Philadelphia Vigilance Committee Journal, April 3, 1853
In his book, The Underground Railroad (1872), William Still reprinted and revised entries from the journals of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee which he had maintained throughout most of the 1850s. Here is one example of how those pages appeared in his collection; a report of a successful escape from Baltimore in spring 1853. In this passage, Still adds some recollected comments about slavery in Baltimore, Maryland. His entry describing the escape illustrates how the vigilance network aiding in the passage of fugitives from Philadelphia to New York and points beyond.
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JEFFERSON PIPKINS, ALIAS DAVID JONES, LOUISA PIPKINS, ELIZABETH BRIT, HARRIET BROWN, ALIAS JANE WOOTON, GRACY MURRY, ALIAS SOPHIA SIMS, EDWARD WILLIAMS, ALIAS HENRY JOHNSON, CHAS. LEE, ALIAS THOMAS BUSHIER.
Six very clever-looking passengers, all in one party from Baltimore, Md., the first Sunday in April, 1853. Baltimore used to be in the days of Slavery one of the most difficult places in the South for even free colored people to get away from, much more for slaves. The rule forbade any colored person leaving there by rail road or steamboat, without such applicant had been weighed, measured, and then given a bond signed by unquestionable signatures, well known. Baltimore was rigid in the extreme, and was a never-failing source of annoyance, trouble and expense to colored people generally, and not infrequently to slave-holders too, when they were traveling North with "colored servants." Just as they were ready to start, the "Rules" would forbid colored servants until the law was complied with. Parties hurrying on would on account of this obstruction "have to wait until their hurry was over." As this was all done in the interest of Slavery, the matter was not very loudly condemned. But, notwithstanding all this weighing, measuring and requiring of bonds, many travelers by the Underground Rail Road took passage from Baltimore.
The enterprising individual, whose name stands at the head of this narrative, came directly from this stronghold of Slavery. The widow Pipkins held the title deed for Jefferson. She was unfortunate in losing him, as she was living in ease and luxury off of Jefferson's sweat and labor. Louisa, Harriet and Grace owed service to Geo. Stewart of Baltimore; Edward was owned by Chas. Moondo, and Chas. Lee by the above Stewart.
Those who would have taken this party for stupid, or for know-nothings, would have found themselves very mach mistaken. Indeed they were far from being dull or sleepy on the subject of Slavery at any rate. They had considered pretty thoroughly how wrongfully they, with all others in similar circumstances, had been year in and year out subjected to unrequited toil so resolved to leave masters and mistresses to shift for themselves, while they would try their fortunes in Canada.
Four of the party ranged in age from twenty to twenty-eight years of age, and the other two from thirty-seven to forty. The Committee on whom they called, rendered them due aid and advice, and forwarded them to the Committee in New York.
Citation for this page
"Philadelphia Vigilance Committee Journal, April 3, 1853," Underground Railroad Digital Classroom, Dickinson College, 2008, http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/ugrr/letter_april1853.htm.