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Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 21

Appendix II

It has been mentioned that Harriet never asks anything for herself, but whenever her people were in trouble, or she felt impelled to go South to guide to freedom friend or brother, or father and mother, if she had not time to work for the money, she was persistent till she got it from somebody.

When she received one of her intimations that the old people were in trouble, and it was time for her to go to them, she asked the Lord where she should go for the money. She was in some way, as she supposed, directed to the office of a certain gentleman in New York. When she left the house of her friends to go there, she said, “I’m gwine to Mr.–‘s office, an’ I ain’t gwine to lebe there, an’ I ain’t gwine to eat or drink till I git enough money to take me down after the ole people.”

She went into this gentleman’s office.

What do you want, Harriet?” was the first greeting.

I want some money, sir.”

You do? How much do you want?”

I want twenty dollars, sir.–

“Twenty dollars? Who told you to come here for twenty dollars?”

“De Lord tole me, sir.”

“Well, I guess the Lord’s mistaken this time.”

“I guess he isn’t, sir. Anyhow I’m gwine to sit here till I git it.”

So she sat down and went to sleep. All the morning and all the afternoon she sat there still, sleeping and rousing up–sometimes finding the office full of gentlemen–sometimes finding herself alone. Many fugitives were passing through New York at that time, and those who came in supposed that she was one of them, tired out and resting.

Sometimes she would be roused up with the words, “Come, Harriet, you had better go. There’s no money for you here.” “No, sir. I’m not gwine till I git my twenty dollars.”

She does not know all that happened, for deep sleep fell upon her; but probably her story was whispered about, and she roused at last to find herself the happy possessor of sixty dollars, which had been raised among those who came into the office. She went on her way rejoicing, to bring her old parents from the land of bondage. She found that her father was to be tried the next Monday, for helping off slaves; so, as she says, she “removed his trial to a higher court,” and hurried him off to Canada.

One more little incident, which, it is hoped, may not be offensive to the young lady to whom it alludes, may be mentioned here, showing Harriet’s extreme delicacy in asking anything for herself.

Last winter (’67 and ’68), as we all know, the snow was very deep for months, and Harriet and the old people were completely snowed-in in their little home. The old man was laid up with rheumatism, and Harriet could not leave home for a long time to procure supplies of corn, if she could have made her way into the city. At length, stern necessity compelled her to plunge through the drifts to the city, and she appeared at the house of one of her firm and fast friends, and was directed to the room of one of the young ladies.

She began to walk up and down, as she always does when in trouble. At length she said, “Miss Annie?” “What, Harriet?” A long pause; then again, “Miss Annie?” “Well, what is it, Harriet?” This was repeated four times, when the young lady, looking up, saw her eyes filled with tears. She then insisted on knowing what she wanted. And with a great effort, she said, “Miss Annie, could you lend me a quarter till Monday? I never asked it before,” Kind friends immediately supplied all the wants of the family, but on Monday Harriet appeared with the quarter she had borrowed.

But though so timid for herself, she is bold enough when the wants of her race are concerned. Even now, while friends are trying to raise the means to publish this little book for her, she is going around with the greatest zeal and interest to raise a subscription for her Freedmen’s Fair.

She called on Hon. Wm. H. Seward, the other day, for a subscription to this object. He said, “Harriet, you have worked for others long enough. It is time you should think of yourself. If you ask for a donation for yourself, I will give it to you; but I will not help you to rob yourself for others.”

Harriet’s charity for all the human race is unbounded. It embraces even the slaveholder–it sympathizes even with Jeff. Davis, and rejoices at his departure to other lands, with some prospect of peace for the future. She says, “I tink dar’s many a slaveholder ‘ll git to Heaven. Dey don’t know no better. Dey acts up to de light dey hab. You take dat sweet little child (pointing to a  lonely baby)–‘pears more like an angel dan anyting else–take her down dere, let her nebber know nothing ’bout niggers but they was made to be whipped, an’ she ‘ll grow up to use the whip on ’em jus’ like de rest. No, Missus, its because dey don’t know no better.”

May God give the people to whom the story of this woman shall come, a like charity, so that through their kindness the last days of her stormy and troubled life may be calm and peaceful.

Previously: Appendix I
Next: An Essay on Woman Whipping

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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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.

Learn how to gain Access to the Accessible Archives databases.


Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 19

Statements made by Martin I. Townsend, Esq., of Troy, who was counsel for the fugitive, Charles Nalle:

Nalle is an octoroon; his wife has the same infusion of Caucasian blood. She was the daughter of her master, and had, with her sister, been bred by him in his family, as his own child. When the father died, both of these daughters were married and had large families of children. Under the highly Christian national laws of “Old Virginny,” these children were the slaves of their grandfather. The old man died, leaving a will, whereby he manumitted his daughters and their children, and provided for the purchase of the freedom of their husbands.

The manumission of the children and grandchildren took effect; but the estate was insufficient to purchase the husbands of his daughters, and the father of his grandchildren. The manumitted, by ‘another Christian, “conservative,” and “national” provision of law, were forced to leave the State, while the slave husbands remained in slavery.

Nalle and his brother-in-law were allowed for a while to visit their families outside Virginia about once a year, but were at length ordered to provide themselves with new wives, as they would be allowed to visit their former ones no more. It was after this that Nalle and his brother-in-law started for the land of freedom, guided by the steady light of the north star. Thank God, neither family now need fear any earthly master or the bay of the blood-hound dogging their fugitive steps.

Nalle returned to Troy with his family about July, 1860, and resided with them there for more than seven years. They are all now residents of the city of Washington, D. C. Nalle and his family are persons of refined manners, and of the highest respectability. Several of his children are red-haired, and a stranger would discover no trace of African blood in their complexions or features. It was the head of this family whom H. F. Averill proposed to doom to returnless exile and life-long slavery.

When Nalle was brought from Commissioner Beach’s office into the street, Harriet Tubman, who had been standing with the excited crowd, rushed amongst .the foremost to Nalle, and running one of her arms around his manacled arm, held on to him without ever loosening her hold through the more than half-hour’s struggle to Judge Gould’s office, and from Judge Gould’s office to the dock, where Nalle’s liberation was accomplished. In the melee, she was repeatedly beaten over the head with policemen’s clubs, but she never for a moment released her hold, but cheered Nalle and his friends with her voice, and struggled with the officers until they were literally worn out with their exertions, and Nalle was separated from them.

True, she had strong and earnest helpers in her struggle, some of whom had white faces as well as human hearts, and are now in Heaven. But she exposed herself to the fury of the sympathizers with slavery, without fear, and suffered their blows without flinching. Harriet crossed the river with the crowd, in the ferry-boat, and when the men who led the assault upon the door of Judge Stewart’s office, were stricken down, Harriet and a number of other colored women rushed over their bodies, brought Nalle out, and putting him in the first wagon passing, started him for the West.

A livery team, driven by a colored man, was immediately sent on to relieve the other, and Nalle was seen about Troy no more until he returned a free man by purchase from his master. Harriet also disappeared, and the crowd dispersed. How she came to be in Troy that day, is entirely unknown to our citizens; and where she hid herself after the rescue, is equally a mystery. But her struggle was in the sight of a thousand, perhaps of five thousand spectators.

This woman of whom you have been reading is poor, and partially disabled from her injuries; yet she supports cheerfully and uncomplainingly herself and her old parents, and always has several poor children in her house, who are dependent entirely upon her exertions.

At present she has three of these children for whom she is providing, while their parents are working to pay back money borrowed to bring them on. She also maintains by her exertions among the good people of Auburn, two schools of freedmen at the South, providing them teachers and sending them clothes and books. She never asks for anything for herself, but she does ask the charity of the public for “her people.”

For them her tears will fall,
For them her prayers ascend;
To them her toils and cares be given,
Till toils and cares will end.

If any persons are disposed to aid her in her be nevolent efforts, they may send donations to Rev. S.M. Hopkins, Professor in the Auburn Theological Seminary, who will make such disposition of the funds sent as may be designated by the donors.

Previously: Fugitive Slave Rescue in Troy — Part 2
Next: Appendix I

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.

Learn how to gain Access to the Accessible Archives databases.


Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 18

Fugitive Slave Rescue in Troy – Continued

From the Troy Whig, April 28, 1859.

From the office of Commissioner Beach, in the Mutual Building, to that of Judge Gould, in Congress Street, is less than two blocks, but it was made a regular battle-field. The moment the prisoner emerged from the doorway, in custody of Deputy-Sheriff Upham, Chief of Police Quin, Officers Cleveland and Holmes, the crowd made one grand charge, and those nearest the prisoner seized him violently, with the intention of pulling him away from the officers, but they were foiled; and down First to Congress Street, and up the latter in front of Judge Gould’s chambers, went the surging mass.

Exactly what did go on in the crowd, it is impossible to say, but the pulling, hauling, mauling, and shouting, gave evidences of frantic efforts on the part of the rescuers, and a stern resistance from the conservators of the law. In front of Judge Gould’s office the combat was at its height. No stones or other missiles were used; the battle was fist to fist. We believe an order was given to take the prisoner the other way, and there was a grand rush towards the West, past First and River Streets, as far as Dock Street.

All this time there was a continual melee. Many of the officers were hurt– among them Mr. Upham, whose object was solely to do his duty by taking Nalle before Judge Gould in accordance with the writ of habeas corpus. A number in the crowd were more or less hurt, and it is a wonder that these were not badly injured, as pistols were drawn and chisels used.

The battle had raged as far as the corner of Dock and Congress Streets, and the victory remained with the rescuers at last. The officers were completely worn out with their exertions, and it was impossible to continue their hold upon him any longer. Nalle was at liberty. His friends rushed him down Dock Street to the lower ferry, where there was a skiff lying ready to start. The fugitive was put in, the ferryman rowed off, and amid the shouts of hundreds who lined the banks of the river, Nalle was carried into Albany County.

As the skiff landed in West Troy, a negro sympathizer waded up to the waist, and pulled Nalle out of the boat. He went up the hill alone, however, and there who should he meet but Constable Becker? The latter official seeing a man with manacles on, considered it his duty to arrest him. He did so, and took him in a wagon to the office of Justice Stewart, on the second floor of the corner building near the ferry. The Justice was absent.

When the crowd on the Troy bank had seen Nalle safely landed, it was suggested that he might be recaptured. Then there was another rush made for the steam ferry-boat, which carried over about 400 persons, and left as many more–a few of the latter being soused in their efforts to get on the boat. On landing in West Troy, there, sure enough, was the prisoner, locked up in a strong office, protected by Officers Becker, Brown and Morrison, and the door barricaded.

Not a moment was lost. Up stairs went a score or more of resolute men–the rest “piling in” promiscuously, shouting and execrating the officers. Soon a stone flew against the door–then another–and bang, bang! went off a couple of pistols, but the officers who fired them took good care to aim pretty high.

The assailants were forced to retreat for a moment. “They ‘ve got pistols,” said one. “Who cares?” was the reply; “they can only kill a dozen of us–come on.” More stones and more pistol-shots ensued. At last the door was pulled open by an immense negro, and in a moment he was felled by a hatchet in the hands of Deputy-Sheriff Morrison; but the body of the fallen man blocked up the door so that it could not be shut, and a friend of the prisoner pulled him out. Poor fellow! he might well say, “Save me from my friends.” Amid the pulling and hauling, the iron had cut his arms, which were bleeding profusely, and he could hardly walk, owing to fatigue.

He has since arrived safely in Canada.

Previously: Fugitive Slave Rescue in Troy — Part 1
Next: Fugitive Slave Rescue in Troy — Part 3 – Conclusion

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.

Learn how to gain Access to the Accessible Archives databases.


Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman – Part 17

Fugitive Slave Rescue in Troy

From the Troy Whig, April 28, 1859.

Yesterday afternoon, the streets of this city and West Troy were made the scenes of unexampled excitement. For the first time since the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law, an attempt was made here to carry its provisions into execution, and the result was a terrific encounter between the officers and the prisoner’s friends, the triumph of mob law, and the final rescue of the fugitive. Our city was thrown into a grand state of turmoil, and for a time every other topic was forgotten, to give place to this new excitement. People did not think last evening to ask who was nominated at Charleston, or whether the news of the Heenan and Sayers battle had arrived–everything was merged into the fugitive slave case, of which it seems the end is not yet.

Charles Nalle, the fugitive, who was the cause of all this excitement, was a slave on the plantation of B. W. Hansbrough, in Culpepper County, Virginia, till the 19th of October, 1858, when he made his escape, and went to live in Columbia, Pennsylvania. A wife and five children are residing there now. Not long since he came to Sandlake, in this county, and resided in the family of Mr. Crosby until about three weeks ago. Since that time, he has been employed as coachman by Uri Gilbert, Esq., of this city. He is about thirty years of age, tall, quite light-complexioned, and good-looking. He is said to have been an excellent and faithful servant.

At Sandlake, we understand that Nalle was often seen by one H. F. Averill, formerly connected with one of the papers of this city, who communicated with his reputed owner in Virginia, and gave the information that led to a knowledge of the whereabouts of the fugitive. Averill wrote letters for him, and thus obtained an acquaintance with his history. Mr. Hansborough sent on an agent, Henry J. Wall, by whom the necessary papers were got out to arrest the fugitive.

Yesterday morning about 11 o’clock, Charles Nalle was sent to procure some bread for the family by whom he was employed. He failed to return. At the baker’s, he was arrested by Deputy United States Marshal J. W. Holmes, and immediately taken before United States Commissioner Miles Beach. The son of Mr. Gilbert, thinking it strange that he did not come back, sent to the house of William Henry, on Division Street, where he boarded, and his whereabouts was discovered.

The examination before Commissioner Beach was quite brief. The evidence of Averill and the agent was taken, and the Commissioner decided to remand Nalle to Virginia. The necessary papers were made out and given to the Marshal.

By this time it was two o’clock, and the fact began to be noised abroad that there was a fugitive slave in Mr. Beach’s office, corner of State and First Streets. People in knots of ten or twelve collected near the entrance, looking at Nalle, who could be seen at an upper window. William Henry, a colored man, with whom Nalle boarded, commenced talking from the curb-stone in a loud voice to the crowd. He uttered such, sentences as, “There is a fugitive slave in that office–pretty soon you will see him come forth. He is going to be taken down South, and you will have a chance to see him. He is to be taken to the depot, to go to Virginia in the first train. Keep watch of those stairs, and you will have a sight.” A number of women kept shouting, crying, and by loud appeals excited the colored persons assembled.

Still the crowd grew in numbers. Wagons halted in front of the locality, and were soon piled with spectators. An alarm of fire was sounded, and hose carriages dashed through the ranks of men, women, and boys; but they closed again, and kept looking with expectant eyes at the window where the negro was visible. Meanwhile, angry discussions commenced. Some persons agitated a rescue, and others favored law and order. Mr. Brockway, a lawyer, had his coat torn for expressing his sentiments, and other melees kept the interest alive.

All at once there was a wild hulloa, and every eye was turned up to see the legs and part of the body of the prisoner protruding from the second-story window, at which he was endeavoring to escape. Then arose a shout! “Drop him!” “Catch him!” “Hurrah!” But the attempt was a fruitless one, for somebody in the office pulled Nalle back again, amid the shouts of a hundred pair of lungs. The crowd at this time numbered nearly a thousand persons. Many of them were black, and a good share were of the female sex. They blocked up State Street from First Street to the alley, and kept surging to and fro.

Martin I. Townsend, Esq., who acted as counsel for the fugitive, did not arrive in the Commissioner’s office until a decision had been rendered. He immediately went before Judge Gould, of the Supreme Court, and procured a writ of habeas corpus in the usual form, returnable immediately. This was given Deputy Sheriff Nathaniel Upham, who at once proceeded to Commissioner Beach’s office and served it on Holmes. Very injudiciously, the officers proceeded at once to Judge Gould’s office, although it was evident they would have to pass through an excited, unreasonable crowd. As soon as the officers and their prisoner emerged from the door, an old negro, who had been standing at the bottom of the stairs, shouted, “Here they come,” and the crowd made a terrific rush at the party.

Previously: Some Scenes in the Life of Harriet Tubman — Part 13
Next: Fugitive Slave Rescue in Troy — Part 2

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.

Learn how to gain Access to the Accessible Archives databases.

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