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Digital Bookshelf: Letters and Diaries

Thomas Garrett to William Still, August 25, 1858

Original Citation
Thomas Garrett to William Still, August 25, 1858, reprinted in William Still, The Underground Railroad (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872), 477.

Few historical letters about the Underground Railroad are more revealing than this one. In a note from August 1858, Thomas Garrett describes in vivid detail the escape of two slaves passing through Delaware to Media, Pennsylvania, a harrowing tale that includes a near missed encounter with their master on the train platform in Wilmington. Garrett also refers to a kidnapping case, illustrating how often the "underground" traffic worked both directions in antebellum America -slaves escaping northward and free blacks facing kidnapping rings that sometimes dragged them into the South.


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WILMINGTON, 8th mo. 25th, 1858.

ESTEEMED FRIEND: - WILLIAM STILL: - Thine was received yesterday. Those two I wrote about to be with thee last 7th day evening, I presume thee has seen before this. A. Allen had charge of them; he had them kept out of sight at the depot here till the cars should be ready to start, in charge of a friend, while he kept a lookout and got a ticket. When the Delaware cars arrived, who should step out but the master of both man and woman, (as they had belonged to different persons); they knew him, and he knew them. He left in a different direction from where they were secreted, and got round to them and hurried them off to a place of safety, as he was afraid to take them home for fear they would search the house. On 1st day morning the boat ran to Chester to take our colored people to the camp at Media; he had them disguised, and got them in the crowd and went with them; when he got to Media, he placed them in care of a colored man, who promised to hand them over to thee on 2d day last; we expect 3 more next 7th day night, but how we shall dispose of them we have not yet determined; it will depend on circumstances. Judge Layton has been on with a friend to Richmond, Virginia, and fully identified the two Bradley boys that were kidnapped by Clem Rust. He has the assurance of the Judge there that they will be tried and their case decided by Delaware Laws, by which they must be declared free and returned here. We hope to be able to bring such proof against both Rust and the man he sold them to, who took them out of the State, to teach them a lesson they will remember. Thy friend,




Citation for this page

"Thomas Garrett to William Still, August 25, 1858," Underground Railroad Digital Classroom, Dickinson College, 2008,


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