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In the long list of names who have suffered and died in the cause of freedom, not one, perhaps, could be found whose efforts to redeem a poor family of slaves were more Christlike than Seth Concklin’s, whose noble and daring spirit has been so long completely shrouded in mystery.
The Underground Railroad PDF Book by William Still
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Except John Brown, it is a question, whether his rival could be found with respect to boldness, disinterestedness and willingness to be sacrificed for the deliverance of the oppressed. By chance one day he came across a copy of the Pennsylvania Freeman, containing the story of Peter Still.
“The Kidnapped and the Ransomed,”—how he had been torn away from his mother, when a little boy six years old; how, for forty years and more, he had been compelled to serve under the yoke, totally destitute as to any knowledge of his parents’ whereabouts; how the intense love of liberty and desire to get back to his mother had unceasingly absorbed his mind through all these years of bondage.
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How, amid the most appalling discouragements, prompted alone by his undying determination to be free and be reunited with those from whom he had been sold away, he contrived to buy himself; how, by extreme economy, from doing over-work, he saved up five hundred dollars, the amount of money required for his ransom, which.
With his freedom, he, from necessity, placed unreservedly in the confidential keeping of a Jew, named Joseph Friedman, whom he had known for a long time and could venture to trust,—how he had further toiled to save up money to defray his expenses on an expedition in search of his mother and kindred; how.
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When this end was accomplished, with an earnest purpose he took his carpet-bag in his hand, and his heart throbbing for his old home and people, he turned his mind very privately towards Philadelphia, where he hoped, by having notices read in the colored churches to the effect that “forty-one or forty-two years before two little boysA were kidnapped and carried South.”
That the memory of some of the older members might recall the circumstances, and in this way he would be aided in his ardent efforts to become restored to them. His approach home could only be made stealthily, not daring to breathe to a living soul, save his own family, his nominal Jew master, and one other friend—a slave—where he had been, the prize he had found, or anything in relation to his travels.
To his wife and children his return was unspeakably joyous. The situation of his family concerned him with tenfold more weight than ever before, As the time drew near to make the offer to his wife’s master to purchase her with his children, his heart failed him through fear of awakening the ire of slaveholders against him. The Underground Railroad PDF Book
As he knew that the law and public sentiment were alike deadly opposed to the spirit of freedom in the slave. Indeed, as innocent as a step in this direction might appear, in those days a man would have stood about as good a chance for his life in entering a lair of hungry hyenas, as a slave or free colored man would, in talking about freedom.
He concluded, therefore, to say nothing about buying. The plan proposed by Seth Concklin was told to Vina, his wife; also what he had heard from his brother about the Underground Rail Road,—how, that many who could not get their freedom in any other way, by being aided a little, were daily escaping to Canada.
Although the wife and children had never tasted the pleasures of freedom for a single hour in their lives, they hated slavery heartily, and being about to be far separated from husband and father, they were ready to assent to any proposition that looked like deliverance. So Peter proposed to Vina, that she should give him certain small articles, consisting of a cape, etc. The Underground Railroad PDF Book
Which he would carry with him as memorials, and, in case Concklin or any one else should ever come for her from him, as an unmistakable sign that all was right, he would send back, by whoever was to befriend them, the cape, so that she and the children might not doubt but have faith in the man, when he gave her the sign, (cape). Again Peter returned to Philadelphia.
And was now willing to accept the offer of Concklin. Ere long, the opportunity of an interview was had, and Peter gave Seth a very full description of the country and of his family, and made known to him, that he had very carefully gone over with his wife and children the matter of their freedom.
This interview interested Concklin most deeply. If his own wife and children had been in bondage, scarcely could he have manifested greater sympathy for them. For the hazardous work before him he was at once prepared to make a start. True he had two sisters in Philadelphia for whom he had always cherished the warmest affection, but he conferred not with them on this momentous mission. The Underground Railroad PDF Book
For full well did he know that it was not in human nature for them to acquiesce in this perilous undertaking, though one of these sisters, Mrs. Supplee, was a most faithful abolitionist. Having once laid his hand to the plough he was not the man to look back,—not even to bid his sisters good-bye, but he actually left them as though he expected to be home to his dinner as usual.
What had become of him during those many weeks of his perilous labors in Alabama to rescue this family was to none a greater mystery than to his sisters. On leaving home he simply took two or three small articles in the way of apparel with one hundred dollars to defray his expenses for a time; this sum he considered ample to start with.
Of course he had very safely concealed about him Vina’s cape and one or two other articles which he was to use for his identification in meeting her and the children on the plantation. His first thought was, on reaching his destination, after becoming acquainted with the family, being familiar with Southern manners. The Underground Railroad PDF Book
To have them all prepared at a given hour for the starting of the steamboat for Cincinnati, and to join him at the wharf, when he would boldly assume the part of a slaveholder, and the family naturally that of slaves, and in this way he hoped to reach Cincinnati direct, before their owner had fairly discovered their escape.
But alas for Southern irregularity, two or three days’ delay after being advertised to start, was no uncommon circumstance with steamers; hence this plan was abandoned. What this heroic man endured from severe struggles and unyielding exertions, in traveling thousands of miles on water and on foot, hungry and fatigued, rowing his living freight for seven days and seven nights in a skiff.
Is hardly to be paralleled in the annals of the Underground Rail Road. Safe back in the hands of her owner, to prevent her from escaping a second time, every night for about three months she was cautiously “kept locked up in the garret,” until, as they supposed, she was fully “cured of the desire to do so again.” But she was incurable. The Underground Railroad PDF Book
She had been a witness to the fact that her own father’s brains had been blown out by the discharge of a heavily loaded gun, deliberately aimed at his head by his drunken master. She only needed half a chance to make still greater struggles than ever for freedom. She had great faith in God, and found much solace in singing some of the good old Methodist tunes, by day and night.
Her owner, observing this apparently tranquil state of mind, indicating that she “seemed better contented than ever,” concluded that it was safe to let the garret door remain unlocked at night. Not many weeks were allowed to pass before she resolved to again make a bold strike for freedom. This time she had to leave the two little boys, Levin and Peter, behind.
On the night she started she went to the bed where they were sleeping, kissed them, and, consigning them into the hands of God, bade her mother good-bye, and with her two little girls wended her way again to Burlington County, New Jersey, but to a different neighborhood from that where she had been seized. The Underground Railroad PDF Book
She changed her name to Charity, and succeeded in again joining her husband, but, alas, with the heart-breaking thought that she had been compelled to leave her two little boys in slavery and one of the little girls on the road for the father to go back after. Thus she began life in freedom anew.
Levin and Peter, eight and six years of age respectively, were now left at the mercy of the enraged owner, and were soon hurried off to a Southern market and sold, while their mother, for whom they were daily weeping, was they knew not where. They were too young to know that they were slaves, or to understand the nature of the afflicting separation.
Sixteen years before Peter’s return, his older brother (Levin) died a slave in the State of Alabama, and was buried by his surviving brother, Peter. It was so kind of you to have in mind my intense interest and anxiety in the success and fate of poor Concklin! That he desired and intended to hazard an attempt of the kind. The Underground Railroad PDF Book Download
I well understood; but what particular one, or that he had actually embarked in the enterprise, I had not been able to learn. His memory will ever be among the sacredly cherished with me. He certainly displayed more real disinterestedness, more earnest, unassuming devotedness, than those who claim to be the sincerest friends of the slave can often boast.
What more Saviour-like than the willing sacrifice he has rendered! Never shall I forget that night of our extremest peril (as we supposed), when he came and so heartily proffered his services at the hazard of his liberty, of life even, in behalf of William L. Chaplin. Such generosity! at such a moment!
The emotions it awakened no words can bespeak! They are to be sought but in the inner chambers of one’s own soul! He as earnestly devised the means, as calmly counted the cost, and as unshrinkingly turned him to the task, as if it were his own freedom he would have won. The Underground Railroad PDF Book Download
Through his homely features, and humble garb, the intrepidity of soul came out in all its lustre! Heroism, in its native majesty, commanded one’s admiration and love! Most truly can I enter into your sorrows, and painfully appreciate the pang of disappointment which must have followed this sad intelligence.
But so inadequate are words to the consoling of such griefs, it were almost cruel to attempt to syllable one’s sympathies. I cannot bear to believe, that Concklin has been actually murdered, and yet I hardly dare hope it is otherwise. And the poor slaves, for whom he periled so much, into what depths of hopelessness and woe are they again plunged!
But the deeper and blacker for the loss of their dearly sought and new-found freedom. How long must wrongs like these go unredressed? “How long, O God, how long?” All the way from the wharf the cold rain poured down in torrents and they got completely drenched, but their hearts were swelling with joy and gladness unutterable. The Underground Railroad PDF Book Download
From the thick coating of coal dust, and the effect of the rain added thereto, all traces of natural appearance were entirely obliterated, and they looked frightful in the extreme. But they had placed their lives in mortal peril for freedom. Every step of their critical journey was reviewed and commented on, with matchless natural eloquence,—how, when almost on the eve of suffocating in their warm berths.
In order to catch a breath of air, they were compelled to crawl, one at a time, to a small aperture; but scarcely would one poor fellow pass three minutes being thus refreshed, ere the others would insist that he should “go back to his hole.” Air was precious, but for the time being they valued their liberty at still greater price.
After they had talked to their hearts’ content, and after they had been thoroughly cleansed and changed in apparel, their physical appearance could be easily discerned, which made it less a wonder whence such outbursts of eloquence had emanated. They bore every mark of determined manhood. The Underground Railroad PDF Book Free
The date of this arrival was February 26, 1854, and the following description was then recorded— Arrived, by Steamer Pennsylvania, James Mercer, William H. Gilliam and John Clayton, from Richmond. James was owned by the widow, Mrs. T.E. White. He is thirty-two years of age, of dark complexion, well made, good-looking, reads and writes, is very fluent in speech, and remarkably intelligent.
From a boy, he had been hired out. The last place he had the honor to fill before escaping, was with Messrs. Williams and Brother, wholesale commission merchants. For his services in this store the widow had been drawing one hundred and twenty-five dollars per annum, clear of all expenses.