Harriet Tubman at her home in Auburn, New York (1911)

Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 20

Appendix I

A few circumstances having come out in conversation with Harriet, they are added here, as they may be of interest to the reader.

On asking Harriet particularly as to the age of her mother, she answered, “Well, I’ll tell you, Missis. Twenty-three years ago, in Maryland, I paid a lawyer $5 to look up the will of my mother’s first master. He looked back sixty years, and said it was time to give up. I told him to go back furder. He went back sixty-five years, and there he found the will–giving the girl Ritty to his grand-daughter (Mary Patterson), to serve her and her offspring till she was forty-five years of age”.

This grand-daughter died soon after, unmarried; and as there was no provision for Ritty, in case of her death, she was actually emancipated at that time. But no one informed her of the fact, and she and her dear children remained in bondage till emancipated by the courage and determination of this heroic daughter and sister. The old woman must then, it seems, be ninety-eight years of age, and the old man has probably numbered as many years. And yet these old people, living out beyond the toll-gate, on the South Street road, Auburn, come in every Sunday–more than a mile–to the Central Church. To be sure, deep slumbers settle down upon them as soon as they are seated, which continue undisturbed till the congregation is dismissed; but they have done their best, and who can doubt that they receive a blessing. Immediately after this they go to class-meeting at the Methodist Church. Then they wait for a third service, and after that start out home again.

On asking Harriet where they got anything to eat on Sunday, she said, in her quiet way, “Oh! de ole folks nebber eats anyting on Sunday, Missis! We nebber has no food to get for dem on Sunday. Dey always fasts; and dey nebber eats anyting on Fridays. Good Friday, an’ five Fridays hand gwine from Good Friday, my fader nebber eats or drinks, all day–fasting for de five bleeding wounds ob Jesus. All the oder Fridays ob de year he nebber eats till de sun goes down; den he takes a little tea an’ a piece ob bread.” “But is he a Roman Catholic, Harriet?” “Oh no, Misses; he does it for conscience; we was taught to do so down South. He says if he denies himself for the sufferings of his Lord an’ Master, Jesus will sustain him.”
Previously: Fugitive Slave Rescue in Troy — Part 3
Next: Appendix II

This is part of a multi-part series published to celebrate Black History Month in 2012. The list of published posts can be found at Book Directory: Scenes In The Life Of Harriet Tubman. Use the Stay In Touch box below to recieve e-mail notifications about new posts.

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