compel her to take another.

There lived opposite Captain Price's, Doctor Farrar, well known in St.
Louis. He sold a man named Ben, to one of the traders. He also owned
Ben's wife, and in a few days he compelled Sally (that was her name) to
marry Peter, another man belonging to him. I asked Sally "why she
married Peter so soon after Ben was sold." She said, "because master
made her do it."

Mr. John Calvert, who resided near our place, had a woman named Lavinia.
She was quite young, and a man to whom she was about to be married was
sold, and carried into the country near St. Charles, about twenty miles
from St. Louis. Mr. Calvert wanted her to get a husband; but she had
resolved not to marry any other man, and she refused. Mr. Calvert
whipped her in such a manner that it was thought she would die. Some of
the citizens had him arrested, but it was soon hushed up. And that was
the last of it. The woman did not die, but it would have been the same
if she had.

Captain Price purchased me in the month of October, and I remained with
him until December, when the family made a voyage to New Orleans, in a
boat owned by himself, and named the "Chester." I served on board, as
one of the stewards. On arriving at New Orleans, about the middle of the
month, the boat took in freight for Cincinnati; and it was decided that
the family should go up the river in her, and what was of more interest
to me, I was to accompany them.

The long looked for opportunity to make my escape from slavery was near
at hand.

Captain Price had some fears as to the propriety of taking me near a
free State, or a place where it was likely I could run away, with a
prospect of liberty. He asked me if I had ever been in a free State. "Oh
yes," said I, "I have been in Ohio; my master carried me into that State
once, but I never liked a free State."

It was soon decided that it would be safe to take me with them, and
what made it more safe, Eliza was on the boat with us, and Mrs. Price,
to try me, asked if I thought as much as ever of Eliza. I told her that
Eliza was very dear to me indeed, and that nothing but death should part
us. It was the same as if we were married. This had the desired effect.
The boat left New Orleans, and proceeded up the river.

I had at different times obtained little sums of money, which I had
reserved for a "rainy day." I procured some cotton cloth, and made me a
bag to carry provisions in. The trials of the past were all lost in
hopes for the future. The love of liberty, that had been burning in my
bosom for years, and had been well nigh extinguished, was now
resuscitated. At night, when all around was peaceful, I would walk the
decks, meditating upon my happy prospects.

I should have stated, that before leaving St. Louis, I went to an old
man named Frank, a slave, owned by a Mr. Sarpee. This old man was very
distinguished (not only among the slave population, but also the whites)
as a fortune-teller. He was about seventy years of age, something over
six feet high, and very slender. Indeed, he was so small around his body
that it looked as though it was not strong enough to hold up his head.

Uncle Frank was a very great favorite with the young ladies, who would
go to him in great numbers to get their fortunes told. And it was
generally believed that he could really penetrate into the mysteries of
futurity. Whether true or not, he had the name, and that is about half
of what one needs in this gullible age. I found Uncle Frank seated in
the chimney corner, about ten o'clock at night. As soon as I entered,
the old man left his seat. I watched his movement as well as I could by
the dim light of the fire. He soon lit a lamp, and coming up, looked me
full in the face, saying, "Well, my son, you have come to get uncle to
tell your fortune, have you?" "Yes," said I. But how the old man should
know what I had come for, I could not tell. However, I paid the fee of
twenty-five cents, and he commenced by looking into a gourd, filled with
water. Whether the old man was a prophet, or the son of a prophet, I
cannot say; but there is one thing certain, many of his predictions were

I am no believer in soothsaying; yet I am sometimes at a loss to know
how Uncle Frank could tell so accurately what would occur in the future.
Among the many things he told was one which was enough to pay me for all
the trouble of hunting him up. It was that I should be free! He further
said, that in trying to get my liberty, I would meet with many severe
trials. I thought to myself, any fool could tell me that!

The first place in which we landed in a free State was Cairo, a small
village at the mouth of the Ohio river. We remained here but a few
hours, when we proceeded to Louisville. After unloading some of the
cargo, the boat started on her upward trip. The next day was the first
of January. I had looked forward to New Year's day as the commencement
of a new era in the history of my life. I had decided upon leaving the
peculiar institution that day.

During the last night that I served in slavery, I did not close my eyes
a single moment. When not thinking of the future, my mind dwelt on the
past. The love of a dear mother, a dear sister, and three dear brothers,
yet living, caused me to shed many tears. If I could only have been
assured of their being dead, I should have felt satisfied; but I
imagined I saw my dear mother in the cotton-field, followed by a
merciless taskmaster, and no one to speak a consoling word to her! I
beheld my dear sister in the hands of a slave-driver, and compelled to
submit to his cruelty! None but one placed in such a situation can for a
moment imagine the intense agony to which these reflections subjected


At the time for action arrived. The boat landed at a point which
appeared to me the place of all others to start from. I found that it
would be impossible to carry anything with me, but what was upon my
person. I had some provisions, and a single suit of clothes, about half
worn. When the boat was discharging her cargo, and the passengers
engaged carrying their baggage on and off shore, I improved the
opportunity to convey myself with my little effects on land. Taking up a
trunk, I went up the wharf, and was soon out of the crowd. I made
directly for the woods, where I remained until night knowing well that I
could not travel, even in the State of Ohio, during the day, without
danger of being arrested.

I had long since made up my mind that I would not trust myself in the
hands of any man, white or colored. The slave is brought up to look upon
every white man as an enemy to him and his race; and twenty-one years in
slavery had taught me that there were traitors, even among colored
people. After dark, I emerged from the woods into a narrow path, which
led me into the main travelled road. But I knew not which way to go. I
did not know North from South, East from West. I looked in vain for the
North Star; a heavy cloud hid it from my view. I walked up and down the
road until near midnight, when the clouds disappeared, and I welcomed
the sight of my friend,--truly the slave's friend,--the North Star!

As soon as I saw it, I knew my course, and before daylight I travelled
twenty or twenty-five miles. It being in the winter, I suffered
intensely from the cold; being without an overcoat, and my other clothes
rather thin for the season. I was provided with a tinder-box, so that I
could make up a fire when necessary. And but for this, I should
certainly have frozen to death; for I was determined not to go to any
house for shelter. I knew of a man belonging to Gen. Ashly, of St.
Louis, who had run away near Cincinnati, on the way to Washington, but
had been caught and carried back into slavery; and I felt that a similar
fate awaited me, should I be seen by any one. I travelled at night, and
lay by during the day.

On the fourth day, my provisions gave out, and then what to do I could
not tell. Have something to eat, I must; but how to get it was the
question! On the first night after my food was gone, I went to a barn on
the road-side, and there found some ears of corn. I took ten or twelve
of them, and kept on my journey. During the next day, while in the
woods, I roasted my corn and feasted upon it, thanking God that I was so
well provided for.

My escape to a land of freedom now appeared certain, and the prospects
of the future occupied a great part of my thoughts. What should be my
occupation, was a subject of much anxiety to me; and the next thing what
should be my name? I have before stated that my old master, Dr. Young,
had no children of his own, but had with him a nephew, the son of his
brother, Benjamin Young. When this boy was brought to Doctor Young, his
name being William, the same as mine, my mother was ordered to change
mine to something else. This, at the time, I thought to be one of the
most cruel acts that could be committed upon my rights; and I received
several very severe whippings for telling people that my name was
William, after orders were given to change it. Though young, I was old
enough to place a high appreciation upon my name. It was decided,
however, to call me "Sandford," and this name I was known by, not only
upon my master's plantation, but up to the time that I made my escape. I
was sold under the name of Sandford.

But as soon as the subject came to my mind, I resolved on adopting my
old name of William, and let Sandford go by the board, for I always
hated it. Not because there was anything peculiar in the name; but
because it had been forced upon me. It is sometimes common at the south,
for slaves to take the name of their masters. Some have a legitimate
right to do so. But I always detested the idea of being called by the
name of either of my masters. And as for my father, I would rather have
adopted the name of "Friday," and been known as the servant of some
Robinson Crusoe, than to have taken his name. So I was not only hunting
for my liberty, but also hunting for a name; though I regarded the
latter as of little consequence, if I could but gain the former.
Travelling along the road, I would sometimes speak to myself, sounding
my name over, by way of getting used to it, before I should arrive among
civilized human beings. On the fifth or sixth day, it rained very fast,
and it froze about as fast as it fell, so that my clothes were one glare
of ice. I travelled on at night until I became so chilled and
benumbed--the wind blowing into my face--that I found it impossible to
go any further, and accordingly took shelter in a barn, where I was
obliged to walk about to keep from freezing.

I have ever looked upon that night as the most eventful part of my
escape from slavery. Nothing but the providence of God, and that old
barn, saved me from freezing to death. I received a very severe cold,
which settled upon my lungs, and from time to time my feet had been
frost-bitten, so that it was with difficulty I could walk. In this
situation I travelled two days, when I found that I must seek shelter
somewhere, or die.

The thought of death was nothing frightful to me, compared with that of
being caught, and again carried back into slavery. Nothing but the
prospect of enjoying liberty could have induced me to undergo such
trials, for

    "Behind I left the whips and chains,
    Before me were sweet Freedom's plains!"

This, and this alone, cheered me onward. But I at last resolved to seek
protection from the inclemency of the weather, and therefore I secured
myself behind some logs and brush, intending to wait there until some
one should pass by; for I thought it probable that I might see some
colored person, or, if not, some one who was not a slaveholder; for I
had an idea that I should know a slaveholder as far as I could see him.


The first person that passed was a man in a buggy-wagon. He looked too
genteel for me to hail him. Very soon, another passed by on horseback. I
attempted speaking to him, but fear made my voice fail me. As he passed,
I left my hiding-place, and was approaching the road, when I observed an
old man walking towards me, leading a white horse. He had on a
broad-brimmed hat and a very long coat, and was evidently walking for
exercise. As soon as I saw him, and observed his dress, I thought to
myself, "You are the man that I have been looking for!" Nor was I
mistaken. He was the very man!

On approaching me, he asked me, "if I was not a slave." I looked at him
some time, and then asked him "if he knew of any one who would help me,
as I was sick." He answered that he would; but again asked, if I was not
a slave. I told him I was. He then said that I was in a very pro-slavery
neighborhood, and if I would wait until he went home, he would get a
covered wagon for me. I promised to remain. He mounted his horse, and
was soon out of sight.

After he was gone, I meditated whether to wait or not; being
apprehensive that he had gone for some one to arrest me. But I finally
concluded to remain until he should return; removing some few rods to
watch his movements. After a suspense of an hour and a half or more, he
returned with a two horse covered-wagon, such as are usually seen under
the shed of a Quaker meeting-house on Sundays and Thursdays; for the old
man proved to be a Quaker of the George Fox stamp.

He took me to his house, but it was some time before I could be induced
to enter it; not until the old lady came out, did I venture into the
house. I thought I saw something in the old lady's cap that told me I
was not only safe, but welcome, in her house. I was not, however,
prepared to receive their hospitalities. The only fault I found with
them was their being too kind. I had never had a white man to treat me
as an equal, and the idea of a white lady waiting on me at the table was
still worse! Though the table was loaded with the good things of this
life, I could not eat. I thought if I could only be allowed the
privilege of eating in the kitchen, I should be more than satisfied!

Finding that I could not eat, the old lady, who was a "Thompsonian,"
made me a cup of "composition," or "number six;" but it was so strong
and hot, that I called it "_number seven_" However, I soon found myself
at home in this family. On different occasions, when telling these
facts, I have been asked how I felt upon finding myself regarded as a
man by a white family; especially just having run away from one. I
cannot say that I have ever answered the question yet.

The fact that I was in all probability a freeman, sounded in my ears
like a charm. I am satisfied that none but a slave could place such an
appreciation upon liberty as I did at that time. I wanted to see mother
and sister, that I might tell them "I was free!" I wanted to see my
fellow slaves in St. Louis, and let them know that the chains were no
longer upon my limbs. I wanted to see Captain Price, and let him learn
from my own lips that I was no more a chattel, but a man! I was anxious,
too, thus to inform Mrs. Price that she must get another coachman. And I
wanted to see Eliza more than I did either Mr. or Mrs. Price!

The fact that I was a freeman--could walk, talk, eat and sleep as a
man, and no one to stand over me with the blood-clotted cowhide--all
this made me feel that I was not myself.

The kind friend that had taken me in was named Wells Brown. He was a
devoted friend of the slave; but was very old, and not in the enjoyment
of good health. After being by the fire awhile, I found that my feet had
been very much frozen. I was seized with a fever which threatened to
confine me to my bed. But my Thompsonian friends soon raised me,
treating me as kindly as if I had been one of their own children. I
remained with them twelve or fifteen days, during which time they made
me some clothing, and the old gentleman purchased me a pair of boots.

I found that I was about fifty or sixty miles from Dayton, in the State
of Ohio, and between one and two hundred miles from Cleaveland, on lake
Erie, a place I was desirous of reaching on my way to Canada. This I
know will sound strangely to the ears of people in foreign lands, but it
is nevertheless true. An American citizen was fleeing from a Democratic,
Republican, Christian government, to receive protection under the
monarchy of Great Britain. While the people of the United States boast
of their freedom, they at the same time keep three millions of their own
citizens in chains; and while I am seated here in sight of Bunker Hill
Monument, writing this narrative, I am a slave, and no law, not even in
Massachusetts, can protect me from the hands of the slaveholder!

Before leaving this good Quaker friend, he inquired what my name was
besides William. I told him that I had no other name. "Well," said he,
"thee must have another name. Since thee has got out of slavery, thee
has become a man, and men always have two names."

I told him that he was the first man to extend the hand of friendship to
me, and I would give him the privilege of naming me.

"If I name thee," said he, "I shall call thee Wells Brown, after

"But," said I, "I am not willing to lose my name of William. As it was
taken from me once against my will, I am not willing to part with it
again upon any terms."

"Then," said he, "I will call thee William Wells Brown."

"So be it," said I; and I have been known by that name ever since I
left the house of my first white friend, Wells Brown.

After giving me some little change, I again started for Canada. In four
days I reached a public house, and went in to warm myself. I there
learned that some fugitive slaves had just passed through the place. The
men in the bar-room were talking about it, and I thought that it must
have been myself they referred to, and I was therefore afraid to start,
fearing they would seize me; but I finally mustered courage enough, and
took my leave. As soon as I was out of sight, I went into the woods, and
remained there until night, when I again regained the road, and
travelled on until the next day.

Not having had any food for nearly two days, I was faint with hunger,
and was in a dilemma what to do, as the little cash supplied me by my
adopted father, and which had contributed to my comfort, was now all
gone. I however concluded to go to a farm-house, and ask for something
to eat. On approaching the door of the first one presenting itself, I
knocked, and was soon met by a man who asked me what I wanted. I told
him that I would like something to eat. He asked where I was from, and
where I was going. I replied that I had come some way, and was going to

After hesitating a moment or two, he told me that he could give me
nothing to eat, adding, "that if I would work, I could get something to

I felt bad, being thus refused something to sustain nature, but did not
dare tell him that I was a slave.

Just as I was leaving the door, with a heavy heart, a woman, who proved
to be the wife of this gentleman, came to the door, and asked her
husband what I wanted? He did not seem inclined to inform her. She
therefore asked me herself. I told her that I had asked for something to
eat. After a few other questions, she told me to come in, and that she
would give me something to eat.

I walked up to the door, but the husband remained in the passage, as if
unwilling to let me enter.

She asked him two or three times to get out of the way, and let me in.
But as he did not move, she pushed him on one side, bidding me walk in!
I was never before so glad to see a woman push a man aside! Ever since
that act, I have been in favor of "woman's rights!"

After giving me as much food as I could eat, she presented me with ten
cents, all the money then at her disposal, accompanied with a note to a
friend, a few miles further on the road. Thanking this angel of mercy
from an overflowing heart, I pushed on my way, and in three days arrived
at Cleaveland, Ohio.

Being an entire stranger in this place, it was difficult for me to find
where to stop. I had no money, and the lake being frozen, I saw that I
must remain until the opening of navigation, or go to Canada by way of
Buffalo. But believing myself to be somewhat out of danger, I secured an
engagement at the Mansion House, as a table waiter, in payment for my
board. The proprietor, however, whose name was E.M. Segur, in a short
time, hired me for twelve dollars per month; on which terms I remained
until spring, when I found good employment on board a lake steamboat.

I purchased some books, and at leisure moments perused them with
considerable advantage to myself. While at Cleaveland, I saw, for the
first time, an anti-slavery newspaper. It was the "Genius of Universal
Emancipation" published by Benjamin Lundy, and though I had no home, I
subscribed for the paper. It was my great desire, being out of slavery
myself, to do what I could for the emancipation of my brethren yet in
chains, and while on Lake Erie, I found many opportunities of "helping
their cause along."

It is well known, that a great number of fugitives make their escape to
Canada, by way of Cleaveland; and while on the lake, I always made
arrangement to carry them on the boat to Buffalo or Detroit, and thus
effect their escape to the "promised land." The friends of the slave,
knowing that I would transport them without charge, never failed to have
a delegation when the boat arrived at Cleaveland. I have sometimes had
four or five on board, at one time.

In the year 1842, I conveyed, from the first of May to the first of
December, sixty-nine fugitives over Lake Erie to Canada. In 1843, I
visited Maiden, in Upper Canada, and counted seventeen, in that small
village, who owed their escape to my humble efforts.

Soon after coming North, I subscribed for the Liberator, edited by that
champion of freedom, William Lloyd Garrison. I labored a season to
promote the temperance cause among the colored people, but for the last
three years, have been pleading for the victims of American slavery.

William Wells Brown.

Boston, Mass., June, 1847.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The Narrative of William W. Brown, a Fugitive Slave" ***

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