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Digital Bookshelf: Letters and Diaries

Levi Coffin to William Still, May 11, 1851

Original Citation
Levi Coffin to William Still, May 11, 1851, reprinted in William Still, The Underground Railroad (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872), 33-34.


Levi Coffin was a leading Underground Railroad organizer in Ohio who wrote William Still, his counterpart in Philadelphia, in 1851 to report on his fears about the fate of Seth Concklin, an agent was killed while trying to aid in the escape of Still's sister-in-law. Still and his brother Peter (an escaped slave) had just recently been reunited and the attempt by Concklin to lead Vina Still and her children out of slavery became a national sensation.


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CINCINNATI, 5TH MO., 11TH, 1851.

WM. STILL-Dear Friend-Thy letter of 1st inst., came duly to hand, but not being able to give any further information concerning our friend, Concklin, I thought best to wait a little before I wrote, still hoping to learn something more definite concerning him. We that became acquainted with Seth Concklin and his hazardous enterprises (here at Cincinnati), who were very few, have felt intense and inexpressible anxiety about them. And particularly about poor Seth, since we heard of his falling into the hands of the tyrants. I fear that he has fallen a victim to their inhuman thirst for blood.

I seriously doubt the rumor, that he had made his escape. I fear that he was sacrificed. Language would fail to express my feelings; the intense and deep anxiety I felt about them for weeks before I heard of their capture in Indiana, and then it seemed too much to bear. O! my heart almost bleeds when I think of it. The hopes of the dear family all blasted by the wretched blood-hounds in human shape. And poor Seth, after all his toil, and dangerous, shrewd and wise management, and almost unheard of adventures, the many narrow and almost miraculous escapes. Then to be given up to Indianians, to these fiendish tyrants, to be sacrificed. O! Shame, Shame!!

My heart aches, my eyes fill with tears, I cannot write more. I cannot dwell longer on this painful subject now. If you get any intelligence, please inform me. Friend N. R. Johnston, who took so much interest in them, and saw them just before they were taken, has just returned to the city. He is a minister of the Covenanter order. He is truly a lovely man, and his heart is full of the milk of humanity ; one of our best Anti-Slavery spirits. I spent last evening with him. He related the whole story to me as he had it from friend Concklin and the mother and children, and then the story of their capture. We wept together. He found thy letter when he got here.

He said he would write the whole history to thee in a few days, as far as he could. He can tell it much better than I can.

Concklin left his carpet sack and clothes here with me, except a shirt or two he took with him. What shall I do with them? For if we do not hear from him soon, we must conclude that he is lost, and the report of his escape all a hoax.

Truly thy friend, LEVI COFFIN.


Citation for this page

"Levi Coffin to William Still, May 11, 1851," Underground Railroad Digital Classroom, Dickinson College, 2008,


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