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Digital Bookshelf: Letters and Diaries

Thomas Garrett to William Still, September 6, 1857

Original Citation
Thomas Garrett to William Still, September 6, 1857, reprinted in William Still, The Underground Railroad (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872), 639-640.

What is perhaps most revealing about this operational letter from Thomas Garrett of Delaware to William Still in Philadelphia is how clearly it challenges current expectations about "routes" on the Underground Railroad. Garrett refers to four runaways who came on a steamboat piloted by an operative named Captain Alfred Fountain. The runaways then passed through Delaware (still a slave state in 1857) on an actual railroad line under the guidance of a free black conductor named Severn Johnson. This is not how modern popular imagination typically conceives Underground Railroad escapes, and yet here is a contemporary historical document that should at least encourage teachers and students to question some of these modern assumptions.


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WILMINGTON, 9th mo. 6th, 1857.

RESPECTED FRIEND, WM. STILL: - This evening I send to thy care four of God's poor. Severn Johnson, a true man, will go with them to-night by rail road to thy house. I have given Johnson five dollars, which will pay all expenses, and leave each twenty-five cents. We are indebted to Captain F-t-n for those. May success attend them in their efforts to maintain themselves. Please send word by Johnson whether or no, those seven arrived safe I wrote thee of ten days since. My wife and self were at Longwood to-day, had a pleasant ride and good meeting. We are, as ever, thy friend,



Citation for this page

"Thomas Garrett to William Still, September 6, 1857," Underground Railroad Digital Classroom, Dickinson College, 2008,

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