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(title page) The Experience of Rev. Thomas H. Jones, Who Was a Slave for Forty-Three Years. Written by a Friend, as Related to Him by Brother Jones
Thomas H. Jones
E. ANTHONY & SONS, PRINTERS.
Call number Cotten VCC326.92 J79j2 (North Carolina Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
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A suffering brother would affectionately present this simple story of deep personal wrongs to the earnest friends of the Slave. He asks you to buy and read it, for, in so doing, you will help one who needs your sympathy and aid; and you will receive, in the perusal of this simple narrative, a more fervent conviction of the necessity and blessedness of toiling for the desolate members of the one great brotherhood who now suffer and die, ignorant and despairing, in the vast prison land of the South. "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them."
THOMAS H. JONES.
The undersigned take pleasure in certifying that they have formed an acquaintance with Brother Thomas H. Jones, since his escape from slavery; having seen and perused his letters and his certificates of church relations, and made all suitable inquiries, most cordially recommend him to the confidence and aid of all who have a heart to sympathize with a down-trodden and outraged portion of the great brotherhood. We would also say that we have heard Brother Jones lecture before our respective churches, and we only speak the unanimous sentiment of our people when we say that his narrative is one of thrilling interest, calculated to secure the attention of any audience, and to benefit the sympathizing hearts of all who will make themselves acquainted with the present condition and past experience of this true-hearted brother.
E. A. STOCKMAN,
Pastor of the Wesleyan church, Boston.
Pastor of the Free Evangelical church,
North Danvers, Mass.
To whom it may concern: This may certify that the bearer, Thomas H. Jones, has lectured to my people with good success, giving a satisfaction uncommon to one deprived, as he has been, of moral or mental cultivation.
I can cheerfully recommend him to all such as may be inclined to give him a hearing or assistance in any way, in confidence, feeling that he is an honest and upright man.
A. B. FLANDERS,
Pastor of the W. M. church, Exeter, N. H.
I was born a slave. My recollections of early life are associated with poverty, suffering and shame. I was made to feel, in my boyhood's first experience, that I was inferior and degraded, and that I must pass through life in a dependent and suffering condition. The experience of forty-three years, which were passed by me in slavery, was one of dark fears and darker realities. John Hawes was my first master. He lived in New Hanover county, N. C., between the Black and South rivers, and was the owner of a large plantation called Hawes's Plantation. He had over fifty slaves. I remained with my parents nine years. They were both slaves, owned by John Hawes. They had six children, Richard, Alexander, Charles, Sarah, myself, and John. I remember well that dear old cabin, with its clay floor and mud chimney, in which, for nine years, I enjoyed the presence and love of my wretched parents.
Father and mother tried to make it a happy place for their dear children. They worked late into the night many and many a time, to get a little simple furniture for their home and the home of their children; and they spent many hours of willing toil to stop up the chinks between the logs of their poor hut, that they and their children might be protected from the storm and the cold. I can testify, from my own painful experience, to the deep and fond affection which the slave cherishes in his heart for his home and its dear ones. We have no other tie to link us to the human family, but our fervent love for those who are with us and of us in relations of sympathy and devotedness, in wrongs and wretchedness. My dear parents were conscious of the desperate and incurable woe of their position and destiny; and of the lot of inevitable suffering in store for their beloved children.
They talked about our coming misery, and they lifted up their voices and wept aloud, as they spoke of our being torn from them and sold off to the dreaded slave-trader, perhaps never again to see them or hear from them a word of fond love. I have heard them speak of their willingness to bear their own sorrows without complaint, if only we, their dear children, could be safe from the wretchedness before us. And I remember, and now fully understand, as I did not then, the sad and tearful look they would fix upon us when we were gathered round them and running on with our foolish prattle. I am a father, and I have had the same feelings of unspeakable anguish, as I have looked upon my precious babes, and have thought of the ignorance, degradation and woe which they must endure as slaves. The great God, who knoweth all the secrets of the heart, and He only, knows the bitter sorrow I now feel when I think of my four dear children who are slaves, torn from me and consigned to hopeless servitude by the iron hand of ruthless wrong. I love those children with all a father's fondness. God gave them to me; but my brother took them from me, in utter scorn of a father's earnest pleadings; and I never shall look upon them again, till I meet them and my oppressors at the final gathering. Will not the great Father and God make them and me reparation in the final award of mercy to the victim, and of justice to the cruel desolator?
Mr. Hawes was a very severe and cruel master. He kept no overseer, but managed his own slaves, with the help of Enoch, his oldest son. Once a year he distributed clothing to his slaves. To the men he gave one pair of shoes, one blanket, one hat, and five yards of coarse, homespun cotton; to the women a corresponding outfit, and enough to make one frock for each of the children. The slaves were obliged to make up their own clothes, after the severe labor of the plantation had been performed. And other clothing, beyond this yearly supply, which they might need, the slaves were compelled to get by extra work, or do without.
The supply of food given out to the slaves was one peck of corn a week, or some equivalent, and nothing
besides. They must grind their own corn, after the work of the day was performed, at a mill which stood on the plantation. We had to eat our coarse bread without meat, or butter, or milk. Severe labor alone gave us an appetite for our scanty and unpalatable fare. Many of the slaves were so hungry after their excessive toil, that they were compelled to steal food in addition to this allowance.
During the planting and harvest season, we had to work early and late. The men and women were called at three o'clock in the morning, and were worked on the plantation till it was dark at night. After that they must prepare their food for supper and for the breakfast of the next day, and attend to other duties of their own dear homes. Parents would often have to work for their children at home, after each day's protracted toil, till the middle of the night, and then snatch a few hours' sleep, to get strength for the heavy burdens of the next day.
In the month of November, and through the Winter season, the men and women worked in the fields, clearing up new land, chopping and burning bushes, burning tar kilns, and digging ditches. They worked together, poorly clad, and suffering from the bitter cold and wet of those Winter months. Women, wives and mothers, daughters and sisters, on that plantation, were compelled to toil on cold, stormy days in the open field, while the piercing wind and driving storm benumbed their limbs, and almost froze the tears that came forth out of their cold and desolate hearts. Little boys, and girls, too, worked and cried, toting brush to the fires, husking the corn, watching the stock, and running on errands for master and mistress, and their three sons, Enoch, Edward, and John, and constantly receiving from them scoldings and beatings as their reward.
Thus passed nine years of my life; years of suffering, the shuddering memory of which is deeply fixed in my heart. Oh, that these happy, merry boys and girls, whom I have seen in Massachusetts since my escape from slavery, whom I have so often met rejoicing in their mercies since I came here, only knew the deep wretchedness of the poor slave child! For then, I am sure, their
tender hearts would feel to love and pray for these unhappy ones, on whose early life hopeless sufferings bear down a crushing, killing burden! These nine years of wretchedness passed, and a change came for me. My master sold me to Mr. Jones, of Wilmington, N. C., distant forty-five miles from Hawes's plantation. Mr. Jones sent his slave-driver, a colored man named Abraham, to conduct me to my new home in Wilmington. I was at home with my mother when he came. He looked in at the door and called to me:
"Tom, you must go with me." His looks were ugly, and his voice was savage. I was very much afraid, and began to cry, holding on to my mother's clothes, and begging her to protect me, and not let the man take me away. Mother wept bitterly, and in the midst of her loud sobbings, cried out in broken words, "I can't save you, Tommy; master has sold you, you must go." She threw her arms around me, and while the hot tears fell on my face, she strained me to her heart. There she held me, sobbing and mourning, till the brutal Abraham came in, snatched me away, hurried me out of the house where I was born, my only home, and tore me away from the dear mother who loved me as no other friend could do. She followed him, imploring a moment's delay, and weeping aloud, to the road, where he turned around, and striking at her with his heavy cowhide, fiercely ordered her to stop bawling and go back into the house.
Thus was I snatched from the presence of my loving parents, and from the true affection of the dear ones of home. For thirteen weary years did my heart turn in its yearning for that precious home. And then, at the age of twenty-two, was I permitted to revisit my early home. I found it all desolate; the family all broken up; father was sold and gone; Richard, Alexander, Charles, Sarah and John, were sold and gone. Mother, prematurely old, heart-broken, utterly desolate, weak and dying, alone remained. I saw her, and wept once more on her bosom. I went back to my chains with a deeper woe in my heart than I had ever felt before. There was but one thought of joy in my wretched consciousness, and that was, that my kind and precious mother would
soon be at rest in the grave. And then, too, I remember, I mused with deep earnestness on death, as the only friend the poor slave had. And I wished that I, too, might lie down by my mother's side, and die with her in her loving embrace.
I should have related, that one of the earliest scenes of painful memory associated with my opening years of suffering, is connected with a severe whipping which my master inflicted on my sister Sarah. He tied her up, having compelled her to strip herself entirely naked, in the smoke house, and gave her a terrible whipping,--at least, so it seemed to my young heart, as I heard her scream, and stood by my mother, who was wringing her hands in an agony of grief, at the cruelties which her tender child was enduring. I do not know what my sister had done for which she was then whipped; but I remember that her body was marked and scarred for weeks after that terrible scourging, and that our parents always after seemed to hold their breath when they spoke of it. Sarah was the last of the family who was sold, and my poor mother never looked up after this final act of cruelty was accomplished. I think of my only sister now, and often try to imagine where she is, and how she fares in this cruel land of slavery. And oh, my God, how dark and wretched are these pictures! Can I think of that poor sister without a sorrow too great for utterance? Ah, me! how can the generous, loving brother or sister, blessed with freedom, forget the cruel sorrows and wrongs of the slave brother and sister? how fellowship, even in the least act of comity, the atrocious slaveholder? There may be some who do this from ignorance of such cruel wrongs. God grant this simple story may enlighten some who only need to know our deep necessities, to give us their willing sympathy and aid and love.
My journey to Wilmington with the heartless Abraham was a very sad one. We walked all the way. I was afraid of my savage companion; and yet my heart felt so desolate, and my longings for sympathy so intense, that I was impelled to turn to my cruel guide for relief. He was striding along in stern gloom and silence, too fast for my young feet to keep pace, and I began to feel
that I must stop and rest. It was bitter cold, too, and I was poorly clad to bear the keen air of a January day. My limbs were weary with travel, and stiff with cold. I could not go on at the rate I had done, and so I turned to my guide and begged him to take me into some hut and let me rest and get warm. He cursed me, and told me to keep silence and come along, or he would warm me with a cowhide. Oh, I thought, how cruel and hopeless my lot! Would that I could fall down here and die! And I did fall down. We had just passed through a soft, wet place, and it seemed to me that I was frozen. And I fell down on my dark, cold way, unable to proceed. I was then carried into a slave's cabin, and allowed to warm and rest. It was nearly midnight when I arrived, with my conductor, at my place of exile and suffering. And certainly no heart could be more entirely wretched than I was when I threw my weary, aching body, on my cold, hard bed.
The next morning I was called into the presence of Mr. Jones, my new master, and my work was assigned to me. I was to take care of the old gray horse, kept for the use of the family when they wished to ride out, to fetch water from the spring to the house, to go on errands to my master's store, to clean the boots and shoes belonging to the white members of the family and to the white visitors, to sweep the rooms, and to bring wood from the wharf on my head for the fires at the house and store. From the first dawn of day till ten and eleven, and sometimes twelve at night, I could hardly find one moment's time for rest. And oh, how the memory of that year of constant toil and weariness is imprinted on my heart, an impression of appalling sorrow! My dreams are still haunted with the agony of that year. I had just been torn from my home; my yearning heart was deprived of the sweet sympathy of those to whose memory I then clung, and to whom my heart still turns with irrepressible and unutterable longings. I was torn from them and put into a circle of cold, selfish and cruel hearts, and put then to perform labors too great for my young strength. And yet I lived through that year, just as the slave lives on through weary years of suffering, on which
no ray of light shines, save that which hope of a better, happier future gives even to the desolate bondman. I lived through it, with all its darkness and sorrow. That year I received my first whipping. I had failed one day to finish my allotted task. It seemed to me that I had done my best; but somehow, that day, thoughts of home came so fresh and tender into my mind, and, along with these thoughts, a sense of my utter hopeless desolation came in and took such a strong hold of my heart, that I sank down, a helpless, heart-broken child. My tasks for that day were neglected. The next morning my master made me strip off my shirt, and then whipped me with a cowhide till the blood ran trickling down upon the floor. My master was very profane, and with dreadful oaths he assured me that there was only one way for me to avoid a repetition of this terrible discipline, and that was to do my tasks every day, sick or well.
And so this year went by, and my duties were changed, and my lot was made a little easier. The cook, Fanny, died, and I was put into her place. I still had to get wood, and keep the fires in the house, and, after the work of cooking, setting the table, clearing away and washing the dishes, there was always something to be done for my mistress. I got but little time to rest; but I got enough to eat, which I had not done the year before. I was by the comfortable fire a good part of the cold Winter weather, instead of being exposed to the cold and wet, without warm clothing, as I had been the year before, and my labor was not so hard the second year as it had been the first.
My mistress complained of me at length, that I was not so obedient as I ought to be, and so I was taken from the house into the store. My business there was to open and sweep out the store in the morning, and get all the things ready for the accommodation of customers who might come in during the day. Then I had to bring out and deliver all heavy articles that might be called for during the day, such as salt, large quantities of which were sold in the store, ship stores, grain, etc. I had also to hold myself ready to run on any errand my master or clerk, David Cogdell, might wish to send me on. While
Cogdell remained in the store, I enjoyed a gleam of happiness. He was very kind to me, never giving me a cross word or sour look; always ready to show me how to do anything which I did not understand, and to perform little acts of kindness to me. His condescension to me, a poor, despised, homeless and friendless slave, and his tenderness to me, while all others were severe and scornful, sank down a precious bond of grateful emotion into my desolate heart. I seemed to be lifted up by this noble friend at times, from the dark despair which had settled down upon my life, and to be joined once more to a living hope of future improvement in my sad lot. Should these simple words ever meet the eye of David Cogdell, let them assure him of my fervent gratitude and affection for his goodness to me. Let them tell him how infinitely precious to my mourning heart, then and now, his generous treatment and noble kindness to a despised and unhappy boy. And let them say to him, "My early and true friend, Tommy, the poor slave boy, whom you blessed with unfailing kindness, has now grown to be a man, and has run away from the dark misery of bondage. And now, when he calls upon his Father in heaven to pour out rich blessings on the few friends who have aided him, then David Cogdell is remembered with fond and fervent affection." David was one of the few who always regarded the feelings and happiness of others as earnestly as his own; who find their own happiness in making the unfortunate happy by sympathy and kindness, and who would suffer any loss rather than do injustice to the poor and defenseless. I often wondered how there could be such a difference in the character of two men. as there was between that of my master and my friend and benefactor, David Cogdell. And I often wished that I might pass into the hands of such a man as he was. But his kindness and generosity to the poor slaves was very offensive to my master, and to other slaveholders; and so, at length, Mr. Jones turned him off, though he was compelled to acknowledge, at the same time, that he was the most trustworthy and valuable assistant he ever had in his store.
After my master dismissed Mr. C., he tried to get along
with me alone in the store. He kept the books and waited upon the most genteel of his customers, leaving me to do the rest of the work. This went on six months, when he declared that he could not bear this confinement any longer; and so he got a white boy to come and enter as clerk, to stay till he was of age. James Dixon was a poor boy about my own age, and when he came into the store could hardly read or write. He was accordingly engaged a part of each day with his books and writing. I saw him studying, and asked him to let me see his book. When he felt in a good humor, James was very kind and obliging. The great trouble with him was, that his fits of ill-humor were much more frequent than his times of good feeling. It happened, however, that he was on good terms with himself when I asked him to show me his book, and so he let me take it and look at it, and he answered very kindly many questions which I asked him about books and schools and learning. He told me that he was trying to get learning enough to fit him to do a good business for himself after he should get through with Mr. Jones. He told me that a man who had learning would always find friends, and get along very well in the world without having to work hard, while those who had no learning would have no friends and be compelled to work very hard for a poor living all their days. This was all new to me, and furnished me topics for wondering thought for days afterwards. The result of my meditations was, that an intense burning desire to learn to read and write took possession of my mind, occupying me wholly in waking hours, and stirring up earnest thoughts in my soul even when I slept. The question which then took hold of my whole consciousness was, How can I get a book to begin? James told me that a spelling-book was the first one necessary in getting learning. So I contrived how I might obtain a spelling-book. At length, after much study, I hit upon this plan: I cleaned the boots of a Mr. David Smith, Jr., who carried on the printer's business in Wilmington, and edited the Cape Fear Recorder. He had always appeared to me a very kind man. I thought I would get him to aid me in procuring a spelling-book. He
looked at me in silence and with close attention for some time, and asked me what I wanted. I told him I wanted to learn to read. He shook his head, and replied, "No, Thomas, it would not answer for me to sell you a book to learn out of; you will only get yourself into trouble if you attempt it; and I advise you to get that foolish notion out of your head as quickly as you can."
David's brother, Peter Smith, kept a book and stationery store under the printing office, and I next applied to him for a book, determined to persevere till I obtained this coveted treasure. He asked me the same question that his brother David had done, and with the same searching, suspicious look. By my previous repulse I had discovered that I could not get a spelling-book if I told what I wanted to do with it, and so I told a lie in order to get it. I answered that I wanted it for a white boy, naming one that lived at my master's, and that he had given me the money to get it with, and had asked me to call at the store and buy it. The book was then handed out to me, the money taken in return, and I left, feeling very rich with my long-desired treasure. I got out of the store, and looking around to see that no one observed me, I hid my book in my bosom, and hurried on to my work, conscious that a new era in my life was opening upon me through the possession of this book. That consciousness at once awakened new thoughts, purposes, and new hopes--a new life, in fact--in my experience. My mind was excited. The words spoken by James Dixon of the great advantages of learning, made me intensely anxious to learn. I was a slave; and I knew that the whole community was in league to keep the poor slave in ignorance and chains. Yet I longed to be free, and to be able to move the minds of other men by my thoughts. It seemed to me now, that if I could learn to read and write, this learning might--nay, I really thought it would--point out to me the way to freedom, influence, and real, secure happiness. So I hurried on to my master's store, and watching my opportunity to do it safe from curious eyes, I hid my book with the utmost care, under some liquor barrels in the smoke house. The first opportunity I improved to examine
my book. I looked it over with the most intent eagerness, turned over its leaves, and tried to discover what the new and strange characters which I saw in its pages might mean. But I found it a vain endeavor. I could understand a picture, and from it make out a story of immediate interest to my mind. But I could not associate any thought or fact with these crooked letters with which my primer was filled. So the next day I sought a favorable moment, and asked James to tell me where a scholar must begin in order to learn to read, and how. He laughed at my ignorance, and, taking his spelling-book, showed me the alphabet in large and small letters on the same page. I asked him the name of the first letter, pointing it out; he told me A; so of the next, and so on through the alphabet. I managed to remember A and B, and I studied and looked out the same letters in many other parts of the book. And so I fixed in a tenacious memory the names of the first two letters of the alphabet. But I found that I could not get on without help, and so I applied to James again to show me the letters and tell me their names. This time he suspected me of trying to learn to read myself, and he plied me with questions till he ascertained that I was, in good earnest, entering upon an effort to get knowledge. At this discovery he manifested a good deal of indignation. He told me, in scorn, that it was not for such as me to try to improve, that I was a slave, and that it was not proper for me to learn to read. He threatened to tell my master, and at length, by his hard language, my anger was fully aroused, and I answered taunt with taunt. He called me a poor, miserable nigger; and I called him a poor, ignorant white servant boy. While we were engaged in loud and angry words of mutual defiance and scorn, my master came into the store. Mr. Jones had never given me a whipping since the time I have already described, during my first year of toil, want and suffering in his service. But he now caught me in the unpardonable offence of giving saucy language to a white boy, and one, too, who was in his employ. Without stopping to make any inquiries, he took down the cowhide and gave me a severe whipping. He told me never
to talk back to a white man, on pain of flogging. I suppose this law or custom is universal at the South. And I suppose it is thought necessary to enforce this habit of obsequious submission on the part of the colored people to the whites, in order to maintain their supremacy over the poor, outraged slaves.
I will mention, in this connection, as illustrative of this cruel custom, an incident which I saw just before I ran away from my chains. A little colored boy was carrying along through Wilmington a basket of food. His name was Ben, and he belonged to Mrs. Runkin, a widow lady. A little mischievous white boy, just about Ben's age and size, met him, and purposely overturned the little fellow's basket and scattered his load in the mud. Ben, in return for this wanton act, called him some hard name, when the white boy clinched him to throw him down with the scattered fragments upon his basket in the mud. Ben resisted, and threw down the white boy, proving to be the stronger of the two. Tom Myers, a young lawyer of Wilmington, saw the contest, and immediately rushing out, seized little Ben and dragged him into the store opposite the place of battle. He sent out to a saddler's shop, procured a cowhide, and gave the little fellow a tremendous flogging for the daring crime of resisting a white boy who had wantonly invaded his rights. Is it any wonder that the spirit of self-respect of the poor, ignorant slave, is broken down by such treatment of unsparing and persevering cruelty?
I was now repulsed by James, so that I could hope for no assistance from him in learning to read. But I could not go on alone. I must get some one to aid me in starting, or give up the effort to learn. This I could not bear to do. I longed to be able to read, and so I cast about me to see what I could do next. I thought of a kind boy at the bake-house, near my own age. I thought he would help me, and so I went to him, showed my book, and asked him to teach me the letters. He told their names, and went over the whole alphabet with me three times. By this assistance I learned a few more of the letters, so that I could remember them afterwards when I sat down alone and tried to call them over. I could
now pick out and name five or six of the letters in any part of the book. I felt then that I was getting along, and the consciousness that I was making progress, though slow and painful, was joy and hope to my sorrowing heart, such as I never felt before. I could not with safety go to the bake-house, as there I was exposed to detection by the sudden entrance of customers or idlers. I wanted to get a teacher who would give me a little aid each day, and now I set about securing this object. As kind Providence would have it, I easily succeeded, and on this wise: A little boy, Hiram Bricket, ten years old, or about that age, came along by the store one day, on his way home from school, while my master was gone home to dinner, and James was in the front part of the store. I beckoned to Hiram to come round to the back door; and with him I made a bargain to meet me each day at noon, when I was allowed a little while to get my dinner, and to give me instruction in reading. I was to give him six cents a week. I met him the next day at his father's stable, the place agreed upon for our daily meeting; and, going into one of the stalls, the noble little Hiram gave me a thorough lesson in the alphabet. I learned it nearly all at that time, with what study I could give it by stealth during the day and night. And then again I felt lifted up and happy.
I was permitted to enjoy these advantages, however, but a short time. A black boy, belonging to Hiram's father, one day discovered our meeting and what we were doing. He told his master of it, and Hiram was at once forbidden this employment. I had then got along so that I was reading and spelling in words of two syllables. My noble little teacher was very patient and faithful with me, and my days were passing away in very great happiness under the consciousness that I was learning to read. I felt at night, as I went to my rest, that I was really beginning to be a man, preparing myself for a condition in life better and higher and happier than could belong to the ignorant slave. And in this blessed feeling I found, waking and sleeping, a most precious happiness.
After I was deprived of my kind little teacher, I plodded
on the best way I could myself, and in this way I got into words of five syllables. I got some little time to study by daylight in the morning, before any of my master's family had risen. I got a moment's opportunity at noon, and sometimes at night. During the day I was in the back store a good deal, and whenever I thought I could have five minutes to myself, I would take my book and try to learn a little in reading and spelling. If I heard James, or master Jones, or any customer coming in, I would drop my book among the barrels, and pretend to be very busy shovelling the salt or doing some other work. Several times I came very near being detected. My master suspected something, because I was so still in the back room, and a number of times he came very slyly to see what I was about. But at such times I was always so fortunate as to hear his tread or see his shadow on the wall in time to hide away my book.
When I had got along to words of five syllables, I went to see a colored friend, Ned Cowan, whom I knew I could trust. I told him I was trying to learn to read, and asked him to help me a little. He said he did not dare to give me any instruction, but he heard me read a few words, and then told me I should learn if I would only persevere as nobly as I had done thus far. I told him how I had got along, and what difficulties I had met with. He encouraged me, and spoke very kindly of my efforts to improve my condition by getting learning. He told me I had got along far enough to get another book, in which I could learn to write the letters, as well as to read. He told me where and how to procure this book. I followed his directions, and obtained another spelling-book at Worcester's store, in Wilmington. Jacob showed me a little about writing. He set me a copy, first of straight marks. I now got me a box which I could hide under my bed, some ink, pens, and a bit of candle. So, when I went to bed, I pulled my box out from under my cot, turned it up on end, and began my first attempt at writing. I worked away till my candle was burned out, and then lay down to sleep. Jacob next set me a copy which he called pot-hooks; then, the letters of the alphabet. These letters were also in my new
spelling-book, and, according to Jacob's directions, I set them before me for a copy, and wrote on these exercises till I could form all the letters and call them by name. One evening I wrote out my name in large letters--THOMAS JONES. This I carried to Jacob, in a great excitement of happiness, and he warmly commended me for my perseverance and diligence.
About this time I was at the store early one morning, and, thinking I was safe from all danger for a few minutes, had seated myself in the back store on one of the barrels, to study in my precious spelling-book. While I was absorbed in this happy enterprise, my master came in, much earlier than usual, and I did not hear him. He came directly into the back store. I saw his shadow on the wall just in time to throw my book over in among the barrels before he could see what it was, although he saw that I had thrown something quickly away. His suspicion was aroused. He said that I had been stealing something out of the store, and fiercely ordered me to get what I had thrown away just as he was coming in at the door. Without a moment's hesitation, I determined to save my precious book and my future opportunities to learn out of it. I knew if my book was discovered that all was lost, and I felt prepared for any hazard or suffering rather than give up my book and my hopes of improvement. So I replied at once to his questions, that I had not thrown anything away; that I had not stolen anything from the store; that I did not have anything in my hands which I could throw away when he came in. My master declared in a high passion that I was lying, and ordered me to begin and roll away the barrels. This I did; but managed to keep the book slipping along so that he could not see it, as he stood in the doorway. He charged me again with stealing and throwing something away, and I again denied the charge. In a great rage, he got down his long, heavy cowhide, and ordered me to strip off my jacket and shirt, saying, with an oath, "I will make you tell me what it was you had when I came." I stripped myself and came forward, according to his directions, at the same time denying his charge with great earnestness of tone, and look, and manner. He
cut me on my naked back, perhaps thirty times, with great severity, making the blood flow freely. He then stopped, and asked me what I had thrown away as he came in. I answered again that I had thrown nothing away. He swore terribly; said he was certain I was lying, and declared he would kill me if I did not tell him the truth. He whipped me the second time with greater severity, and at greater length than before. He then repeated his question, and I answered again as before. I was determined to die, if I could possibly bear the pain, rather than give up my dear book. He whipped me the third time, with the same result as before, and then seizing hold of my shoulders, turned me round as though he would inflict on my quivering flesh still another scourging, but he saw the deep gashes he had already made, and the blood already flowing under his cruel infliction, and his stern purpose failed him. He said, "Why, Tom, I didn't think I had cut you so bad;" and saying that, he stopped, and told me to put on my shirt again. I did as he bade me, although my coarse shirt touching my raw back put me to a cruel pain. He then went out, and I got my book and hid it safely away before he came in again. When I went to the house my wounds had dried, and I was in an agony of pain. My mistress told the servant girl, Rachel, to help me off with my shirt, and to wash my wounds for me, and put on to them some sweet oil. The shirt was dried to my back so that it could not be got off without tearing off some of the skin with it. The pain, upon doing this, was greater even than I had endured from my cruel whipping. After Rachel had got my shirt off, my mistress asked me what I had done for which my master had whipped me so severely. I told her he had accused me of stealing when I had not, and then had whipped me to make me own it.
While Rachel was putting on the sweet oil my master came in, and I could hear mistress scolding him for giving me such an inhuman beating, when I had done nothing. He said in reply that Tom was an obstinate liar, and that was the reason why he had whipped me.
But I got well of my mangled back, and my book was still left. This was my best, my constant friend. With
great earnestness, I snatched every moment I could get, morning, noon, and night, for study. I had begun to read; and, oh! how I loved to study, and to dwell on the thoughts which I gained from reading! About this time I read a piece in my book about God. It said that "God, who sees and knows all our thoughts, loves the good and makes them happy; while he is angry with the bad, and will punish them for all their sins." This made me feel very unhappy, because I was sure I was not good in the sight of God. I thought about this, and couldn't get it out of my mind a single hour. So I went to James Galley, a colored man, who exhorted the slaves sometimes on Sunday, and told him my trouble, asking, "What shall I do?" He told me about Jesus, and told me I must pray the Lord to forgive me and help me to be good and happy. So I went home, and went down cellar and prayed, but I found no relief, no comfort for my unhappy mind. I felt so bad that I could not study my book. My master saw that I looked very unhappy, and he asked me what ailed me. I did not dare now to tell a lie, for I wanted to be good, that I might be happy. So I told my master just how it was with me; and then he swore terribly at me, and said he would whip me if I did not give over praying. He said there was no heaven and no hell, and that Christians were all hypocrites, and that there was nothing after this life, and that he would not permit me to go moping round, praying and going to the meetings. I told him I could not help praying, and then he cursed me in a great passion, and declared he would whip me if he knew of my going on any more in that foolish way. The next night I was to a meeting, which was led by Jack Cammon, a free colored man, and a class-leader in the Methodist church. I was so much overcome by my feelings that I stayed very late. They prayed for me, but I did not yet find any relief; I was still very unhappy. The next morning my master came in and asked me if I went the night before to the meeting. I told him the truth. He said, "Didn't I tell you I would whip you if you went nigh these meetings, and didn't I tell you to stop this foolish praying?" I told him he did, and if he would, why, he
might whip me, but still I could not stop praying, because I wanted to be good, that I might be happy and go to heaven. This reply made my master very angry. With many bitter oaths, he said he had promised me a whipping, and now he should be as good as his word. And so he was. He whipped me, and then forbade, with bitter threatenings, my praying any more, and especially my going again to meeting. This was Friday morning. I continued to pray for comfort and peace. The next Sunday I went to meeting. The minister preached a sermon on being born again, from the words of Jesus to Nicodemus. All this only deepened my trouble of mind. I returned home very unhappy. Collins, a free man of color, was at the meeting, and told my master that I was there. So on Monday morning my master whipped me again, and once more forbade my going to meeting and praying. The next Sunday there was a class meeting, led by Binney Pennison, a colored free man. I asked my master, towards night, if I might go out. I told him I did not feel well. I wanted to go to the class-meeting. Without asking me where I was going, he said I might go. I went to the class. I stayed very late, and I was so overcome by my feelings that I could not go home that night. So they carried me to Joseph Jones's cabin, a slave of Mr. Jones. Joseph talked and prayed with me nearly all night. In the morning I went home as soon as it was light, and, for fear of master, I asked Nancy, one of the slaves, to go up into mistress' room and get the store key for me, that I might go and open the store. My master told her to go back and tell me to come up. I obeyed with many fears. My master asked me where I had been the night before. I told him the whole truth. He cursed me again, and said he should whip me for my obstinate disobedience; and he declared he would kill me if I did not promise to obey him. He refused to listen to my mistress, who was a professor, and who tried to intercede for me. And, just as soon as he had finished threatening me with what he would do, he ordered me to take the key and go and open the store. When he came into the store that morning, two of his neighbors, Julius Dumbiven, and McCauslin, came in
too. He called me up and asked me again where I stayed last night. I told him with his boy, Joseph. He said he knew that was a lie; and he immediately sent off for Joseph to confirm his suspicions. He ordered me to strip off my clothes, and, as I did so, he took down the cowhide, heavy and stiff with blood which he had before drawn from my body with that cruel weapon, and which was congealed upon it. Dumbiven professed to be a Christian, and he now came forward, and earnestly interceded for me, but to no purpose, and then he left. McCauslin asked my master if he did not know that a slave was worth more money after he became pious than he was before. And why, then, he said, should you forbid Tom going to meeting and praying? He replied that religion was all a damned mockery, and he was not going to have any of his slaves praying and whining round about their souls. McCauslin then left. Joseph came and told the same story about the night before that I had done; and then he began to beg master not to whip me. He cursed him and drove him off. He then whipped me with great severity, inflicting terrible pain at every blow upon my quivering body, which was still very tender from recent lacerations. My suffering was so great that it seemed to me I should die. He paused at length, and asked me would I mind him and stop praying. I told him I could not promise him not to pray any more, for I felt that I must and should pray as long as I lived. "Well, then, Tom," he said, "I swear that I will whip you to death." I told him I could not help myself, if he was determined to kill me, but that I must pray while I lived. He then began to whip me the second time, but soon stopped, threw down the bloody cowhide, and told me to go wash myself in the river, just back of the store, and then dress myself, and if I was determined to be a fool, why, I must be one. My mistress now interceded earnestly for me with my cruel master. The next sabbath was love-feast, and I felt very anxious to join in that feast. This I could not do without a paper from my master, and so I asked mistress to help me. She advised me to be patient, and said she would help me all she could. Master refused to give any paper, and so I could not join in the love-feast the next day.
On the next Friday evening I went to the prayer meeting. Jack Cammon was there, and opened the meeting with prayer. Then Binney Pennison gave out the sweet hymn, which begins in these words:
"Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore."
I felt that it all applied most sweetly to my condition, and I said in my heart, I will come now to Jesus, and trust in him. So when those who felt anxious were requested to come forward and kneel within the altar for prayer, I came and knelt down. While Jack Cammon was praying for me, and for those who knelt by my side, my burden of sorrow, which had so long weighed me down, was removed. I felt the glory of God's love warming my heart, and making me very happy. I shouted aloud for joy, and tried to tell all my poor slave brothers and sisters, who were in the house, what a dear Saviour I had found, and how happy I felt in his precious love. Binney Pennison asked me if I could forgive my master. I told him I could, and did, and that I could pray God to forgive him, too, and make him a good man. He asked me if I could tell my master of the change in my feelings. I told him I should tell him in the morning. "And what," he said, "will you do if he whips you still for praying and going to meeting?" I said, "I will ask Jesus to help me to bear the pain, and to forgive my master for being so wicked." He then said, "Well, then, Brother Jones, I believe that you are a Christian."
A good many of us went from the meeting to a brother's cabin, where we began to express our joy in happy songs. The palace of General Dudley was only a little way off, and he soon sent over a slave with orders to stop our noise, or he would send the patrollers upon us. We then stopped our singing, and spent the remainder of the night in talking, rejoicing and praying. It was a night of very great happiness to me. The contrast between my feelings then, and for many weeks previous, was very great. Now, all was bright and joyous in my relations towards my precious Saviour. I felt certain that Jesus was my Saviour, and in this blessed assurance a flood of glory and joy filled my happy soul. But this sweet night
passed away, and, as the morning came, I felt that I must go home, and bear the slave's heavy cross. I went, and told my mistress the blessed change in my feelings. She promised me what aid she could give me with my master, and enjoined upon me to be patient and very faithful to his interest, and, in this way, I should at length wear out his opposition to my praying and going to meeting.
I went down to the store in a very happy state of mind. I told James my feelings. He called me a fool, and said master would be sure to whip me. I told him I hoped I should be able to bear it, and to forgive master for his cruelty to me. Master came down, talked with me a while, and told me he should whip me because I had disobeyed him in staying out all night. He had told me he should whip me if ever I did so, and he should make every promise good. So I began to take off my clothes. He called me a crazy fool, and told me to keep my clothes on till he told me to take them off. He whipped me over my jacket; but I enjoyed so much peace of mind that I scarcely felt the cowhide. This was the last whipping that Mr. Jones inflicted upon me.
I was then nearly eighteen years old. I waited and begged for a paper to join the church six months before I could get it. But all this time I was cheerful, as far as a slave can be, and very earnest to do all I could for my master and mistress. I was resolved to convince them that I was happier and better for being a Christian; and my master at last acknowledged that he could not find any fault with my conduct, and that it was impossible to find a more faithful slave than I was to him. And so, at last, he gave me a paper to Ben English, the leader of the colored members, and I joined the love feast, and was taken into the church on trial for six months. I was put into Billy Cochrane's class. At the expiration of six months, I was received into the church in full fellowship, Quaker Davis's class. I remained there three years. My master was much kinder after this time than he had ever been before; and I was allowed some more time to myself than I had been before. I pursued my studies as far as I could, but I soon found the utter impossibility of
carrying on my studies as I wished to do. I was a slave, and all avenues to real improvement I found guarded with jealous care and cruel tenacity against the despised and desolated bondman.
I still felt a longing desire to improve, to be free, but the conviction was getting hold of my soul that I was only struggling in vain when seeking to elevate myself into a manly and happy position. And now my mind was fast sinking into despair. I could read and write, and often enjoyed much happiness in poring over the very few books I could obtain; and especially, at times, I found great peace in reading my old worn Testament. But I wanted now that hope which had filled my mind with such joy when I first began to learn to read. I found much happiness in prayer. But here, also, my mind labored in sadness and darkness much of the time. I read in my Testament that Jesus came from the bright heaven of his glory into this selfish and cruel world, to seek and to save the lost. I read and pondered with deep earnestness on the blessed rule of heavenly love which Jesus declared to be the whole of man's duty to his fellow: each to treat his brother as he would be treated. I thought of the command given to the followers of the loving Saviour, to teach all nations to obey the blessed precepts of the gospel. I considered that eighteen hundred years had gone by since Jesus plead for man's redemption and salvation, and, going up to heaven, has left His work of mercy to be finished by His children, and then I thought that I and thousands of my brothers and sisters, loving the Lord and pressing on to a blessed and endless home in His presence, were slaves--branded, whipped, chained; deeply, hopelessly degraded--thus degraded and outraged, too, in a land of bibles and sabbaths and churches, and by professed followers of the Lord of Love. And often, such thoughts were too much for me. In an agony of despair, I have at times given up prayer and hope together, believing that my master's words were true, that "religion is a cursed mockery, and the Bible a lie." May God forgive me for doubting, at such times, his justice and love. There was but one thing that saved me from going at once and fully into dark infidelity,
when such agony assailed my bleeding heart--the memory of seasons of unspeakable joy in prayer, when love and faith were strong in my heart. The sweet remembrance of these dear hours would draw me back to Jesus and to peace in his mercy. Oh, that all true Christians knew just how the slave feels in view of the religion of this country, by whose sanction men and women are bound, branded, bought and sold!
About this time my master was taken sick. On Sunday he was prostrated by mortal pains; and on Friday the same week he died. He left fifteen slaves; I was purchased by Owen Holmes for $435. I was then in my twenty-third year. I had just passed through the darkest season of despairing agony that I had yet known. This came upon me in consequence of the visit, which I have already described, to my dear old desolate home. About this time, too, I entered on a new and distinct period of life, which I will unfold in another chapter. I will close this period of sorrow and shame with a few lines of touching interest to my mind:
Who shall avenge the slave? I stood and cried;
The earth, the earth, the echoing sea replied.
I turned me to the ocean, but each wave
Declined to be the avenger of the slave.
Who shall avenge the slave? my species cried;
The wind, the flood, the lightnings of the sky.
I turned to these, from them one echo ran,
The right avenger of the slave is man.
Man was my fellow; in his sight I stood,
Wept and besought him by the voice of blood.
Sternly he looked as proud on earth he trod,
Then said, the avenger of the slave is GOD.
I looked in prayer towards Heaven, a while 't was still,
And then methought, God's voice replied, I WILL.
I enter now upon a new development of wrongs and woes which I as a slave was called to undergo. I must go back some two or three years from the time when my master died, and I was sold to Owen Holmes. The bitterness of persecution which Master Jones had kept up against me so long, because I would try to serve the
Lord, had passed away. I was permitted to pray and go to our meetings without molestation. My master laid aside his terrible severity toward me. By his treatment to me afterwards, he seemed to feel that he had done wrong in scourging me as he had done, because I could not obey his wicked command to stop praying, and keep away from the meetings. For, after the time of my joining the church, he allowed me to go to all the meetings, and granted me many other little favors, which I had never before received from him. About this time I began to feel very lonely. I wanted a friend to whom I could tell my story of sorrows, of unsatisfied longing, of new and fondly cherished plans. I wanted a companion whom I could love with all my warm affections, who should love me in return with a true and fervent heart, of whom I might think when toiling for a selfish, unfeeling master, who shall dwell fondly on my memory when we were separated during the severe labors of the day, and with whom I might enjoy the blessed happiness of social endearments after the work of each day was over. My heart yearned to have a home, if it was only the wretched home of the unprotected slave, to have a wife to love me and to love. It seems to me that no one can have such fondness of love and such intensity of desire for home and home affections, as the poor slave. Despised and trampled upon by a cruel race of unfeeling men, the bondman must die in the prime of his wretched life, if he finds no refuge in a dear home, where love and sympathy shall meet him from hearts made sacred to him by his own irrepressible affection and tenderness for them. And so I sought to love and win a true heart in return. I did this, too, with the full knowledge of the desperate agony that the slave husband and father is exposed to. Had I not seen this in the anguish of my own parents? Yea, I saw it in every public auction, where men and women and children were brought upon the block, examined, and bought. I saw it on such occasions, in the hopeless agony depicted on the countenance of husband and wife there separated to meet no more in this cruel world; and in the screams of wild despair and useless entreaty which the mother, then deprived of her darling child,
sent forth. I heard the doom which stares every slave parent in the face each waking and sleeping hour of an unhappy life. And yet I sought to become a husband and a father, because I felt that I could live no longer unloved and unloving. I was married to Lucilla Smith, the slave to Mrs. Moore. We called it and we considered it a true marriage, although we knew well that marriage was not permitted to the slaves as a sacred right of the loving heart. Lucilla was seventeen years old when we were married. I loved her with all my heart, and she gave me a return for my affection with which I was contented. Oh, God of love thou knowest what happy hours we have passed in each other's society in our poor cabin! When we knelt in prayer, we never forgot to ask God to save us from the misery of cruel separation, while life and love were our portion. Oh, how we have talked of this dreadful fate, and wept in mingling sorrow, as we thought of our desolation, if we should be parted and doomed to live on weary years, away from each other's dear presence! We had three dear little babes. Our fondness for our precious children increased the current feeling of love for each other, which filled our hearts. They were bright, precious things, those little babes; at least so they seemed to us. Lucilla and I were never tired of planning to improve their condition, as far as might be done for slaves. We prayed with new fervency to our Father in Heaven to protect our precious babes. Lucilla was very proud of me, because I could read and write, and she often spoke of my teaching our dear little ones, and then she would say, with tears, "Who knows, Thomas, but that they may yet be free and happy?" Lucilla was a valuable slave to her mistress. She was a seamstress, and very expert at her needle; I had a constant dread that Mrs. Moore, her mistress, would be in want of money, and sell my dear wife. We constantly dreaded a final separation. Our affection for each other was very strong, and this made us always apprehensive of a cruel parting. These fears were well founded as our sorrowing hearts too soon learned. A few years of very pure and constant happiness for slaves, passed away, and we were parted to
meet but once again till we meet in eternity. Mrs. Moore left Wilmington, and moved to Newbern. She carried with her my beloved Lucilla and my three children, Annie, four years old; Lizzie, two and a half years; and our sweet little babe, Charlie. She remained there eighteen months, and oh, how lonely and dreary and desponding were those months of lonely life to my crushed heart! My dear wife and my precious children were seventy-four miles distant from me, carried away from me in utter scorn of my beseeching words. I was tempted to put an end to my wretched life. I thought of my dear family by day and by night. A deep despair was in my heart, such as no one is called to bear in such cruel, crushing power as the poor slave, severed forever from the objects of his love by the cupidity of his brother. But that dark time of despair passed away, and I saw once more my wife and children. Mrs. Moore left Newbern for Tuscaloosa, Ala., and passing through Wilmington on her journey, she spent one night in her old home. That night I passed with my wife and children. Lucilla had pined away under the agony of our separation, even more than I had done. That night she wept on my bosom, and we mingled bitter tears together. Our dear children were baptised in the tears of agony that were wrung from our breaking hearts. The just God will remember that night in the last award that we and our oppressors are to receive.
The next morning Mrs. Moore embarked on board the packet. I followed my wife and children to the boat, and parted from them without a word of farewell. Our sobs and tears were our only adieu. Our hearts were too full of anguish for any other expression of our hopeless woe. I have never seen that dear family since, nor have I heard from them since I parted from them there. God only knows the bitterness of my agony, experienced in the separation of my wife and children from me. The memory of that great woe will find a fresh impress on my heart while that heart shall beat. How will the gifted and the great meet the charge against them at the great day, as the judge shall say to them, in stern displeasure, "I was sick, destitute, imprisoned, helpless, and ye ministered
not unto me; for when ye slighted and despised these wretched, pleading slaves, ye did these acts of scorn against me. Depart, ye workers of iniquity?"
After my purchase by Owen Holmes, I hired my time at $150 per year, paid monthly. I rented a house of Dr. E. J. Desert. I worked, loading and unloading vessels that came into Wilmington, and could earn from one dollar to a dollar and a quarter a day. While my wife and family were spared to bless my home by their presence and love, I was comparatively happy. But I found then that the agony of that terrible thought, "I am a slave, my wife is a slave, my precious children are slaves," grew bitter and insupportable, just as the happiness in the society of my beloved home became more distinct and abounding. And this one cup of bitterness was ever at my lips. Hearts of kind sympathy and tender pity, did I not drain that cup of bitter woe to its very dregs, when my family were carried off into returnless exile, and I was left a heart-broken, lonely man? Can you be still inactive while thousands are drinking that potion of despair every year in this land of schools and bibles? After I parted from my family, I continued to toil on, but not as I had done before. My home was darker than the holds of the ships in which I worked. Its light, the bright, joyous light of love and sympathy and mutual endearments, was quenched. Ah, me, how dark it left my poor heart! It was colder than the winter wind and frost; the warm sunshine was snatched away and my poor heart froze in its bitter cold. Its gloom was deeper than the prison or cave could make it. Were not there the deserted chairs and beds, once occupied by the objects of a husband's and a father's love? Deserted! How, and why? Is not the answer the unqualified condemnation of the government and religion of this land? I could not go into my cold, dark, cheerless house; the sight of its deserted room was despair to my soul. So I worked on, taking jobs whenever I could get them, and working often till nearly morning, and never going to my home for rest till I could toil no more. And so I passed four years, and I began to feel that I could not live in utter loneliness any longer. My heart was still
and always yearning for affection and sympathy and loving communion. My wife was torn from me. I had ceased to hope for another meeting with her in this world of oppression and suffering; so I sat down and wrote to Lucilla, that I could live alone no longer, and saying to her the sad farewell, which we could not say when we were sundered. I asked Mary R. Moore to come and cheer me in my desolate home. She became my wife, and, thank God, she has been rescued from slavery by the blessing of God and my efforts to save her. She is now my wife, and she is with me to-day, and till death parts us, secure from the iron hand of slavery. Three of our dear children are with us, too, in the old Commonwealth. I cannot say they are in a free land, for, even here, in the city of Boston, where I am told is kept the old cradle of liberty, my precious children are excluded from the public schools, because their skin is black. Still, Boston is better than Wilmington, inasmuch as the rulers of this place permit me to send my children to any school at all. After my second marriage, I hired my wife of her master, and paid for her time $48 a year, for three years. We had one child while Mary was a slave. That child is still in chains. The fourth year, by the aid of a white friend, I purchased my wife for $350. We had before determined to try to accomplish this enterprise in order that our dear babes might be free. Besides I felt that I could not bear another cruel separation from my wife and children. Yet the dread of it was strong and unceasing upon my mind. So we made a box, and through a hole in the top, we put in every piece of money, from five cents up to a dollar, that we could save from our hard earnings. This object nerved us for unceasing toil, for twenty months or about that time. What hopes and fears beset us as those months wore away! I have been compelled to hide that box in a hole dug for it, when I knew the patrollers were coming to search my cabin. For well did I know, if they found my box, I should be penniless again. How often have I started and turned, in sudden and terrible alarm, as I have dropped a piece of money into my box, and heard its loud ring upon the coin below, lest some prowling enemy should hear it, and steal
from me my hoarded treasure! And how often have I started up in my sleep as the storm has beat aloud upon my humble home, with the cry of unspeakable agony in my heart, "Then, O God they have taken my box, and my wife and babes are still slaves!" When my box was broken open, I still lacked a little of the $350 necessary to buy my wife. The kind friend who had promised to aid me in the contemplated purchase, made up the deficiency, and I became the owner of my wife. We had three children at this time, and oh, how my crushed heart was uplifted in its pride and joy, as I took them in my arms and thought that they were not slaves! These three children are with me and with their mother now, where the slave's chains and whips are heard no more. Oh, how sweet is freedom to man! But doubly dear is the consciousness to the father's heart, made bitter in its incurable woe by the degradation of slavery, that his dear child is never to be a slave! Would to God the fathers of this nation were all possessed of a true consciousness of these things; for then surely, they would will and secure the immediate ending of human bondage.
After I had purchased my wife, we still worked hard and saved our earnings with great care, in order to get some property in hand for future use. As I saved my earnings, I got a white man whom I thought my friend, (his name I choose to keep back for the present), to lay it out for me. In this way I became the owner of the cabin in which I lived, and two other small houses, all of which were held in the name of this supposed friend. He held them in his own name for me. A slave cannot hold property. I will here remark that I was deceived by this man; and when I ran away from my chains, after sending on my family, I was compelled to sacrifice the whole of this property. I left it, because I could not get my own from his hands, and came off entirely destitute. Thank God, I got away, and now I have no tears to shed over the loss of my houses.
During the winter of 1848-9, a kind lady came and told me that some white men were plotting to enslave my wife and children again. She advised me to get them off to the free States as quickly and secretly as possible. A
lawyer of Wilmington told me they were not safe, unless emancipated by a special act of the Legislature. He was a member of the House, and tried to get through the House a bill for their emancipation. But there was so much ill feeling upon this question that he could not do it. The Legislature threw it aside at once. He then advised me to get them off to the free States as my only course to save them. This I determined to do if possible. I kept a good lookout for a vessel. I found one and made a bargain with the captain to take on board for New York a free colored woman and her three children. A kind friend gave me a certificate of their freedom to the captain, and I brought my wife and children on board at night, paid the captain $25 for their fare, and staid on the wharf in torturing fear till about sunrise, when I saw the vessel under way. It was soon out of sight. When I went home, I threw myself on my knees, and poured out my soul to God, to carry that ship and its precious cargo safely and swiftly on to a free haven and to guard and guide me soon to a free home with my beloved family. And so I kept on, praying, working, hoping, pining, for nearly three weeks, when I received the happy news that my dear ones were safe with a true-hearted friend in Brooklyn. I had notified him beforehand that they were coming; and now the good and glorious news came that they were safe with Robert H. Cousins, where the slave-holders could trouble them no more. I had arranged with Mary when she left, to come on myself as soon as I could get the money for my houses and land. She was to write to me as though she had gone to New York on a visit, intending to come back, and she was to speak of New York as if she did not like it at all. I knew my master would be very angry when he heard she had gone unbeknown to him, and I thought he would demand to see the letters my wife should get friends in New York to write to me for her; and so I made ready to meet and quiet his suspicions, while I was plotting my own escape. For more than three months I tried to get the money, or part of it, for my houses; but was put off and deceived, till I found I must come off without a cent of the property I had tried so hard to accumulate. I was required
to call and see my master every day, because he suspected me of design to run away. He was taken suddenly sick, and then I started for my wife and children. Before I give a narrative of my escape, I will give copies of the letters which passed between me and my wife, while I remained in the land of bondage after her escape. These letters, with their post marks, are all in my possession, and can be examined by any one who may doubt their authenticity, or the fidelity with which they are here given. The kind friend who has written this narrative for me, has corrected some mistakes in the construction and spelling of these letters, and some he has left uncorrected. He has also omitted some repititions; otherwise they are given as exact copies. I wrote my own letters; my wife wrote by the help of a friend. I give all my letters, and the two from my wife which I was able to keep. The following was written soon after my wife started for New York:
WILMINGTON, N. C., July 11, 1849.
MY DEAR WIFE.--I write these few lines to inform you that I am well, and hope they may find you and the children well, and all the friends. My dear wife, I long to see you and the children one time more in this world. I hope to see you all soon. Don't get out of heart, for I will come as soon as I can. I hope it will not be long, for God will be my helper, and I feel he will help me. My dear wife, you must pray for me that God may help me. Tell John he must be a good boy till I see him. I must not forget sister Chavis. She must pray for me, that God may help me come out. Tell her I say that she must be faithful to God; and I hope, dear wife, that you will be faithful to God. Tell sister Chavis that Henry will be out soon, and he wants her to keep a good heart and he will send money out to her. Tell her he says she must write to him as soon as she can, for he will not stay long behind her. As soon as he gets his money he will come. I hope to see you all very soon. Tell my Brethering to pray for me, that God may help me get there safe, and make my way clear before me. Help me by your prayers, that God may be with me. Tell brother Robert H. Cousins that he must pray for me; for I long to meet him one time more in this world. Sister Tucker and husband give their love to you and sister Chavis, and say that you must pray for them. Dear wife, you may look for me soon. But what way I will come, I can't tell you now. You may look for me in three weeks from now. You must try and do the best you can till I come. You know how it is
with me, and how I have to come. Tell the Church to pray for me, for I hope to reach that land if I live, and I want the prayers of all God's children. I can't say any more at this time; but I remain, your dear husband, till death,
P. S.--Dear wife, I want you to make out that you don't like New York. When you write to me you must say so. Do mind how you write.
The next letter was written before I had received any certain intelligence of my wife's arrival at New York.
WILMINGTON, N. C., July 17, 1849.
MY DEAR WIFE.--I write to tell you I am well, and I hope these few lines will find you and the children well. I long to see you all one time more. Do pray for me, that God may help me to get to you all. Do ask sister to pray the Lord to help me. I will trust in God, for I know that He is my friend, and He will help me. My dear wife, tell my children I say they must be good till I see them once more. Do give my love to brother R. H. Cousins, and tell him I hope to meet him in two or three weeks from now. Then I can tell him all I want to say to him. Tell sister Chavis I say, do not come back to this place till I come. Her husband says he wants her to stay, and he will come on soon. My dear wife I want you to do the best you can till I come. I will come as soon as I can. You and sister Chavis must live together, for you went together, and you must try to stay together. Do give my love to sister Johnson and husband, and all of my friends. Ask them all to pray for me, that God may be with me in all that I do to meet you all one time more. My dear wife, you know how I told you, you must mind how you write your letters. You must not forget to write as if you did not like New York, and that you would come home soon. You know what I told you to do, and now you must not forget it when you write. I will send you some money in my next letter. I have not sold my houses yet, and if I can't sell, I will leave them all, and come to you and the children. I will trust in that God who can help the poor. My dear, don't forget what I told you to do when you write. You know how I have to do. Be careful how you write. I hope to be with you soon, by the help of God. But, above all things, ask all to pray for me, that God may open the way for me to come safe. I hope to be with you soon, by the help of the Lord. Tell them if I never come, to go on, and may God help them to go forth to glorious war. Tell them to see on the mountain top the standard of God. Tell them to follow their Captain, and be led to
certain victory. Tell them I can but sing with my latest breath, happy if I may to the last speak His name, preach Him to all, and cry, in death, "Behold the Lamb." Go on, my dear wife, and trust in God for all things.
I remain your husband,
Before I wrote the next, I received the happy news that my wife was safe with brother Cousins.
WILMINGTON, N. C., July 25, 1849.
MY DEAR WIFE.--Do tell my children they must be good children till I come to them; and you, my dear wife, must do the best you can; for I don't know how I will come, but I will do the best I can for you. I hope God will help me, for if He don't, I don't know what I will do. My dear wife, I have not sold my houses yet, but I will do the best I can. If I had money I would leave all I have and come, for I know the Lord will help me. It is for want of money that I can't come. But I hope, my dear wife, the Lord will help me out. Tell brother Cousins I hope he and all the people of God will pray for me; and you, my dear wife, must not forget to pray for me. Ask brother Cousins, if he pleases, to put my children to some school. Dear wife, you know the white people will read your letters to me; do mind how you write. No one but God knows my heart. Do pray for me.
I remain your husband till death,
P. S.--My dear wife, I received your letter the 24th of July, and was truly glad to hear you arrived safe in New York. Please tell brother Cousins I will write to him in a few days, and I will send you some money. My dear wife, do mind how you write. You must not forget I am in a slave place, and I can't buy myself for the money. You know how it is, and you must tell brother Cousins. I have not sold yet, but if I can't sell, I will come somehow, by the help of the Lord. John Holmes is still in my way. I want you to write a letter, and say in it, that you will be home in two months, so I can let them read it, for they think I will run away and come to you. So do mind how you write, for the Lord's sake.
The next letter was written to sister Chavis, who went on to New York, but got disheartened and came back to Wilmington.
WILMINGTON, N. C., Aug. 4, 1849.
MY DEAR SISTER.--I hope to see you in a few days, and all my friends. I hope, dear sister, you will not forget to pray for me, for by the help of God, I will see you in a few days. Your husband is coming on soon, but I will be on before him. I would have been on before now, but I could not get my money. I have had a hard time to get money to leave with. I am sorry to hear that you think we can't get a living where you are. My dear sister, a smart man can get a living anywhere in the world, if he try. Don't think we can't live out there, for I know God will help us. You know God has promised a living to all his children. Don't forget that God is ever present, for we must trust him till death. Don't get out of heart, for I know we can live out there, if any one can. You may look for me before your husband. Don't leave New York before I come, for you know what I told you before you left Wilmington. If you come back to this place before I get off, it will make it bad for me. You know what the white people here are. Please don't come yet.
I am, your brother in the Lord, till death,
P. S.--I sent the letter you wrote to Mr. John Ranks. I thought you will wait for a letter from your husband, and I hope you will be better satisfied in your mind that we can get a living out there. Your husband has wrote to you last week; I hope you have got the letter. Oh, that you may trust in God every day, for I know God is your friend, and you must pray night and day that He may help you. I long to see you one time more in this world. We went into the new Church on the 9th day of this month. God was with us on that day, and we had a good time. Though my time with them is short, I hope God will be with them, and may we all meet in the kingdom at last. So pray for me, my dear sister. Aunt Narvey has been dead nearly four weeks. She died happy in the Lord, and is gone home to rest. I hope we may meet in the kingdom at last. Good night, my dear sister.
The next letter is to my wife and brother Cousins, and explains itself.
WILMINGTON, August 7, 1849.
MY DEAR WIFE,--I long to see you once more in this world, and hope it will not be very long before I am with you. I am trying, my dear wife, to do all I can to get to you. But I hope you will not forget to mind how you write to me. If you should not mind how you write, you will do me great
harm. You know I told you to write that you would be home in two months, or three months at the longest. But in two months I told them you would be home. Now, my dear, you must mind, and don't forget, for you know how it is here; a man can't say that his soul is his own; that is, a colored man. So do mind how you write to me. Tell sister Chavis I say she must write to me; and I hope soon I will write my last letter. I will let you know in my next letter how all things are with me. Dear wife, don't get out of heart, for God is my friend. The will of God is my sure defence, nor earth nor hell can pluck me thence, for God hath spoken the word. My dear wife, in reply to your kind letter, received the second day of this month, I have wrote these few lines. I hope you will pray for me. Your dear husband,
P. S.--To brother Cousins.--My dear brother, I hope you will not think hard of me for not writing to you, for you know how it is with me out here. God knows that I would write to you at any time, if it was not for some things. You know the white people don't like for us to write to New York. Now let me ask your prayers, and the prayers of the Church, and God's children, that I may see you all soon. I know that God is my friend, for He doth my burden bear. Though I am but dust and ashes, I bless God, and often feel the power of God. Oh, my brother, pray for me, who loves you all, for I have found of late much comfort in the word of God's love. When I come where you are, in the work of the Lord, and I hope the time will soon come when the gospel will be preached to the whole of mankind. Then go on, dear brother, and do all you can for the Lord. I hope the Lord will help me to get where you are at work soon. Nothing more, but I remain, your brother in the Lord,
The next is from my wife.
BROOKLYN, Aug. 10, 1849.
MY DEAR HUSBAND.--I got your kind letter of the 23d July, and rejoiced to hear that you was well. I have been very sick myself, and so has Alexander; but, thanks to the Lord, these lines leave me and the children right well. I hope in God they will find you and my son and my mother, and all enquiring friends, enjoying the same blessings. My dear, you requested me and Mrs. Chavis to stay together, but she has taken other people's advice beside mine and Mr. Cousins', and has gone away. She started for home before we knew a word of it. She left me on the eighth of this month. Do give my love to Betsey Webb and to her husband. Tell her I
am sorry she has not come on before now. I am waiting to see her before I start for home. My dear husband, you know you ought to send me some money to pay my board. You know I don't love to live in this way with my children. It is true that brother Cousins has not said anything to me about it. You keep writing that you are going to send it in your next letter; you know I like to act independent, and I wish you to help me do so now, if you please. Do give my compliments to Aunt Moore, and tell her the children all send their love to her. They send their love to you, and say they want to kiss you mighty bad. The children send their love to brother Edward. I long to see you, husband. No more at present, but remain your loving wife till death,
The next letter is in answer to the letter from my wife given above.
WILMINGTON, N. C., Aug 12, 1849.
MY DEAR WIFE.--I received your paper of the 10th to-day. I am glad to hear that you are well, and the children and friends. I have written to brother Cousins, and told him to tell you that I had not sold out yet. But I hope to sell in a few days, and then I will send you some money. My dear wife, you know that I will do all I can for you and for my children, and that with all my heart. Do try and wait on me a few days, and I hope you will see me and the money too. I am trying to do all I can to sell out, but you know how it is here, and so does brother Cousins. I will do all I know, for I think of you, my dear wife and the children, day and night. If I can get my money, I will see you soon, by the help of God and my good friend, and that is a woman; she is waiting for me to come every day.. My dear wife, all I want is money and your prayers, and the prayers of my friends. I know that God will help me out of my trouble; I know that God is my friend, and I will trust to Him. You wrote to me that Mrs. Chavis left New York. She has not got home yet. I hope, dear wife, that you have done all your part for her. Do give my love to brother Cousins; ask him to pray for me, and all God's people to pray for me, a poor slave at this time. My dear wife, since I wrote last I have seen much of the goodness of the Lord. Pray for me, that I may see more, and that I may trust in Him. My dear wife, I want you should pray for me night and day, till you see me. For, by the help of God, I will see you all soon. I think now it will be but a few days. Do give my love to my children, and tell them that I want to kiss them all. Good night, my dear, I must go to bed. It is one o'clock at night, and I have a pain in my
head at this time. Do tell brother Cousins that I say he must look out for me on John street, in a few days. Nothing more, but I remain your husband till death,
Letter from my wife.
BROOKLYN, August 23, 1849.
MY DEAR HUSBAND.--It is with the affectionate feeling of a wife I received your letter of the 19th inst. It found me and the children well, and we were glad to hear that you was well. But we feel very sorry that you have not sold out yet; I was in hopes you would have sold by the time you promised, before I got home. Your letter found Mr. Cousins and his wife very sick. Mr. C. has not been out of the house going on two weeks. He was taken by this sickness, so common, which carries so many people off, but, by the help of God and good attendance, he is much on the mend, and his wife also. You ask how much I pay for board. It is three dollars a week for myself and children. In all the letters you have written to me, you don't say a word of mother or Edward. It makes me feel bad not to hear from them. Husband, I have not paid Mr. Cousins any board, and am waiting for you to send me some money. I will pray for you hourly, publicly and privately, and beseech the Almighty God, till I see you again. I shall trust in God; He will do all things for the best.
I am yours till death do us part.
Last letter to my wife from the land of bondage.
WILMINGTON, N. C., Aug. 30, 1849.
MY DEAR WIFE.--I have been quite sick for three weeks, but, thank God, I am better at this time, and hope these few lines will find you and the children all well. I hope, my dear wife, that you have not got out of heart looking for me; you know how it is here; I did think I would have my money here before this time. But I can't get it, and I will leave it all and come to you as soon as I can. So don't get out of heart, my dear wife; I have a hard trial here; do pray for me, that the Lord may help me to see you all soon. I think of you day and night, and my dear children; kiss them for me; I hope to kiss them soon. Edward is sold to Owen Holmes; but I think Mr. Josh. Wright will get him from H. I have done all I could for Edward. Don't think of coming back here, for I will come to you or die. But I want you should write one more letter to me, and say you will be home in a month. Mr.
Dawson will be in New York next week, and you will see him; mind how you talk before him, for you know how it is, though he is a friend to me. Now, you must mind what I tell you my dear wife, for if you don't you will make it hard for me. Now, my dear wife, you must not come back here for your brother and sister; they talk too much; but mind what I say to you, for you know I will do all I can for you; you must not think that you will not get any money, for you shall have it soon. Don't get out of heart, my dear wife; I hope I shall see you soon. Nothing more, but I remain your husband till death.
Soon after dispatching this letter, I bargained, while my master lay sick, with the steward of the brig Bell, to stow me away in the hold of the ship, and take me on to New York. I paid him eight dollars, which was all the money I then had or could get. I went into the hold, with an allowance of biscuit and water, and the ship started. She was loaded with turpentine, and I found on the second day that I could not live out the passage there. So I told the steward, and he took me out in a state of great weakness, and stowed me away in one of the staterooms. Here I was discovered by the captain. He charged me with being a runaway slave, and said he should send me back by the first opportunity that offered. That day a severe storm came on, and for several days we were driven by the gale. I turned to and cooked for the crew. The storm was followed by a calm of several days; and then the wind sprung up again, and the captain made for port at once. I had reason to suspect, from the manner in which I was guarded, after the ship came to anchor off New York, that the captain was plotting to send me back. I resolved to peril life in a last effort to get on shore. So, while the captain was in the city, and the mate was busy in the cabin mending his clothes, I made a raft of such loose boards as I could get, and hastily bound them together, and committing myself to God, I launched forth upon the waves. The shore was about a mile distant; I had the tide in my favor, and with its help I had paddled one-fourth the distance, when the mate of the Bell discovered my escape, and made after me in the boat. I waved my old hat for help, and a
boat, which seemed to be coming round not far from me, came to my rescue. I was taken on board. They asked me if I was a slave, and told me not to fear to tell the truth, for I was with friends, and they would protect me. I told them my circumstances just as they were. They were as good as their word. When the mate came up they ordered him to keep off, and told him they would prosecute him if he touched me. They took me to brother Cousins, and gave me a little money and some clothes in addition to all their other kindness.
The meeting with my wife and children I cannot describe. It was a moment of joy too deep and holy for any attempt to paint it. Husbands who love as I have loved, and fathers with hearts of fond, devoted affection, may imagine the scene and my feelings, as my dear wife lay sobbing in her joy in my arms, and my three dear little babes were clinging to my knees, crying "Pa has come; Pa has come." It was the happy hour of my life. I then felt repaid for all my troubles and toils to secure the freedom of my dear family and my own. O God, would that my other dear ones were here, too. God in mercy speed the day when right shall over might prevail, and all the down-trodden sons and daughters of toil and want shall be free, and pious, and happy.
I have but little more now to say. The Sabbath after my arrival in Brooklyn, I preached in the morning in the Bethel: I then came on to Hartford. A gentleman kindly paid my passage to that place, and sent me an introduction to a true-hearted friend. I stayed in Hartford twenty-four hours; but finding I was pursued, and being informed that I should be safer in Massachusetts than in Connecticut, I came on to Springfield, and from thence to Boston, where I arrived, penniless and friendless, the 7th of October. A generous friend took me, though a stranger, in, and fed and cheered me. He loaned me five dollars to get my dear family to Boston. He helped me to get a chance to lecture in May Street Church, where I received a contribution of $2.58; also in Zion Church, where I obtained $2.33: and in the Bethel Church, where they gave me $3.53. And so I was enabled to get my family to Boston. Entirely destitute, without employment,
I now met with a kind friend, who took me with him to Danvers. I lectured and preached in the Free Evangelical Church, and received most generous and opportune aid. They gave me ten dollars, and by their kindness they lifted up a sinking brother. The next Sabbath evening I lectured in the Wesleyan Church in Boston, and received a contribution of $3.33. During the week following I was assisted by the pastor of this church, and by several individual members. The next sabbath I spent with brother Flanders of Exeter, N. H. He gave me a brother's warm welcome. I preached for him in the Wesleyan Church, of which he is pastor, in the morning, and lectured in the evening to a full and attentive house. Here I received a generous contribution of nearly ten dollars. To-morrow is Thanksgiving Day. God will know, and He alone can know, the deep and fervent gratitude and joy with which I shall keep it, as I gather my friends, and my dear family, around me to celebrate the unspeakable goodness of God to me, and to speak with swelling hearts of the kindness of the dear friends who have poured upon our sadness and fears the sunlight of sympathy, love, and generous aid. May the blessing of heaven rest down now and forever upon them, is the prayer of their grateful brother, and of his dear family, by their kindness saved from pinching want.
But alas! it was not long before I found that I was not yet free. I had not yet slipped from the chain. The Fugitive Slave Law drove me from my kind friends in New England, and I found that my wanderings were not yet ended. I took refuge in the British Provinces, where God had provided a house of refuge for the houseless, homeless slave. Tribulation and distress, with many kind dealings of Providence, and wonderful deliverances, have since been my lot. I hope to be able to tell, in another narrative, of my adventures after the close of this story of the kindness of friends, and the goodness of God.
Part First of my experience ended with my flight to the British provinces, where I remained four years. Of what transpired there and subsequent to my return to the States I shall hereafter speak somewhat in detail, but before doing so I desire to rehearse a few additional experiences of my life while yet a slave. It will be remembered that on page thirty, Part First, reference is made to the selling of my wife and children. I have repeatedly been requested to give a more particular account of that transaction. I will endeavor to do so, notwithstanding its memory is peculiarly painful even at this late day. I was living in Wilmington, N. C., at the time, engaged in the business of stevedore, having hired my labor of my master, Mr. Owen Holmes, for that purpose. I had several men in my employ, and on the day of the sale we were at work stowing a vessel. We had partly finished the job when one of my neighbors came on board and said I must go home at once, my wife wanted to see me. I inquired what for. "Oh wait till you get there." he replied. I said, "I can't go just now, the work is so pressing." He then told me that my wife and children had been sold, and I must go home if I wanted to see them again. "Oh, my God," said I, "can it be so?" I then ran to the companion-way and called to the Captain, but he had gone on shore. I told the mate what I wanted, and he gave me permission to go home.
Directing my men to keep at their work until I returned, I set out for my humble cabin. (The events just narrated transpired on board the Brig Mentis, from Philadelphia, owned by Mr. James Patent.) On my arrival home I found my wife's master already there to take her and the little ones away. As I entered the cabin he said, "Well, old man, are these your wife and children?" "Yes sir," I replied. "Well, I have bought them." "But won't you sell them to my master," I inquired, "I know he will buy them?" "Oh no," "I have bought your wife for a seamstress and I can't let her go." "But won't you let her go for the sake of the children," I still entreated. He still refused to part with her. Pretty soon he ordered her to get ready to go. She at once arose, her face bathed in tears, with two of the children clinging to her dress, and the third, a babe nine months old, resting on her arm. I gave a hand to each of the two children, Charlie and Sarah. A few colored friends who were present assisted in carrying some bundles, and thus we proceeded to the vessel that was to bear my dear ones from my sight forever. As we walked along, many of my wife's acquaintances came out to bid her good-bye. This seemed greatly to offend her master, and after a time he ordered her not to stop again to speak to any one. At the landing I found my master waiting for me. I told him what had taken place, and pointed out the man who had purchased my wife and children. He immediately went to him and inquired what he would take for them. The man said he would not sell them at any price. "Will you take a thousand dollars for them?" "No sir, I don't want to sell them." "Well," said my master. "If you won't sell them its no use talking any more, but for my own part I never would separate a slave and his family. I am an owner of slaves myself, but I never have gone as far as that." Then turning to me, he continued, "Well, Peter, I have done all I can for you."
After bidding my wife and children good-bye, he returned to his office, directing me to follow when I got through there. And now comes the sorest trial of my whole life. My wife's master ordered her to go on board. We stepped to the vessel's side, and I passed the little girl
over to the mate. She clung to me as long as she could crying "Oh, let me go back to my father!" The little boy soon followed, and was placed on deck beside his sister. I then passed over the little babe; there were tears in the mate's eyes as he received it, and an evident sympathy in his heart which he could not conceal. Having thus disposed of the little ones, I took my wife's arm to assist her on board. Just then her master ordered the mate not to let any more "niggers" get on board. I persisted, however, in accompanying her, and, standing there on the vessel's deck we bade each other a last farewell. From that hour to the present I have neither seen nor heard from any one of them. I shall probably never know their fate until the last great day, when both the master and the slave appear before the judgment seat of Christ. I watched the vessel until it disappeared from view, and then turned my steps in the direction of my master's office. As I entered he inquired if my wife and children had gone. I bowed my head in reply, for I was too full for utterance. He turned to his brother Richard, and with a terrible oath said, "Richard, this is too bad." "Well, we can't help it as I see," his brother replied. "Can't help it," said my master. "Can't help it. There will be some way to help it before long. For my own part I would be willing to let all my slaves go free at once. I know they would never leave me to want for anything. And besides, if compelled to, I can live by my profession." (He was a lawyer.) He then told me not to worry about my wife and he would have her back if money would do it. Her master had not yet left the place, and he would see him again, and see what could be done. Thus encouraged I returned to the vessel to look after my men. The Captain met me as I stepped on board and said he had heard of the sale of my wife and children, and expressed a hearty sympathy for me in my great affliction. He inquired if my wife was a Christian. I replied that she was. "Well, Stevedore, you must be faithful, and I hope you will one day meet your dear ones in a world where partings are unknown." He then came up close to my side, and in a low tone said, "Stevedore, I believe the time is coming when you and all your oppressed
brethren and sisters will be free. Your friends at the North are earnestly praying and laboring for the accomplishment of that end." He also spoke of one Mr. Garrison, who was holding conventions and delivering lectures for the purpose of arousing public sentiment against the awful sin of human slavery. I thanked him for the encouraging words he had spoken, and went down in the hold to look after the men. As soon as they saw me they began to inquire about my wife and children. I told them they had gone. I could say no more, for my very heart seemed ready to break with grief. One of the men, seeing how I felt, said to the others, "Let us go aft and pray for Uncle Peter." He led the way and we all followed. I could not control my feelings sufficiently to pray audibly, but such as could did. And they prayed as only those can pray who have experienced a kindred sorrow,--prayed that God would sustain and comfort me in that hour of need. Two of the men were not professing Christians, but they knelt down with their companions and freely wept while prayer was being offered. At sunset we quit work. Two of the brethren invited me to go to their houses for the night, but I declined doing so, preferring to return to my own home where I could be alone with God. No language can portray the feeling of desolation that came over me as I entered it that evening; and falling on my knees, poured forth my soul's deep agony. About midnight I went out into the garden. The moon and stars shone brightly down upon me as I knelt and prayed again for strength to bear my heavy burden, wondering the while if I should ever again behold the loved ones so suddenly and so wickedly torn from my embrace. Anxiously I waited for the dawn of day, hoping that my master would succeed in his endeavors to buy back my wife and children, yet fearing all the while that their master would still refuse to part with them. In the afternoon of the next day my master came to the vessel where I worked, and told me that he had seen Mr. Moore and offered him fourteen hundred dollars for them, but he would not let them go at any price. I waited almost a month, and then I got a white man to write a letter to my wife, directing it to Lucy La Moore, Tuscaloosa,
Alabama. Three months passed, but no answer was received. I then got another white man to write, in his own name, to Mr. Moore, without referring to me at all. The result was the same. At last I got my master to write to the postmaster at Tuscaloosa, and inquired if Mr. Moore resided there. The postmaster replied, that so far as he knew no such person had ever been in that vicinity. With this my efforts to ascertain what had become of my family ceased until after the war.
I remained with Mr. Owen Holmes until his death, and it is proper that I should bear testimony to his uniform kindness in dealing with his slaves. He was at heart an Abolitionist, though he never professed as much in public. His slaves were left him by his father, and though still held as such, their bondage was merely nominal. They were, for the most part, employed on a plantation in Sampson county. A few, myself included, were kept at Wilmington with the family. This plantation was generally left in charge of a trusted slave named Daniel, who took the entire management of its affairs, and paid to the master the profits. Every Spring Mr. Holmes was accustomed to take his family out there, to remain during the sickly season. At such times I went with them, and acted as general waiter for the family. Previous to my first Summer at the plantation, no religious service of any kind had ever been held there. On the very day of my arrival, having obtained my master's permission, I began preparations for holding such a service. I went over the plantation and invited all the slaves to come to the meeting, for I had something good to tell them. At the grain mill I met an old man from a neighboring plantation, named Uncle Bob. He wanted to know what kind of a meeting it was to be to which I had invited him. I replied, "A religious meeting." He seemed very much pleased at what I had said. I asked him if he had ever attended any such meetings. "Oh, yes," he replied, "I often go to the Presbyterian meeting, about eighteen miles from here." "Then you enjoy religion, don't you?" "Oh, yes, I was converted many years ago. I belong to the Baptist church at Six Rivers. Mr. Boswell baptized me." I told him I had
been a member of the Methodist church ever since I was twelve years of age. He immediately grasped my hand, and the tears fell thick and fast as he exclaimed, "The Lord has sent you here, and I pray that He will bless your labors in the conversion of many of the slaves in this region." On the way back to the house I met the overseer, and inquired of him what he thought of my purpose to hold religious meetings with the slaves. He replied that he thought it would be a good thing, though he was not a Christian himself. I asked him if we might hold the first meetings in his house, as it was larger than any other place we could get. "Oh, yes," he replied, "you are quite welcome to come there." I informed my mistress of what Daniel had said. She expressed her satisfaction with the arrangements, and directed me to go to Celia, the house girl, and get some candles and candle-sticks with which to light the house. At the appointed time I began the service. The room was nearly filled with people, doubtless drawn thither largely by curiosity, and yet in some measure prepared to profit by what they saw and heard. During the opening prayer the house was still as death. The people evidently were much impressed with a sense of the divine presence. After prayer, I requested Celia and Betsey and Mary, three of the house servants, to join with me in singing a hymn, as we used to do at Wilmington. We sang, as best we could, the hymn beginning:
"God moves in a mysterious way,
His wonders to perform."
After which I prayed again, asking all who would to bow down with me. When we arose I observed that many were in tears. I then gave a short talk, in which I spoke of what Christ had done and would do for all who came to him. In the midst of my talk one of the house servants suddenly cried out, as though in great distress of mind, "O God, have mercy on me!" I immediately ceased talking and invited all who wished to be saved to come and kneel down in the centre of the room, and I would pray for them. A general rush followed, and falling on our knees I began to entreat God to come and
save the perishing. My voice, however, was soon drowned by the voices of the multitudes who pleaded for mercy on their own behalf. We continued in alternate prayer and exhortation until a late hour, when the meeting closed. One precious soul had been saved, and many others brought under deep conviction. Uncle Bob, to whom reference has already been made, was greatly revived in spirit, and nearly exhausted himself shouting the praises of God. The news of this meeting soon spread throughout all that region; nothing like it had ever been witnessed before. Next morning Mr. Richard Holmes came over to my master's place and inquired what was going on there the previous evening. My mistress said the slaves were holding a religious meeting. "I thought so," he replied; "I could distinctly hear Peter praying from where I live." His house was some two miles distant. I did not know that I prayed so loud, but I think it quite likely that I did. That morning I went around again among the slaves and gave notice that I would hold family prayers every evening at the overseer's house with all who would meet together there. These and similar services were continued on that and neighboring plantations during all that season, until my master returned to Wilmington, and there is good reason to believe that many slaves were converted to God. It may be of interest to some if I revert to one experience that transpired in connection with the meetings held on my master's plantation. One evening, as we were met together for prayer and praise, word was brought me that the patrol were outside. The patrol in the old days of slavery answered somewhat to the police of the present time. Their duties consisted in patrolling a given section of country in search of any slaves who might be absent from their plantations without leave, or engaging in religious meetings without their masters' permission. If any such were found, it was permitted the patrol to tie them up and administer a given number of lashes on their bare backs. Their appearance at any time was always a terror to the poor slave, for, as a rule, they delighted in nothing more than in an opportunity to exercise their authority. In this instance the slaves were very much
frightened, and many of them started to run. I called to them to remain where they were, and I would go outside and speak to the patrol. The moment I did so I discovered a man sitting on the fence at a little distance from the house. I hailed him and inquired his name. He replied, "Master Henry, Uncle Peter." "Well," said I, "what do you want here?" Just then Captain Pope, the leader of the band, came forward and asked if I had any strange negroes inside. I replied by telling him that my master allowed me to hold religious meetings, and told me to say to any one who interfered with them that he could look after his plantation himself. I then directed Duncan, the house boy, to go and call Massa Sam as quick as he could. Hearing this, Captain Pope and his men started off, and were soon out of sight. After they had gone I called the house boy back, and we went on with the meeting. Next morning I told my mistress of the previous evening's experience. She said she would tell Master Holmes about it, and he would see that Captain Pope did not trouble me any more. Master Holmes was very angry at the treatment I had received, and said he would fix Pope so he never would come there again. He was as good as his word. A few days afterward I met Master Sam, and he told me his father had seen Pope, and forbidden him ever to come on his plantation again. Thus the Lord fights the battles of His people for them. He has gained many a victory for me, for which I praise His name.
Soon after these experiences I had occasion to go with Master Holmes on a visit to his mother, a distance of about three miles. As we rode along, he inquired very particularly about a funeral service I had recently conducted at Mr. May's, in the town of Clinton. I gave him a full account of the services, and of the conversation I had with some white people who were present. We also discussed some plans I had formed for future meetings. I told him of several invitations I had received to hold meetings on different plantations in that vicinity, and asked if he would be willing I should go. "Oh, yes," he replied, "if the owner will agree to protect you while there." He promised to give me his permission
in writing, so that I could always have it with me when traveling. At his mother's I met an old colored woman named Dinah. She was overjoyed to think that "Massa Owen" had come. "But, aunty," I said, "ain't you going in to see Massa Owen?" "Oh, no, honey," she replied, "he'll be out here very soon, and bring me some backey [tobacco]; he always brings me something when he comes." She then went on to ask about the meetings. "Look here, chile, you tell me all about the meetings you've been holding at Massa Owen's." "Well, aunty," I replied, "I can tell you this much about them: my master gave me permission to hold such meetings, and many have been converted to God as the result of them." "God bless Massa Owen!" she exclaimed; "why, I tell you, honey, he's the best chile in the family." After a little further talk with Aunt Dinah, I left the kitchen and went out to see some of the field hands. On the way I met the overseer. We stopped and talked a little about the meetings, and while thus engaged two of the slaves came running out to meet us. The overseer asked them what they wanted. "Oh, we just wanted to speak to Uncle Peter," they replied. They were two young converts. I asked them how they were getting on in the good way. "Oh, thank God, we are very happy." "And what is it that makes you happy?" I inquired. "Oh, Jesus has forgiven our sins." "Then you think Jesus has indeed saved you?" "Oh, yes, he saves us now." I exhorted them to be faithful, and they returned to their work. The overseer then remarked the great change that had taken place in their behavior; he had no trouble with them now, whereas they had formerly occasioned him a great deal of trouble.
I inquired if the overseer was a Christian. He replied that he was not, but that at the last meeting he had resolved to become one. I encouraged him to persevere, assuring him that the Lord would bless and save. After dinner, my master rode on a few miles farther to the Court House, and got his mail, and then we returned home. The reader will bear in mind that these experiences are given entirely from memory, as I knew nothing in those days about keeping a diary.
Soon after the events just recorded, my master went away, to be gone several weeks. Before going, he gave me the written permit of which I have previously spoken, and directed me to take good care of everything during his absence. The week following his departure I had occasion to drive over to Clinton with my mistress. While there I chanced to meet Col. Sellen. He said he had been wanting to see me for several weeks; he wanted to make some arrangement for a meeting at his plantation. I told him I had my master's written permit to go anywhere and hold meetings when I was not needed at home. "That is good," he replied; "I wish your master was a Christian. Have you ever talked with him on the subject?" "Oh, yes, I have talked with him many times, and I am earnestly praying that God will convert his soul." The next Sunday I went over to Col. Sellen's and held a meeting. I found a large company assembled. They had been waiting nearly an hour. As I entered the house, they all arose and exclaimed, "Thank God, the brother has come!" We sang the hymn beginning,
"A charge to keep I have,
A God to glorify."
After which I requested a young colored brother named Tom McCoy to lead in prayer. And such a prayer I have seldom heard. Almost the entire congregation was moved to tears. After prayer we sang another hymn, and I commenced my discourse. I took my text from Matt. xi, 28. The subject was, "God's exceeding great and precious promises to such as put their trust in him." The people were powerfully moved during the preaching. Col. Sellen and his family, and a few other white persons, sat with the congregation, and paid good attention to all that was said. Near the close of my remarks, I said, "I am now recruiting soldiers for the army of the Lord," and requested all who desired to enlist to raise their hands. Many responded to the invitation. After a short prayer, in which the anxious were remembered at a throne of grace, I closed the meeting. Twenty-six persons professed to have found peace in believing. It may be of interest to some to read the hymn sung at the
close of this, and in fact of nearly every meeting we held. It was as follows:
"Until we meet again,
Until we meet again,
I'll meet you in the heavens,
When we'll part no more.
So fare you well,
So fare you well:
God Almighty bless you,
Until we meet again."
During the singing there was a general hand-shaking, in which Col. Sellen and his family joined. He was deacon of a Baptist church, and a most excellent Christian man.
Following this meeting there were several others held at different times on the various plantations in that vicinity, several of which I will mention. And first, one at a Mr. Joseph Moore's plantation. There were but few persons present at this meeting, except his own slaves. Mr. Moore, his wife and one daughter attended, and seemed much interested in what was said. At the close of the service they expressed a wish that I might come again. There were no cases of conversion at this meeting, but the good seed was sown which, I doubt not, in due time bore its fruit to the glory of God. About three weeks later I held another meeting at a Mr. Blackman Crumpling's. They were Methodist people. My remarks at this meeting were based upon the Scripture, "O Lord, revive thy work." And the Lord did revive it in mighty power. Large numbers of both white and colored persons were stricken down and led to cry for mercy at God's hand. I observed that during the sermon Mr. Crumpling was very much affected. I afterwards learned the cause; he was burdened for a neighbor who was present. When I gave the usual invitations to the anxious to come forward for prayer, this neighbor was one of the first to come. Mr. Crumpling immediately stepped to his side, and putting his arm around his neck, exclaimed, "Thank God, my prayers are answered." We continued the meeting to a very late hour in the evening. Many were converted, and returned to their homes shouting the praises of God.
One of Mr. Crumpling's daughters exhorted and shouted praises until her strength gave way, and she fell to the ground in a dead faint. It was one of the best meetings I ever attended. I afterwards became well acquainted with Mr. Crumpling's family, and I ever found them warm-hearted and devoted Christian people.
There is one incident of which I would like to speak just here. One day my master sent me to do an errand at Mr. Crumpling's. When I reached the house I found the family at dinner, and to my great surprise I observed that the slaves were eating at the same table with the white people. I had never beheld the like before, the almost universal custom being for the master and his family to eat by themselves. It was regarded as beneath the dignity of a white person to associate with a slave on anything like terms of equality. What I beheld at Mr. Crumpling's was due to the grace of God; it makes all one, regardless of color or condition. The next meeting of which I will speak was held at Mr. Owen Bennett's. Mr. Bennett was not a Christian himself, but he permitted his slaves to hold religious services whenever they desired to do so. The attendance at his place was not large, neither were the meetings held there especially interesting, and yet there was a measure of good resulting from them.
In this connection I may refer to a meeting held at Squire McCoy's. He had given me a very particular invitation to visit his plantation, promising to have everything in readiness when I arrived. A very good number were present. At the opening of the service we sang one of our plantation songs, after which Bro. Tom Mc Coy led in prayer. I spoke for about twenty minutes, and then Bro. Tom exhorted for a short time, after which the services closed. Nothing of unusual interest occurred in connection with this meeting. The next one was held at a Mr. May's, in an old barn on his plantation. There were nearly as many whites as blacks present at this meeting. The whites were for the most part from the poorer class. Many of them were not as well or as tidily dressed as were some of the blacks. Mr. May's son, Henry, read a portion of Scripture, and made a few
remarks at the opening of the service. He was listened to very closely, and with frequent responses on the part of his hearers. After he had done speaking, I talked for a short time, taking occasion to refer to Uncle Billy, whose funeral I had attended on that plantation a few weeks previous. At the mention of Uncle Billy's name there was a general clapping of hands, and many shouted, "We'll meet him in the the better land!" At the conclusion of the preaching service, I invited all who could do so to remain at a class-meeting. I requested Henry May to lead the class, but he declined doing so, because he said Uncle Billy had always done that, and he could not control his feelings sufficiently to stand in his place. He and Uncle Billy were very warm friends. As there was no one else to act as leader, I was forced to take that part myself.
In the course of the meeting, I came upon several young people sitting in a seat together. They were not Christians. I exhorted them to come to Christ at once and be saved. One of the number signified her willingness to do so. Laying my hand very gently on her shoulder, I said, "That is right, my daughter, give your heart to the Saviour now." She immediately fell on her knees, and began to cry to God for mercy. At the close of the meeting I had some further conversation with her. She appeared deeply in earnest. I promised to remember her in my prayers. Since that hour I have never seen her, but I doubt not we shall one day meet with the blood-washed throng in glory. Just now let me add a word respecting Henry May. Though reared amid slave-holding influences, he was as fine a young man as I ever wish to see. He gave promise of a successful and useful life,--a promise which, I doubt not, he fully realized. I expect to meet him in the better land.
The next meeting I will mention was held at Parker's meeting-house, in Cumberland co. I had a regular appointment at that place the fourth Sunday in each month. Christians of all denominations were accustomed to unite in the services. At the meeting of which I am now speaking, the congregation was composed of both whites and blacks, and both classes seemed to have an equal
interest in the worship of God's house. All of a sudden, in the midst of the sermon, an old class-leader named Sampson White sprang from his seat, ran up the aisle to the altar, and shouted, "My God, preach the truth, brother, preach the truth!" Soon after he sat down, an old colored sister arose and exclaimed, "Lord Jesus, let it come, let the power come!" Next came a white brother with an occasional "Amen," and they were the longest Amens that I ever heard from human lips. But none of these things moved me, except to push me right along in the good work. I never in all my life have felt more of the power of God upon me than I did that day. At the close of the sermon we held a prayer-meeting. As many as could be accommodated came and knelt at the altar, and the season of prayer that followed was one never to be forgotten. There was a perfect Babel of sound. Everybody was engaged in prayer, either for themselves or some one else. Whites prayed for blacks, and blacks for whites. All distinctions as between the different races seemed to have disappeared altogether, and everybody recognized a common bond of interest and endeavor. I let the meeting continue in this way for a short time, and then I called the brethren and sisters to order. Several persons still remained prostrate on the floor, too much exhausted to rise. I addressed a few words to such as could give me their attention, asking any who felt that they had been blessed that day to bear testimony to the fact. The first one to rise was a young lad about sixteen years of age. He shouted at the top of his voice, "Glory to God, Jesus has blessed my soul!" He then commenced shaking hands with those who stood near him. Thirteen others also testified to having obtained a hope in Christ.
I will mention only one more meeting in this connection. It was held at Col. Sellen's, and was the last of the season. The service lasted all night. Twenty-three professed conversion. In the morning I bade them all farewell, and returned to my home. The results of that Summer's labor I shall never know in this life, but I confidently expect to meet in the life to come many who then found peace in believing in Jesus. The sickly season
having now passed, my master and his family soon began preparations for a return to Wilmington. As usual, I accompanied them. It took two days for the journey. The first day we went as far as Little Washington, where we put up for the night. Before retiring, my master told me to have the horses fed and groomed, and ready for an early start the next morning. Accordingly I arose about three o'clock. As I stepped out of doors I discovered that the stars were falling in all directions. I ran to the kitchen and shouted to the cook that the heavens were all on fire. I then ran to the great house and awoke my master. He came out doors, looked at the heavens for a few moments, and then asked me what I thought it was. "I don't know," I replied, "unless it is the day of judgment." He soon returned to his room and awoke the other members of his family. I turned to go back to the kitchen. As I did so I saw the cook standing outside the door, swinging her arms, and shouting at the top of her voice, "Glory to God! glory to God!" supposing that the end of the world had come. By this time the whole plantation was awake, and everybody was out gazing, some in fear and some in joy at the strange appearance of the heavens. The tavern-keeper came out and asked me if I could not stop the cook making so much noise. I got a man to help me, and we carried her into the kitchen. We could not stop her shouting. She begged us to let her go out again; she wanted to see the Saviour when he came. I went back to the tavern-keeper and told him we could do nothing with her. "Well, let her alone, then," he replied. As day began to dawn the fiery red of the heavens began to disappear, and at sunrise it was all gone. I went to my master and told him the horses were ready for a start at any moment. He replied that he did not know how soon we could get anything to eat, the cook was so wild over the falling of the stars. I went to the kitchen and found the tavern-keeper's wife there getting the breakfast ready. While waiting, I conversed with many of the slaves about the strange things we had witnessed. Large numbers of them were under deep conviction, and declared their purpose to seek the Lord without delay.
I gave them such counsel as seemed proper, and left them with the hope that their impressions might prove abiding. Soon after eight o'clock we resumed our journey. Master Holmes rode on ahead in his sulky, while I followed on behind in the carriage with the rest of the family. Young Master Sam asked me if I was not frightened when I saw the stars falling. "Oh, no," I replied, "I was not at all frightened." "Well, we were all dreadfully frightened. Almost every person I saw was crying." "Crying, who was crying?" "Oh, mother and sister, and almost everybody." His mother then told him he need not talk any more about that matter. We continued our journey, stopping only for dinner, and reached Wilmington about eight o'clock in the evening. For a few days I was quite busy putting things to rights, after which I arranged with my master to go to work on my own account.
It is proper that I should here state that nearly all the suffering I endured while in slavery occurred previous to my becoming the property of Owen Holmes. I found in him all that any slave could desire. He did for me more and better than my own father could have done. He protected and provided for me as though I had been one of his own household. The memory of my relations to him and his dear family will ever be a pleasure to me while life shall last.
Wilmington afforded many advantages to a slave who could improve them. By hiring my time of my master I was able to lay by quite a sum of money during the years I was there. I have earned as high as three dollars per day, stowing cotton and other commodities. At one time I made fifty dollars in eight days, an average of over six dollars per day, clear of all expenses. The reader will see at a glance how I could lay up money, as I had only one hundred and fifty dollars per year to pay for my time. My master usually made the contracts for me, but during his absence a Mr. John Whittier, nephew of the poet Whittier, acted for him. This was a necessity, because no contract made by a slave was binding unless ratified by a white man. In all cases of dispute either my master or Mr. Whittier would interpose his
authority and compel a just settlement. I will present just here a single case by way of illustration.
A captain by the name of Adams refused to settle with me according to agreement, for stowing his vessel. I took the case at once to my master. He inquired if I had charged the captain too much. I gave him the terms of the agreement,--the captain was to pay me one hundred and fifty dollars, and I was to furnish all the help. My master figured up the expenses, and said that if an educated white man had allowed an ignorant slave to impose upon him, he ought to be made to bear it. He then went to his private drawer, and took out a pistol and a long dirk-knife. I remarked that there was no need of those things. "Oh, never you mind," he replied, "I'm going to get your money for you."
We went first to the vessel, but the captain had gone up town, and up town we went in search of him. We soon found him, and I demanded a settlement. He replied that when I was ready to settle his way he would settle with me. I told him I would not settle his way. "Well, then, we cannot settle at all." My master then stepped forward, and I told him what the man had said. He inquired if I had done the work according to agreement. The captain replied that I had. "Well, why don't you pay the boy, then?" "Because he asks too much." "But why did you make such a bargain to begin with?" "Because I thought it would cost that sum." "Well, pay for it, then, as you agreed to do." "I have offered to pay the boy for his work, but he will not take the money." In reply to this statement I remarked that he had offered me only a part of the sum agreed upon. "Well," said my master, "if you will not settle with my boy I shall put an attachment on your vessel, and she shall not leave the wharf until you do." At that instant the captain's partner came out of the office, and told him to pay the bill and have no more talk about it. The captain then took out the money and passed it first to my master, but he refused to take it, and ordered him to hand it to me. He did so; I counted it and found it all right. This little incident will serve as an illustration of my master's manner of treating his
slaves. He always looked after their interests as carefully as though they were his own. While he lived I got along very well.
I will now give some account of the religious meetings I was accustomed to hold in the vicinity of Wilmington. I had regular appointments in Hanover county during the Winter, and in Sampson county during the Summer. One of these appointments was at a place called Stump Sound, on John Jones' plantation. The meetings were held in an old barn. Mr. Jones was a good man, and very kind to his slaves. One of his slaves, an old man, and very zealous in the cause of Christ, obtained permission for me to come there. The first meeting was so good that they invited me to come again, and come as often as I could. I told them I would try and come over again watch-night and hold a watch-meeting. In the afternoon of the same day I went to Mr. James Price's plantation and held another service. When I arrived the people had all come together, and were engaged in singing. Uncle Sam, an old class leader, told me that a great many had got tired and gone away, but would be back again in the evening. I had a good time preaching. Only one person professed a desire to be saved. This was on Sunday. Monday evenings we generally held a Union Temperance meeting in Wilmington. A Mr. Northrup and Captain Stowe, northern men, and Mr. Blake, a southerner, together with a colored man named White, and myself, were the founders of this meeting. It was conducted on the old Washingtonian plan. My work in the cause of temperance began here. As the results of our labors, many hundreds of drinking men and women signed the pledge, and ever afterwards led lives of virtue and temperance. Scott Hill was another place where I used to hold meetings. The first time I went there I was invited to do so by a Mr. Stephen Foy. He wrote to my master asking him to let me come and preach a funeral discourse, occasioned by the death of one of his slaves, familiarly known as Uncle John. It was the custom in those days to bury the body at once, and have the funeral service at some future time. In this case, death had occurred several days previous to
my going there to preach. On my arrival I found a large company assembled. After the usual opening exercises, I announced my text: "Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace." Uncle John was such a man--perfect and upright--and his end was peace. I talked for about one half hour, after which we held a prayer-meeting. Two persons professed conversion, and many others were brought under deep conviction. At the close of this service I went directly home, to meet an appointment in the meeting-house of the Protestant Methodist church. The meeting was a good one. I used to hold meetings once in a while at Fort Fisher, also at a place called The Forks, in Brunswick county. The meetings at The Forks were held on Mr. Joseph Eagle's plantation. There was a colored Baptist church in that vicinity, of which a colored man named Minger Eagles was pastor. This man also acted as overseer on his master's plantation. One day, when at Wilmington, he proposed to me to come to his place and hold a watch-meeting. I consented to do so. The meeting began at nine o'clock on Saturday evening, and continued all that night and all the next day. An immense congregation was present during the entire service. At midnight I invited the anxious to come forward for prayers, and the number was so large as to fill the entire body part of the church. Many anxious ones were obliged to remain outside, and a portion of the brethren went out there and prayed for them. At one time during the season of prayer that followed, forty-three persons lay on the floor insensible. One after another, they all came out into the light and blessing of the gospel.
Sunday was a regular camp-meeting service. At ten o'clock there was preaching. Bro. Minger Eagles took charge of the meeting. In the midst of the sermon a young girl sprang to her feet and shouted, "I've found Jesus precious to my soul." At once the whole house was in an uproar. Everybody commenced shouting, and those outside commenced crowding in in such numbers that we were compelled to leave the house altogether. At the close of the morning service thirty-nine persons
professed conversion. In the afternoon Bro. Sampson preached, and several more persons were converted. During the preaching there was so much noise and confusion that the speaker was forced to pause in his discourse. Bro. Eagles told the people to be as quiet as possible until the preacher got through. One good old colored woman shouted back, "Why, chile, how can we be quiet when the Lord is here?" After a short pause Bro. Sampson began again, and talked for about twenty minutes longer. At the close of the sermon we dismissed the congregation, telling them to go to their homes at once, so that their masters would have no occasion to find fault with them. This was the best meeting, I think, that I ever attended.
The next meeting of which I will speak was held at a place called Smithville, in a Methodist church. Soon after the commencement of the service I observed that many of the audience were in tears. As I did not know the cause, I thought it best to pause and invite all who desired salvation to come forward and be prayed for. A large number came to the altar and knelt down. While we were praying, the patrol suddenly came in upon us, and said we must stop our noise. One of the band stepped up to an old colored man who was engaged in prayer, and struck him a heavy blow on the head. At this a white man came forward and ordered him to leave the house. He did so at once, but instead of going home he went to his store, locked himself in and laid down to sleep. The next morning, when the servants went to look for him, he was found dead. That blow was the last one God ever permitted him to give a poor slave, whose only offence was his love for Christ and his cause. This circumstance produced a marked effect upon both white and colored people. Many of the whites were led to protest against the system of patrols. One of the band of which the deceased had been a member resigned his position, and declared that he would sooner pay his fine than enter the service again. Thus God often makes the wrath of men to praise him, and the remainder of the wrath he restrains. This was the last meeting I ever held in Smithville. Town Creek Bridge was another
place where I used sometimes to hold religious meetings. The first time I went there was in connection with the funeral of Father George Baker, a colored preacher. In order to reach the place I had to cross the Cape Fear and Brunswick rivers. A freshet had just carried away the bridge on the latter river, so that I had to take off my clothes and swim across it. The service was held in the open air, as there was no house large enough to accommodate the immense congregation that had assembled. It is not permitted us always to know the why and wherefore of certain things that God permits to be. He had permitted Father Baker to suffer untold agonies on account of his fidelity to Christ. Many times he had been severely whipped because he would continue to preach and pray in the interest of the poor slaves about him. As a last resort, his master cut his heel-cords so that he could not walk. But even this did not prevent him from doing what he felt to be his duty. He once crawled on his hands and knees a distance of five miles, in order to attend a meeting. He died in the triumphs of Christian faith. I was told that a short time before his death he shouted so loud as to be heard at a distance of nearly a mile. There were five preachers in attendance upon the funeral, and as was the custom at such times, they each occupied a few moments. A young son of Father Baker's master was present, and wept like a child. He had known of the treatment the good man had received, and the remembrance of it affected him deeply. At the conclusion of the services we all formed in procession and marched to the grave, singing as we went a funeral hymn:
"And let the body faint,
And let it faint and die,
My soul shall quit this mournful vale
And soar to worlds on high."
At the grave a few words were spoken, and then the congregation dispersed. I expect to meet Father Baker by-and-by in the kingdom of God. He was a sincere Christian, and I doubt not he has entered into rest.
Another of my appointments was at Mr. Young's plantations. The services were held on Saturday eveings, in an old barn-loft. At one of those meetings we
began about dark and held continuous services until noon of the next day, different brethren taking turns in leading them. If some of our northern brethren and sisters had been present they might have thought us crazy, and it is possible we were a little beside ourselves, but it was in a good cause. In the midst of one of the meetings a woman became so excited that she jumped out of a window, a distance of about twenty-five feet from the ground. We thought she must be severely injured, but she soon returned apparently unhurt. Forty-seven persons professed conversion in connection with the meeting. A white Methodist minister, named Forestine, did not like to have me hold meetings in that vicinity, as it was on his circuit, and he said I took away his hearers. He even went so far as to prefer charges against me in the church of which I was a member. The principal point of the charges was that I had broken the rules of the church in preaching in his circuit without authority. The case was brought to trial. I was asked if I knew it was Mr. Forestine's circuit. I replied that I did, but as I had been invited there by the plantation owners I felt that I had a right to go. The presiding officer inquired how long I had been accustomed to go there. I told him I had been there more or less for three years. At the close of the examination the charges were declared to have been improperly preferred, and Mr. Forestine was informed that he must go to the plantation owners if he wished to stop my preaching there, as the church could do nothing about the matter. At the conclusion of the trial many of my friends came forward and expressed their great pleasure in seeing me exonerated from all blame. I replied to their congratulations by telling them the Good Book commanded us to "Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature," and I should go at least as far as Cape Fear river. I did go many times afterwards, and the Lord blessed my labors.
Another place of meeting was at a Mr. Mayer's plantation. Many were converted at this place, among whom was one man only a short time from Africa. In company with a number of others, he had been smuggled into America and sold to Mr. Mayers. Notwithstanding
he could not speak a word of English correctly, he could and did receive the Lord Jesus into his heart. I also held meetings occasionally at a Mr. Duncan Moore's plantation. At the close of one of my meetings at Mr. Moore's, he made me a present of a ten dollar bill. I mention this fact to show that all slaveholders were not the hard-hearted characters that they are sometimes supposed to have been. On the contrary, many of them were as kindly in their feelings as human beings could well be. In this connection I will refer to Mr. Mall Bryant's as another place where I sometimes held meetings. The first time I ever visited this plantation was by invitation of Mr. Bryant. He invited me to come and conduct the funeral service of one of his slaves. On my way there I was met by the patrol. The leader asked me where I was going. I replied, "To Mr. Mall Bryant's, to preach a funeral sermon." He called for my pass, but I had forgotten to take it with me. He then ordered me to take off my clothes and prepare for a whipping. I did so, and he tied me to a tree. Just at that moment a carriage drove in sight. It proved to be Mr. Duncan Moore. He inquired of the patrol what they were going to do with me. "Give him the law," they replied. "No, you are not going to give him the law, either," said Mr. Moore; "you are not going to touch him." "But the law says we must whip every negro we find off his plantation without a pass." "I don't care anything about the law, and besides I am pass enough for Uncle Peter; he is on my land." Mr. Moore then ordered them to let me go. They did so, and he wrote me a pass for the remainder of the journey. I thanked him for his kindness, and started on towards Mr. Bryant's. I had gone but a short distance when I overtook an aged colored woman with whom I was somewhat acquainted, having met her at one of my meetings. Besides being very lame she was nearly blind, and could not get on very fast. She was then on the way to the funeral, thinking it might be the last opportunity she would ever have of hearing me preach. As I passed her she held up her two walking-sticks, and said, "I shall let go of these by-and-by, and fly away to Jesus." On
arriving at Mr. Bryant's, I found between eight and nine hundred persons assembled to pay their last respects to the memory of a Christian brother. As the services proceeded, there was much weeping on the part of the audience. Mr. Bryant and his wife seemed as much affected as any of the company. At the close of the sermon I requested all who would try and meet our departed brother in the better land to manifest it. The invitation met with an almost universal response. It was indeed a blessed season, and one long to be remembered by us all. While bidding Mr. Bryant and his family good day, he remarked that he would call at my master's office in a few days, and leave something for me. I told him he need not do that, for I did not charge anything for my services. "Oh, never mind that," he continued; "I will call and leave something, all the same." He was as good as his word. In a few days my master gave me fifteen dollars Mr. Bryant had left with him. Thus you will see that there were some good men even among slaveholders. Another place of meeting was at Mr. Arthur Hill's plantation. One Sunday, as I was on my way to attend a meeting at Mr. Hill's, I was met by the patrol. As usual, they demanded my pass; I had forgotten to take it. "Well," said they, "we have got one for you." I was ordered to take off all my clothing except my pants, after which they tied me to a tree and gave me the fifteen lashes allowed by law. Every stroke of the whip drew blood. The whipping done, they let me go, telling me that if they ever caught me that way again they would repeat the dose. As I started on my journey I commenced singing the hymn beginning,
"Hard trials, tribulations, Lord,
I feel I'm on my journey home."
On arriving at Mr. Hill's I met two colored brethren, who said they had heard the patrol whipping me, and had turned aside into the woods to avoid a similar fate. We had a good meeting that day. In the afternoon I held a second service at a place known as Crowen's Brick Yard, and in the evening still another at Mr. John Sanders' plantation. These meetings were all productive of good,
both to saints and sinners. At a funeral service held a few weeks later, we were again visited by the dreaded patrol. There were nearly three hundred persons present. All who were without passes were tied up and whipped, and we were ordered to disperse at once when the service closed. In dismissing the congregation, I remarked that it was useless to resist the powers that were, but we might still hold fast to Christ; there was nothing that need separate our souls from him. Many other meetings were held in different places, of which I cannot here speak in detail. I mention these as illustrations of the life I lived, and the labor I performed, in the cause of Christ. With a brief reference to one other, I will conclude my narrative of meetings held at the South during the old days of slavery. It was held at a place known as Blayden Camp Ground. A similar meeting was held annually, at the conclusion of the regular camp-meeting of the whites. I had to walk a distance of fifty-three miles in order to attend this meeting. I started about four o'clock in the afternoon, and reached the grounds about two o'clock next morning. There was a large number of persons engaged in worship even at that early hour. At ten o'clock in the forenoon there was preaching by a Mr. John Bosworth, on the "Prodigal Son." More than two hundred came forward for prayer at the close of the service, many of whom were hopefully converted. In the evening there was preaching again by the presiding elder, at which time about one hundred more requested prayers. A large proportion of these also came out into the light. Next morning the meeting broke up, and many of the company set out for home on board the steamer Henrietta Gleamer, Captain Rush commander. On the way down the river we held a religious service on the forward deck. About one hundred persons were present. As I was giving out a hymn a white man came up to me and said the meeting must stop; the other passengers did not want so much noise. We stopped for the moment, while one of the deck hands went to the captain about it. The captain came forward very soon and told us to go on with our meeting; he was captain of that boat, and we might sing
and pray as much as we liked. We began singing again, and made the woods that lined the river-bank fairly ring with the music of our song. Captain Rush, though not a professing Christian, was a most excellent man. If his eye should ever fall on this little book, I wish him to know that I have never forgotten him. I hope I may one day meet him in the better land. In the evening of the same day we all met in the vestry of the Methodist church and held a grand thanksgiving service, in view of the many blessings God had bestowed upon us.
I must now return to my flight to the British provinces, and rehearse some of the experiences that befel me there. I traveled almost constantly, preaching and lecturing in churches and town halls to large congregations. The first place visited was at St. John's, New Brunswick, where I spoke in the Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, Congregational, and Catholic churches. I then visited Fredericton, and preached in all the churches in that place. Next I went to Rankinsville and preached in the Episcopal church. Notwithstanding it rained very hard, I found the church crowded. The minister was a noble Christian brother, and I shall never forget his kindness. I received from the good people of this place a present of fifty dollars. At Bay River I preached three nights in succession in the Baptist church. Eleven souls were converted, and I received a present of forty-one dollars. At Halifax I spent three months, laboring with the different churches. I also held protracted meetings at Liverpool, with most blessed results. At Post Jolie I preached once in the Methodist church, and received a present of fifteen dollars. At Shelburn I spent one Sabbath. It was a day never to be forgotten. The Lord was indeed in the midst. Next morning a brother presented me twelve dollars, and on shaking hands with the minister he left with me a one-pound note. At Birch-town there was a colored settlement. I remained a week at this place, and preached every night. Thirty-eight were converted. The morning of my departure a colored brother put in my hand a purse containing nineteen dollars, with the remark, "We are all very poor, but here is a little to help you on your way." At Causeway
I preached two nights in the Methodist church, and received a present of ten dollars. At Bowshead I remained a week, lecturing on slavery and attending missionary meetings. At Great Island I preached three nights for the Freewill Baptists. I never saw people more eager to hear the word than at this place. At the close of my labors with them I received a generous collection. Returning again to the main land I visited Brass Hill, where I remained one week preaching in the Baptist church. Many were brought to Christ as the result of these meetings. There was a man over eighty years of age converted at this place, which of itself was ample reward for my weeks of toil. From Brass Hill I went to Salmon River, where I remained five weeks engaged in protracted services. It was a most glorious season. At Yarmouth I preached one Sunday in the Methodist church, of which a Bro. Wilson was pastor. If people shouted and made as much noise now as they did then, they would be called crazy. That was a Sabbath-day long to be remembered. The day following I attended a conference of Congregational ministers, and was very cordially entertained. At that meeting I was introduced to a Mr. Galaway, from England. He invited me to visit England, and promised if I would do so to introduce me to the public there. Later in the week I lectured on slavery in the Congregational church. The Sabbath following I lectured in the academy at Gebogue Point. At this place I met a Mr. Hilton, who had known me as a slave. At the close of my remarks he arose and spoke of his previous acquaintance with me, and proposed raising a sum of money for my benefit. The boxes were passed, and nearly fifty dollars contributed at that place.
Next day I returned to Yarmouth. Mr. Hilton accompanied me, and procured a hall in which I delivered a course of lectures on slavery. The lectures were very largely attended, and netted me one hundred and eighty dollars. The following Sunday I preached in a school-house, at a place called Cranberry Head. At the close of the service a collection was taken, amounting to fourteen dollars. On returning again to Yarmouth, I received
a letter from a Christian lady containing ten dollars. Thus the good hand of the Lord led me from place to place during my stay in the provinces, and thus were kind friends raised up to minister to my wants. I shall never cease to pray that God will abundantly reward them for their generous sympathy and kindly assistance in my time of need. Everywhere I went the same cordial welcome was extended to me, and the churches of all denominations, both Protestant and Catholic, were ever at my service. I have even been aided by those with whose language I was not at all acquainted, and who could not understand my speech. I will mention a single incident in illustration of this point. It occurred in a French settlement in Nova Scotia. Passing through the settlement one day, and being very weary, I paused at one of the houses and knocked for admission. A gentleman came to the door and addressed me in French. I indicated by signs that I wanted some water. He immediately grasped my hand and shook it heartily, at the same time motioning me to come in the house. I did so. He and his wife conversed together for a few moments in their native tongue, after which she went and procured some water, of which I drank freely, for I was very thirsty. I then thanked them as best I could for their kindness and took up my bundle to go, but the gentleman prevented me, and indicated by signs that they would like to have me stop and eat with them. I put down my bundle in token of my willingness to do so, and watched the preparation of their noon-day meal. First a large dish of potatoes was brought in and placed on the table. Then a quantity of fried pork was brought in and placed beside the potatoes. Next a plate, knife and fork, and a tin cup for each of us were set in order on the table, after which we all seated ourselves in readiness to partake of the repast. To my great surprise I observed that my host first bowed his head and reverently said grace before eating. I then knew that I was among friends. After we had done eating I waited a few moments to see what would come next. The gentleman immediately went to the stable, harnessed his horse and brought him to the door. He then made signs
that he would carry me some distance on my journey. I bade his good wife good-bye, and took a seat beside him in the carriage. After proceeding about a mile we stopped at a house, and my companion went in. A few minutes later he returned, bringing a gentleman with him. The new-comer inquired of me where I wished to go. I gave the name of a village about ten miles distant. He spoke to my companion in French, telling him what I had said. He immediately resumed his place in the carriage and drove on. We did not stop again until we arrived at my destination. I offered to pay him for his trouble, but he refused to accept any pay. I thanked him, and bade him a kind good-bye. I have mentioned this little incident in order to show how God cares for a poor wanderer who puts his trust in him.
In the year 1854 I returned to the States. Words cannot express my joy in being once more on American soil, and in the company of the dear friends from whom I had been so long separated. On arriving in Boston, I went first to the office of my old friend Wm. Lloyd Garrison. He greeted me with all his old-time cordiality, and formally bade me welcome back to America. He also expressed the hope that I would go forward in the good work of interesting the public in my down-trodden and oppressed brethren. I replied that with the help of God I would never cease to labor in that way so long as I lived. He informed me farther of an anti-slavery convention soon to be held in Cummington, Mass., in Rev. T. A. Stockman's church, and that Samuel May and Wendell Phillips were to speak, and invited me to be present if possible. Accordingly, I took the cars and rode as far as Northampton, and then walked the rest of the way, a distance of eighteen miles. It was after dark when I reached Cummington, and I proceeded at once to the church. I found it crowded. Mr. Phillips was speaking when I entered the door. Mr. Stockman saw me and came and escorted me to the platform. After Mr. Phillips ceased speaking, I was formally introduced to the audience. A perfect storm of applause followed, which lasted for several minutes. I took a little time to rest, and then spoke briefly of my great
pleasure in meeting my old friends again, and of my purpose to continue my labors in behalf of my brethren and sisters yet in bondage. I continued thus to labor in the cause of God and humanity down to the opening of the war of the Rebellion. Everywhere I went I proclaimed my belief that I should some day witness the downfall of slavery. When John Brown was hung at Harper's Ferry for his so-called treason, in attempting to free the slaves, I felt that I could discern the beginning of the end. Praise God that end is now accomplished. He to whom vengeance belongeth has answered the prayers of his suffering ones. Many years have now passed since I began my life as a little slave boy away down in North Carolina. I have nearly run my race. Soon the summons will come for me to go hence and be here no more. I desire, in closing these brief sketches of my life's experience, to return my heartfelt thanks to the many kind friends who have contributed so much to my well-being and happiness. And I desire still further to testify to my unwavering confidence in the great truths of the Christian religion. They have been a never-failing support to me my whole life through, and I am persuaded they will uphold me to the end.
I would say here, God has dealt bountifully with me, and has blessed me beyond measure; for after I was sold from my dear mother, going to Wilmington, N. C., and while living there, three years afterwards, I providentially met my dear old father. I went to a cart to buy a watermelon, of which he had a load to sell. He came to the side of the cart where I was standing, and asked me how much money I had to buy a melon with. I answered, "Six cents." He said that was not enough to buy one, adding, "Is that all the money you have?" I answered, "This is all I have." He asked, "Whose boy are you?" I said, "I belong to Mr. Jones." He then asked me who my mother was. I told him my mother's name was Grace. He asked, "Where is your mother?" I told him she was up country, at Mr. Hawes' plantation. He asked, "What Hawes?" I replied, "Mr. John Hawes." He then laid the melon on the cart and took me in his arms, hugged and kissed me,
and said, "You are my own child!" He asked me where I was living, and I pointed to the house. He said, "When I sell my load I will come up there and bring you a melon; you go home." I went home and attended to my business as usual. During the day I told my mistress, Miss Anna, that I had seen my father. She asked me where I saw him, and I replied, "Down to the market." She inquired what he was doing there, and I told her he was selling melons for his master, Mr. Hambleton. She said, "You go and tell him to come up to the house." I told her he said he would come up after he had sold his load, and that he would bring me a melon. She said. "Hurry and get your work done, so you can visit with him when he comes." I will assure you I worked as fast as possible, and finished my task before my father arrived. I watched for him anxiously. I suppose I went to the gate fifty times before he came. Late in the afternoon I saw him driving down Main street, coming towards my master's house. I ran into the house and said to Miss Anna, "My father is coming." She went to the window in the front room and sat down, waiting for him to come. I stood at one side of the window with her, watching every step of the horse. He soon arrived in front of the house. Miss Anna said, "Run out and tell him to drive his horse into the yard." I ran with all my might, threw the big gate wide open, and said, "My mistress says come in." Miss Anna came out on the back stoop, spoke to him very kindly, and said, "My boy says you are his father." "Yes, ma'am, he is my child; I have been sold away from him over three years." "Oh, uncle, that is too bad; I wish something could be done about this selling business. I cannot help it, uncle. I will try and treat your child kindly. He has been a good boy since he has been with me. If he behaves well, I will treat him well." My father turned to me, placed his hand on my head, and said, "My boy, hear what your mistress says? Now I want you to be a good boy. Mind and not tell your mistress any wrong stories; and when she tells you to do anything, do it just as quick as you can. I will come and see you as often as I can. Do you say your prayers
at night, now?" I said, "Yes, sir." "Now don't you neglect them. I must go now, as it is getting late. I have got a melon in the cart for you, and will go and get it. Good-bye, my son. I will be in town soon, and will come and see you." Miss Anna said, "How far is it, uncle, to your master's plantation?" "Twenty miles, missus. I will get there in three hours." "Now, Uncle Tony, when you come to town, always come and see your son. I shall be glad to have you come. If you are hungry any time, come in and I will give you something to eat." "Thank you, missus, for your kindness. I must be going now. Good-bye, ma'am." "Good-bye, uncle." Miss Anna said to me, "Now you must be a good boy. You heard what your father said. Now you can go about your work, and set the table for supper." I returned to my work as usual.
I wish to say here to my dear readers, that my life was a checkered one from boyhood up to forty-three years of age, but I see now the hand of God in it all. Like Joseph, I was sold into bondage; but God has never forsaken me. I have seen father and mother again, and had the privilege of taking them by the hand and welcoming them under my own roof. I had the privilege of buying my father's time from the task-master, after he became old and decrepit, paying $50 annually. I could not do this myself, but was obliged to employ Mr. Owen Fennel, a Baptist deacon, to hire him for me. In this way I secured his liberty. While he was twenty miles from me I could not take care of him when he was sick, but after he was removed to my house I could attend to his wants.
My mother was old and broken down with hard labor, and through the blessing of God I succeeded in getting her from her master. I walked eighty-five miles, and found her on Enoch Hawes' plantation, all broken down with hard labor and sickness. I called on Mr. Hawes and asked him if he would let me have my mother and take care of her. After much persuasion he concluded to let me have her. His wife was bitterly opposed to it, but Mr. Hawes overruled her and persuaded her to consent to let me have her, after which I returned
to my old mother and informed her that she was to go with me, and her future home would be with her son. She burst into tears, and prayed that God would ever bless me her youngest child. I told her it was a pleasure and duty for me to do all in my power to make her last days happy. I immediately started for the woods, where the plantation hands were engaged in cutting timber, and told them the news of securing my mother's liberty. They shouted, "Glory to God! We have been praying that God would deliver your mother in some way." Many of them wept for joy. I then asked them if they could tell me of any one who was going to Wilmington. One man by the name of James replied, "I can tell you of one who is going there, Mr. William Ramsey [a Methodist class-leader.] Take this footpath through the woods; it will lead you to his house two and a half miles distant." This was a blind path, and I was sometimes in the road and sometimes out; but I found the way at last. I reached Mr. R.'s house about an hour before sundown, and found the door open. I rapped, and a medium-sized white lady came and very politely asked me to come in and take a seat, which I accepted. I asked if she was Mr. R.'s wife, and she replied in the affirmative. I then asked if he was at home. She inquired if I wished to see him, and I said "Yes." She asked me if I lived near there, and I answered, "No, ma'am, I am a son of Aunt Grace Hawes." She then asked, "When did you arrive?" I said, "About noon, to-day." She asked me if I had seen my mother, and I said, "Yes; I have got the consent of her master to take her home with me." She exclaimed, "Thank God! thank God! I will blow the horn and call my husband; he has gone to feed the pigs." He answered, and soon was at the house. After calling her husband she came and sat down by my side and began to converse about my mother, and how I succeeded in getting her from her master. I told her I believed it was in answer to prayer. She replied, "It must be so. My husband and I have been praying these years that God would deliver Aunt Grace, for she has been a great sufferer, and we have carried her food in the night, unknown
to her master." At this time Mr. R. came in, and I arose and extended my hand and called him by name. Mrs. R. said, "This is Aunt Grace's son, and he has succeeded in getting her from her master." He shouted "Glory to God!" jumped for joy, and said, "This is what we have been praying for, wife." I then asked him if he was going to town, and if he would take my mother with him. He said, "Yes, yes, gladly." I asked him how soon he would be ready to go, and he replied, "Next week I will provide a comfortable way for her to go." I asked how much he would charge me. He said, "Nothing at all, sir. Old aunty is a Christian; I will gladly take her free of charge. I hope you, too, are a Christian." I replied, "I cannot say, sir, that I am a Christian, but I am trying to do the best I can in serving the dear Lord." He exclaimed, "Amen! amen! God bless you, my son." According to promise, my mother took passage on his boat the next week for Wilmington. He spared no pains to make her comfortable, and she arrived there in safety on Thursday of the same week. As soon as he arrived in town he inquired for me, and a brother in the church came to inform me of his arrival. I immediately left my work and made all possible haste to Market wharf, where his boat was lying, and found Mr. Ramsey standing on the wharf. Having shaken his hand, he said, "Uncle Peter, I have brought your mother." I replied, "Thank you, Massa William; may God bless you when I am gone." "Yes, Uncle Peter, God blesses me every day. You had better procure a team and a bed and send your mother to your home." "I am afraid, sir, I will detain you here." "Oh, no; I have not disposed of my shingles yet" [of which he had brought a load.] I called Bro. Billy Merack, who had a cart close by, and requested him to go to my house and get a bed. He said, "Oh, no, I will take one from my own house, it is nearer." He did so, and removed my old mother carefully and tenderly to my home. I offered to pay him for his trouble, but he would not accept any remuneration. On my way back to my work my friends, white and colored, congratulated me and rejoiced with me in the fact that my dear old
slave mother had found a home where she could be tenderly cared for by her loving son. I called at Dr. James F. McCree's office and requested him to come and prescribe for my mother. He did so, prepared a remedy, and sent it to my house, for which I offered to pay him, but he would not take anything. My dear old mother survived three years after this, when God called her from a life of toil and suffering to her reward. She called me to her bedside a few hours before she breathed her last, and said, "My son, preach the gospel faithfully, and meet me in heaven." I promised her I would, by the help of God. There were several of my colored brothers and sisters present. She shook hands with all of them, and said, "Meet me in heaven." My dear father died in April, 1848. He left a testimony I shall never forget while here on earth I stay.
I do not regret the sleepless nights or the privations and toil I endured on their account. It is one of the greatest comforts of my life to know that I was permitted to minister to their needs in their last days. My friends often said to me, "Uncle Peter, you cannot care for your parents to the end; you have the additional burden of your mother-in-law." But I told them God would help me through; and all praise to his dear name, he did. I had many white friends who furnished me all the work I could do, and if I needed money at any time I could borrow any amount without security. I have many warm friends with noble hearts in New England to-day. I said when a slave I would never leave my old father and mother to suffer, and I kept my word.
To the Friends of the hunted American Slave in England:BOSTON, March 29, 1851.
In consequence of the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, at the last session of Congress, a general flight from the country of all fugitive slaves in the Northern States has become necessary as a matter of personal safety. Among the number thus compelled to leave is the bearer of this, Thomas H. Jones, a Wesleyan preacher, and a pastor of a colored church in the neighboring city of Salem, who carries with him a narrative of his life for sale. My personal acquaintance with him is limited; but those among my friends who know him intimately speak of him as a most worthy man, and one peculiarly entitled to the sympathy and aid of those who love God and regard man. Though he is a man, "created a little lower than the angels"--exemplary in life--a servant and minister of Jesus Christ--in all the United States there is not a spot on which he can stand in safety from pursuing bloodhounds, and must flee to England to prevent being again reduced to the condition of a beast! May the God of the oppressed raise him up many friends abroad!
W M. LLOYD GARRISON.
LYNN, Jan. 16, 1859.
I have been for several years well acquainted with the bearer of this note, Rev. Thomas H. Jones, and it is a pleasure to me to recommend him cordially to all who love God, humanity and freedom. He was forty-three years a slave, but by great courage, industry and perseverance, has fought his way to freedom of body and spirit, and has devoted himself with fidelity and success to the spiritual salvation of men. He has a family, part free and part yet in bonds, whose wants roll heavy responsibilities on him as a husband and father, and is therefore obliged to toil hard for daily bread. I bespeak for him the sympathy and benevolence of the public as an earnest, honest Christian man, worthy of all confidence that he may claim, and of all assistance that he may solicit.
FALES H. NEWHALL,
Pastor of South Street M. E. church.
WILMINGTON, April 25, 1857.
I am personally acquainted with Rev. Thomas H. Jones, a fugitive from slavery. During the past two years have heard him preach and lecture to large congregations with much acceptance.
Bro. Jones is a warm-hearted Christian and a worthy minister of Jesus Christ.
It will do any people good to hear him tell the "Story of his wrongs."
Pastor of the Baptist church in Dover, Vt.
GREENWICH, March 9, 1857.
This may certify that Thomas H. Jones, a fugitive from Southern bondage, lectured to us last evening in a very acceptable manner, and enlisted the interest and sympathy of the people in no ordinary degree. He is a true man and a beloved brother and a fellow-laborer in the Lord. He leaves behind him in his departure a pleasant impression, both in the family and in public. He is hereby commended to the kind regards and friendly aid of all who love the Divine Redeemer, and have sympathy with the oppressed.
E. P. BLODGETT.
PORTLAND, April 1, 1857.
Dear Brother Garnet:
This will introduce you to the Rev. Thos. H. Jones, who has been a slave in North Carolina, and who like thousands of others has been obliged to flee, and seek an asylum on British soil. He is a good brother, and considering his advantages, few can go before him as a lecturer. He has been for the last year settled in Salem, Mass., and has also lectured in most of the New England states, and I believe generally with acceptance; he has lectured and preached in my church; and I trust that he may meet with as kind acceptance in old England as what he has in New England.
Yours, with respect,
A. N. FREEMAN.
ST. JOHN, New Brunswick, June, 1851.
My Dear Brother Gallaway:
Mr. Jones, an emancipated slave, is on his way to Great Britain. He has been here for a few weeks--has occupied your old pulpit in the basement story, and mine too, much to the pleasure and enjoyment of our people. He is a very interesting and excellent man. If you can do anything to promote his interest in the great metropolis, you will, for the sake of humanity, for the sake of an old friend; and above all, for Christ's sake "remember the slave." He is a free man in Christ. Aid him, take him by the hand and receive him as a brother, and may the Lord free the spiritually bound.
Ever your affectionate brother,
R. IRVIN, Presbyterian minister.Rev. J. C. GALLAWAY, London.
ST. JOHN, New Brunswick, B. N. A, June 9th, 1851.
DEAR BROTHER,--Knowing that you have an interest in the slave, permit me to introduce a fugitive one to your notice. He has with him a published narrative of his own life and hardships, and testimonials as to character. He has been in our city some weeks, has delivered public lectures, attended prayer-meetings, and preached for ministers of different denominations. From what I have seen of Mr. Jones, I am favorably impressed, and commend him to your confidence and love.
Yours in Christ,
J. D. CASWELL.Rev. Dr. HOBY, or HOWARD HINTON, London.
LIVERPOOL, Nova Scotia, Oct. 21, 1852.
Rev. Dr. Campbell:
MY DEAR SIR,--This letter will be handed you by the Rev. Thomas H. Jones, a Wesleyan Methodist minister, and a fugitive slave. Mr. Jones came to me about a twelvemonth ago, highly recommended by ministers and gentlemen in New Brunswick and the United States. I have found him to be a worthy, good, grateful man. I introduced Mr. Jones to Mr. Gallaway, when on his mission here. Mr. Jones bought his wife's freedom when he was a slave. He then made his own escape, God helping him. His wife has a son toiling in bondage in the swamps of North Carolina. The owner of this youth, a female human form, (I will not pollute the name of WOMAN by applying it to her,) has written the mother to say she may have her son for $800. Mr. Jones wants to beg the money. He has got something towards it. I know Mrs. Jones; she is a kind, wellbehaved, motherly woman. She has sat at my table, and when I have looked at her my heart has been wrung at the thought of her son, being treated worse than a brute, employed in carrying railroad sleepers on his back out of the swamps at the back of Wilmington. I am doing all I can for the "Banner's Witness" and "Penny Magazine" in these regions. Last month a very aged man (85) applied for admission into our church here, his mind enlightened and convinced by reading the "Witness." Formerly a Methodist, he has been a wanderer for 26 years. You have my earnest prayers and sympathies. Gorham Cole is prospering; upwards of forty students, and more applications. I trust you may have heart and health and mind for your huge task.
Yours very truly,
BENNINGTON, Feb. 1, 1855.
To all whom it may concern:
I take the liberty of introducing the bearer of this, Bro. Thomas H. Jones, for forty years and more a southern bondman, but a Christian man and a minister of the Wesleyan Methodist church. His letters are very satisfactory, and I believe him to be all that he professes to be, a true man and a warm-hearted lover of the Saviour. He has lectured to large audiences in our village with great acceptance, and to the entire satisfaction of all, so far as I have heard. We believe him to be a true-hearted and zealous servant of Jesus Christ, and truly deserving of the sympathy and aid of the Christian public. I have no hesitation in saying that I believe that every friend of Jesus and of humanity will be pleased and edified by his conversation and public labors.
Pastor of the Methodist E. church in Bennington, Vt.
WILBRAHAM, Jan. 1, 1856.
I cordially commend the bearer, Thomas H. Jones, to all Christian and humane people. I believe him to be a worthy man, and an excellent Christian.
J. D. BRIDGE.
I can heartily respond amen to the above testimonial in favor of Brother Jones, from a presiding elder in the Methodist church, and would furthermore add that the bearer is not only "a worthy man and an excellent Christian," but an interesting anti-slavery lecturer, or a very acceptable preacher of the gospel. Receive him as a brother beloved, and aid him for the sake of Christ, his Master, and the cause of suffering humanity.
WM. C. WHITCOMB.Globe Village, Southbridge, Mass., March 10, 1856.
WARDSBORO', Vt., June 30, 1857.
Dear Bro. Eastman:
I am happy to introduce to you Rev. Bro. Thomas H. Jones, a fugitive from slavery. He has been lecturing and preaching in this town, to the great satisfaction of the people. You will aid the cause of God and suffering humanity by facilitating his labors. He has abundant credentials and testimonials, and the spirit of ardent piety that he breathes, and the "marks of the Lord Jesus" upon his person, will very soon endear him to your heart.
APRIL 25, 1859.
This certifies that I believe the bearer, Rev. Thomas H. Jones, to be a man of untarnished Christian character and worthy of the confidence of the public. Personal acquaintance, as well as the best of recommendations, has convinced me of his untiring devotion to the cause of God and human freedom. His history, made thrilling by cruelty, will increase our hatred of oppression, his genial society will cheer the fireside, and his piety will hallow the means of grace. Aid him and you will bless a worthy brother, honor God, and elevate the race.
J. H. MANSFIELD,
Pastor of Union Street church, Lynn.
CUSTOM HOUSE, Boston, Collector's Office, June 22, 1867.
DEAR SIR,--I have known Rev. Mr. Jones many years as an honest, upright and worthy man, and I have seen no reason for losing my confidence in his integrity.
Yours very truly,
THOMAS RUSSELL.LUTHER WAGONER, Esq.
Rev. Thomas H. Jones was some years since introduced to me by clergymen in whom I put great confidence, in terms of high commendation. I was interested in the narrative of his life which he has published, and have since known him as an unusually intelligent laborer among his colored brethren, and an earnest advocate of Republican and Temperance principles.
ROBERT C. PITMAN.New Bedford, Dec. 17, 1867.
NEW BEDFORD, October 20, 1869.
The bearer of this note, the Rev. Thomas H. Jones, I cordially recommend. My intercourse with him during the last two years, has shown him to be a true laborer in the cause of Jesus. He is a thorough temperance man, and is ready and anxious to labor. May be have the cordial greeting of Christians wherever he may go, is the desire of
GEO. B. RICHMOND,
President of the Young Men's Christian Association.
HAVERHILL, Mass., May 14, 1878.
To whom it may concern:
This is to certify that I have known for a number of years the bearer, Rev. Thomas Jones. As an upright, Christian man, he has always inspired my respect. I cheerfully recommend him to any who may need his services.
J. M. DURRELL,
Pastor of the First M. E. church.
BEVERLY FARMS, June 23, 1879.
My Dear Brother:
The bearer, Rev. Thomas H. Jones, I have met recently and conversed with, with much pleasure. You will find him an intelligent, earnest Christian and temperance worker, I have no doubt. His history and labors are very interesting. It gives me pleasure to introduce him.
D. P. MORGAN.
BEVERLY FARMS, May 16, 1879.
Dear Bro. Gorham:
I think I have already spoken to you or to some of your people favorably of Bro. Thomas H. Jones, who has been spending a fortnight in our village and in Centreville. He will now bear to you this note in person, as his introduction. He came to me well recommended by Bro. Morgan, and from all I have seen of him, in our meetings and in private intercourse, I feel free to indorse fully all Bro. M.'s ideas of the piety and intelligence of the man. He has spoken several times in our chapel to large and deeply interested audiences. He is poor, and will gratefully acknowledge any help you can render him in disposing of his little book, or in securing a collection.
Very truly yours,
C. W. REDING.
BOSTON, Mass., July 19, 1880.
23 School St.
To whom it may concern:
We are all one in Christ Jesus, and "God is no respecter of persons." Thirty years have passed since the first testimonial was written in recommendation of the brother whose experience is herein narrated, Rev. Thomas H. Jones. We can but say that we know that during those years passed he has fully lived up to all that has been said in them, fulfilling all the expectations of those who in those early years, when it was but to be stigmatized, so willingly outstretched their hands to help and protect him. The sufferings in mind and body endured by him should warm all hearts toward him, to lend him a helping hand. His recital of the wrongs borne by him and his at the hands of his fellowman is most interesting and affecting. No compensation in this world, given to him or to those who have suffered in like manner, will ever repay them for their bitter
trials and anguish. So we can thank God that the time is soon coming when the oppressed of every nation who have sought Christ will through him receive eternal life in his kingdom where "there shall be no more sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain, for the former things are passed away."
May the God of the armies of Israel strengthen and guide him. When the general roll is called may he sit down with us, with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of God, to go no more out forever.
Yours in the blessed hope,
F. S. CLIFFORD.
NEWBURYPORT, Mass., September 13, 1879.
To whom it may concern:
This will certify that the bearer, Thomas H. Jones, is a Christian brother in whom the Christian public may have confidence. After an acquaintance of several years, I most cheerfully commend him as a Christian brother worthy of support and fellowship.
DANIEL P. PIKE,
Pastor of the Christian church, Newburyport, Mass.
BOSTON, June 22, 1880.
I have known Brother Thomas H. Jones for some eight or ten years. I have always regarded him as an honest and respectable person, and a zealous Christian man.
Very truly yours,
B. B. RUSSELL.
BOSTON, July 21, 1880.
I have known the Rev. Thomas H. Jones for thirty-one years, and have respected him as a faithful, honest, conscientious citizen. His story should win for him the sympathy of all good and generous people.
JOHN L. SWIFT.
BOSTON, Mass., July 23, 1880.
I have known the Rev. Thomas H. Jones for some years, and I believe him to be an honest, upright man, a good citizen, and one of the most earnest, energetic men in the gospel work, and as such I can recommend him to the public.
Treasurer and Business Agent of the A. C. P. Society.
LYNN, Aug. 3, 1880.
Having been for many years acquainted with the bearer, Rev. Thomas H. Jones, I take great pleasure in commending him to the favorable consideration of the public, as a man of good Christian character, of courage and energy, as seen in his lifting himself from the condition of a slave to that of a freeman before emancipation day, and of kindly and courteous bearing. His history is one of those marvels of the days of slavery, and cannot be read by a free people without both shame and profit. To the rising generation it will be stranger than fiction.
Ed. N. Eng. Methodist.