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Filing Cabinet - Underground Railroad

Jane Davis

            The appended letter, from Thomas Garrett, will  serve to introduce one of the most remarkable cases that it was our privilege to report or assist:

Wilmington, 6 mo., 9th, 1847

Esteemed Friend—William Still:

We have here in this place, at Comegys Munson’s an old colored woman, the mother of twelve children, one half of which has been sold South.  She has been so ill used, that she was compelled to leave husband and children behind, and is desirous of getting to a brother who lives at Buffalo.  She was nearly naked.  She called at my house on 7th day night, but being from home, did not see her till last evening.  I have procured her two under garments, one new; two skirts, one new; a good frock with cape; one of my wife’s bonnets and stockings, and gave her five dollars in gold, which, if properly used, will put her pretty well on the way. I also gave her a letter to thee.”  Since I gave them to her she has concluded to stay where she is till 7th day night, when Comegys Munson says he can leave his work and will go with her to thy house.  I write this so that thee may be prepared for them; they ought to arrive between 11 and 12 o’clock.  Perhaps thee may find some fugitive that will be willing to accompany her.  With desire for they welfare and the cause of the oppressed, I remain they friend,
                                                                        Thos. Garrett

            Jane did not know how old she was.  She was probably sixty or seventy.  She fled to keep from being sold.  She had been “whipt right smart,” poorly fed and poorly clothed, by a certain Roger McZant, of the New Market District, Eastern Shore of Maryland.  His wife was a “bad woman too.”  Just before escaping, Jane got a whisper that her “master” was about to sell her; on asking him if the rumor was true, he was silent.  He had been asking “one hundred dollars” for her.

            Remembering that four of her children had been snatched away from her and sold South, and she herself was threatened with the same fate, she was willing to suffer hunger, sleep in the woods for nights and days, wandering towards Canada, rather than trust herself any longer under the protection of her “kind” owner.  Before reaching a place of repose she was three weeks in the woods, almost wholly without nourishment.

            Jane, doubtless, represented thousands of old slave mothers, who, after having been worn out under the yoke, were frequently either offered for sale for a trifle, turned off to die, or compelled to eke out their existence on the most stinted allowance.

The Underground Railroad, A record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c.,  William Still (Philadelphia:  People’s Publishing Company, 1879), pp. 394-95.

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