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Filing Cabinet - Underground Railroad

Fugitive Slave Naratives
Charlotte Giles and Harriet Elgin

            About the 31st of May, 1856, an exceedingly anxious state of feeling existed with the active Committee in Philadelphia.  In the course of twenty-four hours four arrivals had come to hand from different localities.  The circumstances connected with the escape of each party, being so unusual, there was scarcely ground for any other conclusion that than disaster was imminent, if not impossible to be averted.

            It was a day long to be remembered.  Aside from the danger, however, a more encouraging hour had never presented itself in the history of the Road.  The courage, which had so often been shown in the face of great danger, satisfied the Committee that there were heroes and heroines among these passengers, fully entitled to the applause of the liberty-loving citizens of Brotherly Love.  The very idea of having to walk for days and nights in succession, over strange roads, through by-ways, and valleys, over mountains, and marshes, was fitted to appal the bravest hearts, especially where women and children were concerned.

            Being familiar with such cases, the Committee was delighted beyond measure to observe how wisely and successfully each of these parties had managed to overcome these difficulties.  Party No. 1 consisted of Charlotte Giles and Harriet Eglin, owned by Capt. Wm. Applegarth and John Delahay.  Neither of these girls had any great complaint to make on the score of ill treatment endured.

            So they contrived each to get a suit of mourning, with heavy black veils, and thus dressed, apparently absorbed with grief, with a friend to pass them to the Baltimore depot (hard place to pass, except aided by an individual well known to the R.R. company), they took a direct course for Philadelphia.

            While seated in the car, before leaving Baltimore (where slaves and masters both belonged), who should enter but the master of one of the girls!  In a very excited manner, he hurriedly approached Charlotte and Harriet, who were apparently weeping.  Peeping under their veils, “What is your name,” exclaimed the excited gentleman.  “Mary, sir,” sobbed Charlotte.  “What is your name?” (to the other mourner) “Lizzie, sir,” was the faint reply.  On rushed the excited gentleman as if moved by steam—through the cars, looking for his property; not finding it, he passed out of the cars, and to the delight of Charlotte and Harriet soon disappeared. Fair business men would be likely to look at this conduct on the part of the two girls in the light of a “sharp practice.”  In military parlance it might be regarded as excellent strategy.  Be this as it may, the Underground Rail Road passengers arrived safely at the Philadelphia station and were gladly received. 

            A brief stay in the city was thought prudent lest the hunters might be on the pursuit.  They were, therefore, retained in safe quarters.

The Underground Railroad, A record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c.,  William Still (Philadelphia:  People’s Publishing Company, 1879), pp. 214-15.

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