Thursday, May 2, 2019

They Escaped By Train!

Ball And Chain, Restrain, Heavy, IconI just discovered a book which told the story of a married couple who made their escape from the South in a truly unique way.  They were both slaves, each working for a different owner but allowed to live together.  She worked as a lady's maid and he worked for a carpenter so they had a better life than most.  No matter, they were still slaves, property who could be treated in any way, killed, or sold.

Over the years, they saved as much money as they could from the little they received from his job.  Finally, a few days before Christmas in 1848, they left but the route they chose to escape to the north was completely different than anyone else's.

Ellen and William Croft made history this way. She was the daughter of a slave and plantation owner, meaning she was still classified as a slave but her skin was so light, she could pass as "white" but her husband was dark enough that he could not.  So they hatched a plan in which she would be "Mr Johnson" who had injured his arm, wore colored glasses, and had something wrong with his jaw. This disguise made it so she could buy tickets for her and her "slave" because slaves could not purchase transportation tickets for themselves.

They timed their escape so they could board the train just as it left the station.  Mr Johnson rode in first class while William spent most of his time in the servant quarters.  William would fix medications and rubs for his "Master" to take care of him.  As they moved traveled along the route, Mr Johnson was totally accepted as the master and was given advice on how by best treat his servant. This continued as they traveled by train, boat, and train again northward.

Eventually, they reached the last leg of the journey, heading into Philadelphia but at the last check point, Mr Johnson has to "prove" that William was his "slave".  Fortunately, others on the train could verify they'd gotten on the train long before.  This allowed the customs man to wave them through because this was the last point the south could capture runaways before the north.

Furthermore, on the trip into Philadelphia, other people encouraged William to run away, gave him names, and even the name of a boarding house.  He took the information and used it once they arrived in Philadelphia.  At the boarding house, Mr Johnson became Mrs Croft as she changed back into her clothing.  Those who helped escaped slaves suggested the Crofts head to Canada because they could still be captured in Philadelphia and sent back.  In Canada, they'd be truly free.

Since it was winter, the couple headed toward Boston, stopping first with a Quaker family who taught them their letters and to write their names before they moved on to Boston but in 1850, slave hunters arrived in Boston to take them back south.  They escaped once more to England where they settled for the next 20 years and started a family with 5 children.  In 1870, they returned to the United States where they settled in Georgia and founded a school for newly freed slaves.

After living in the south for the rest of their lives, she died in 1891 while he lived till 1900. Let me know what you think, I'd love to hear.  Have a great day.

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