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Full text of "A narrative of the adventures and escape of Moses Roper, from American slavery"

JS'ARRATIVE 
'ESCAPE FROM SLAVERY. 



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ROPER'S 

ESCAPE FKOM SLAVERY. 



A NAEEATIVE 

OP THE 

ADVENTURES AND ESCAPE 

OP 

MOSES ROPER, 

FROM 

AMERICAN SLAVERY. 



" By our sufferings, since ye brought us 
To the man- degrading mart ; 

All sustained by patience, taught us 
Only by a broken heart." 



TWENTY-EIGHTH THOUSAND. 



LONDON: 
PUBLISHED BY HARYEY AXD DARTON, 

5*, GRACECHURCH-STREET. 

1844. 




y /h ff^k^^ 1 



INTRODUCTION. 



The determination of laying this little narra- 
tive before the public, did not arise from any 
desire to make myself conspicuous, but with 
the view of exposing the cruel system of sla- 
very as will here be laid before my readers ; 
from the urgent calls of nearly all the friends 
to whom I had related any part of my story, 
and also from the recommendation of anti- 
slavery meetings, which I have attended, 
through the suggestion of many warm friends 
of the cause of the oppressed. 

The general narrative, I am aware, may 
seem to many of my readers, and especially to 
those who have not been before put in posses- 
sion of the actual features of this accursed sys- 
tem, somewhat at variance with the dictates 
of humanity. But the facts related here do 
not come before the reader unsubstantiated by 
collateral evidence, nor highly coloured to 
the disadvantage of our cruel task masters. 

My readers may be put in possession of 
facts respecting this system which equal in 
cruelty my own narrative, on an authority 
which may be invested with the greatest 

A3 



ri. INTRODUCTION. 

satisfaction. Besides which, this little book 
will not be confined to a small circle of my 
own friends in London, or even in England. 
The slave-holder, the colonizationist. and even 
Mr. Gooch himself, will be able to ol^a:^ this 
document, and be at * to draw from it 

whatever they are honestly able, in order to 
set me down as the tool of a party. Yea, 
i triend Brechearidge, a gentleman known 
at Glrsgow, will be able to possess this, and 
to draw from it all the forcible arguments on 
his own side, which in his wisdom, honesty, 
and candour, he may be able to adduce. 

The earnest wish to lay this narrative be- 
fore my friends as an impartial statement of 
, has led me to develope some part of my 
conduct, which I now deeply deplore. The 
ignorance in which the poor slaves are kept 
by their masters, preclude almost the po- 
lity of their being alive to any moral duties. 

With these remarks, I leave the statement 
before the public. May this little volume be 
the instrument of opening the eyes of the ig- 
norant of the system— of convincing the wick- 
ed, cruel, and hardened slave-holder — and of 
befriending generally the cause of oppressed 
humanity. 

Moses Roper. 
London. 



CONTENTS 



CHAPTER I. 

Birth-place of the Author.— The first time he 
was sold from his mother. — He passes through 
several hands 9 

CHAPTER II. 

The Author is sold to Mr. J. Gooch. — The cruel 
treatment he both received and witnessed on 
that Estate. — Repeated attempts at running 
away. — Escapes to his mother after being ab- 
sent from her about ten years. — Meets with 
his sister, whom he had never seen before, on 
the road, who conducted him to his Mother • • 16 

CHAPTER III. 

An Account of the Author's meeting with his 
Mother, who did not know him ; but was with 
her a very short time before he was taken by 
armed men, and imprisoned for thirty-one 
days, and then taken back to his Master. ... 40 

CHAPTER IV. 

The Author is flogged and punished in various 
ways, but still perseveres in his attempts to 
escape, till he was sold to Mr. "Wilson. ..... 52 

CHAPTER V. 

The Author was not long with Mr. "Wilson, who 
was a Negro trader, before he was exchanged 
to Mr. Rowland, who was also a Trader, for 



riii. CONTENTS. 

another slave and after being with him for 
about a year, was sold to Mr. D. Goodly, who 
soon exchanged him again to Mr. Louis. ... CD 

CHAPTER VI. 

Travels with Mr. Louis to Pendleton Indian 
Springs, from thence to Columbus, where he 
was sold at Auction to Mr. Beveridge. — His 
Travels and History with Mr. B. — Is sold 
again to Mr. Register 74 

CHAPTER VII. 

The Author's last attempt and final escape from 
Mariannato Savannah. — From thence to New 
York. — Quarantined at Statten Island .... 81 

CHAPTER VIII. 

His arrival in New York. — On to Poughkeepsie. 
— Albany. — Rogester.— Vermont. — Boston, 
and returned from thence to New York, and 
embarked for England 102 

CHAPTER IX. 

The Author arrives at Liverpool, November 29th, 
1835. — Makes his way for London Ill 

Lines written on the occasion of the Escape to 
England of Mr. Moses Roper, late an Ameri- 
can Slave, now a Freeman of Great Britain, 
by Miss Tuckey 119 

Population of the United States. — Number of 
Slaves 121 



ESCAPE, 

&c. 



CHAPTER I. 

Birth-place of the Author. — The first time he \ras 
sold from his Mother, and passed through several 
other hands. 

I was born in North Carolina, in Caswell 
County, I am not able to tell in what month 
or year. What I shall now relate, is, what 
was told me by my mother and grandmother. 
A few months before I was born, my father 
married my mother's young mistress. As 
soon as my father's wife heard of my birth, 
she sent one of my mother's sisters to see 



10 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

whether I was white or black, and when my 
aunt had seen me, she returned back as soon 
as she could, and told her mistress that I was 
white, and resembled Mr. Roper very nuch. 
Mr. Roper's wife not being pleased with this 
report, she got a large club -stick and knife, 
and hastened to the place in which my mother 
was confined. She went into my mother's 
room with a full intention to murder me with 
her knife and club, but as she was going to 
stick the knife into me, my grandmother 
happening to come in, caught the knife and 
saved my life. But as well as I can recollect 
from what my mother told me, my father sold 
her and myself, soon after her confinement. 
I cannot recollect anything that is worth no- 
tice till I was six or seven years of age. My 
mother being half white, and my father a 
white man, I was at that time very white. 
Soon after I was six or seven years of age, 
my mother's old master died, that is, my fa- 
ther's wife's father. All his slaves had to be 



FROM SLAVERY. 11 

divided among the children.* I have men- 
tioned before of my father disposing of me, I 
am not sure whether he exchanged me and 
my mother for another slave or not, but think 
it very likely he did exchange me with one of 
his wife's brothers or sisters, because I re- 
member when my mother's old master died, 
I was living with my father's wife's brother- 
in-law, whose name was Mr. Durham. My 
mother was drawn with the other slaves. 

The way they divide their slaves is this : 
they write the names of different slaves on a 
small piece of paper, and put it into a box, 
and let them all draw. I think that Mr. 
Durham drew my mother, and Mr. Fowler 
drew me, so we were separated a considerable 
distance, I cannot say how far. My resem- 
bling my father so much, and being whiter 

* Slaves are usually a part of the marriage por- 
tion, but lent rather than given, to be returned to 
the estate at the decease of the father, in order that 
they may be divided equally among his children. 



ROPER'S ESCAPE 

than the other slaves, caused me to be soon 
sold to what they call a negro trader, who 
took me to the Southern States of America 
several hundred miles from my mother. As 
well as I can recollect I was then about 6ix 
years old. The trader, Mr. Mitchell, after 
travelling several hundred miles, and selling a 
good many of his slaves, found he could not 
sell me very well, (as I was so much whiter 
than other slaves were) for he had been trying 
several months— left me with a Mr. Sneed, 
who kept a large boarding-house, who took 
me to wait at table, and sell me if he could. 
I think I stayed with Mr. Sneed about a year, 
but he could not sell me. When Mr. Mitch- 
ell had sold his slaves, he went to the north, 
and brought up another drove, and returned 
to the south with them, and sent his son-in- 
law into Washington, in Georgia, after me, so 
he came and took me from Mr. Sneed, and 
met his father-in-law with me, in a town call- 
ed Lancaster, with his drove of slaves. We 



FROM SLAVERY. 13 

stayed in Lancaster a week, because it was 
court week, and there were a great many peo- 
ple there, and it was a good opportunity for 
selling the slaves, and there he was enabled to 
sell me to a gentleman, Dr. Jones, who was 
both a Doctor and a Cotton Planter. He 
took me into his shop to beat up and mix me- 
dicines, which was not a very hard employ- 
ment, but I did not keep it long, as the Doc- 
tor soon sent me to his cotton plantation, that 
I might be burnt darker by the sun. He sent 
me to be with a tailor to learn the trade, but 
the journeymen being white men, Mr. Bryant, 
the tailor, did not let me work in the shop ; 
I cannot say whether it was the prejudice of 
bis men in not wanting me to sit in the shop 
with me, or whether Mr. Bryant wanted to 
keep me about the house to do the domes- 
tic work, instead of teaching me the trade. 
After several months, my master came to 
t know how I got on with the trade : I am not 
able to tell Mr. Bryant's answer, but it was 
B 



14 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

either that I could not learn, or that his jour- 
neymen were unwilling that I should sit in 
the shop with them. I was only once in the 
shop all the time I was there, and them only 
for an hour or two, before his wife called me 
out to do some other work. So my master 
took me home, and as he was going to send 
a load of cotton to Camden, about forty miles 
distance, he sent me with the bales of cotton 
to be sold with it, where I was sold to a 
gentleman, named Allen, but Mr. Allen soon 
exchanged me for a female slave to please 
his wife. The traders who bought me, were 
named Cooper and Lindsey, who took me 
for sale> but could not sell me, people ob- 
jecting to my being rather white. They 
then took me to the city of Fayetteville, 
North Carolina, where he swopt me for a boy, 
that was blacker than me, to Mr. Smith, 
who lived several miles off. 

I was with Mr. Smith nearly a year. I 
arrived at the first knowledge of my age 



FROM SLAVERY. 15 

when I lived with him. I was then between 
twelve and thirteen years old, it was when 
President Jackson was elected the first time, 
and he has been President eight years, so I 
must be nearly twenty one years of age. At 
this time I was quite a small boy, and was 
sold to Mr. Hodge, a negro trader. Here I 
began to enter into hardships. 



16 ROPER'S ESCAPE 



CHAPTER II. 

The Author's being sold to Mr. J. Gooch.— The 
cruel treatment he both received and witnessed 
while on his estate. — Repeated attempts at run- 
ning away. — Escapes to his mother after being 
absent from her about ten years. — Meets with his 
sister, whom he had never seen before, on the 
road, who conducted him to his mother. 

After travelling several hundred miles, Mr. 
Hodge sold me to Mr. Gooch, the Cotton 
Planter, Cashaw County, South Carolina, he 
purchased me at a town called Liberty Hill, 
about three miles from his home. As soon 
as he got home, he immediately put me on his 
cotton plantation to work, and put me under 
overseers, gave me an allowance of meat and 
bread with the other slaves, which was not 
half enough for me to live upon, and very la- 
borious work; here my heart was almost 



FROM SLAVERY. 17 

Ijroke with grief at leaving my fellow-slaves. 
Mr. Gooch did not mind my grief, for he flog- 
ged me nearly every day, and very severely. 
Mr. Gooch bought me for his son-in-law, Mr. 
Hammans, about five miles distance from his 
residence. This man had but two slaves be- 
sides myself, he treated me very kindly for a 
week or two, but in summer, when cotton was 
ready to hoe, he gave me task work, connect- 
ed with this department, which I could not 
get done, not having worked on cotton farms 
before. When I failed in my task he com- 
menced flogging me, and set me to work 
without any shirt, in the cotton field, in a 
very hot sun, in the month of July. In 
August, Mr. Condell, his overseer, gave me a 
task at pulling fodder ; having finished my 
task before night, I left the field, the rain 
came on which soaked the fodder, on dis- 
covering this, he threatened to flog me for 
not getting in the fodder before the rain came, 
I attempted to run away, knowing that I 
B3 



18 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

should get a flogging. I was then between 
thirteen and fourteen years of age, I ran away 
to the woods half naked, I was caught by a 
slave-holder, who put me in Lancaster Gaol. 
When they put slaves in gaol, they advertise 
for their masters to own them ; but if the 
master does not claim his slave in six months, 
from the time of imprisonment, the slave is 
sold for gaol fees. When the slave runs 
away, the master always adopts a more ri- 
gorous system of flogging, this was the case 
in the present instance. After this, having 
determined from my youth to gain my free- 
dom, I made several attempts, was caught, 
and got a severe flogging of one hundred 
lashes, each time. Mr. Hammans was a 
very severe and cruel master, and his wife 
still worse, she used to tie me up and flog me 
while naked. 

After Mr. Hammans saw that I was deter- 
mined to die in the woods, and not live with 
him, he tried to obtain a piece of land from 



FROM SLAVERY. 19 

his father-in-law, Mr. Gooch ; not having 
the means of purchasing it, he exchanged me 
for the land. 

As soon as Mr. Gooch had possession of 
me again, knowing that I was averse to 
going back to him, he chained me by the 
neck to his chaise. In this manner he took 
me to his home at Mac Daniel's Ferry, in the 
County of Chester, a distance of fifteen miles. 
After which, he put me into a swamp, to cut 
trees, the heaviest work, which men of twenty 
five or thirty years of age have to do, I being 
but sixteen. Here I was on very short al- 
lowance of food, and having heavy work, was 
too weak to fulfil my tasks. For this, I got 
many severe floggings : and, after I had got 
my irons off, I made another attempt at run- 
ning away. He took my irons off, in the full 
anticipation that I could never get across the 
Catarba River, even when at liberty. On 
this, I procured a small Indian canoe, which 
was tied to a tree, and ultimately got across 



20 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

the river in it. I then wandered through the 
wilderness for several days without any food, 
and but a drop of water to allay my thirst, 
till I became so starved, that I was obliged 
to go to a house to beg for something to eat, 
when I was captured, and again imprisoned. 

Mr. Gooch having heard of me through an 
advertisement, sent his 6on after me ; he tied 
me up, and took me back to his father. Mr. 
Gooch then obtained the assistance of another 
slave-holder, and tied me up in his black- 
smith's shop, and gave me fifty lashes with a 
cow-hide. He then put a log chain, weigh- 
ing twenty-five pounds, round my neck, and 
sent me into a field, into which he followed 
me with a cow-hide, intending to set his 
slaves to flog me again. Knowing this, and 
dreading to suffer again in this way, I gave 
him the slip, and got out of his sight, he 
having stopped to speak with the other slave- 
holder. 

I got to a canal on the Catarba River, on 



FROM SLAVERY. 21 

the banks of which, and near to a lock, I pro- 
cured a stone and a piece of iron, with which 
I forced the ring off my chain, and got it off, 
and then crossed the river, and walked about 
twenty miles, when I fell in with a slave hold- 
er, named Ballad, who had married the sis- 
ter of Mr. Hammans. I knew that he was 
not so cruel as Mr. Gooch, and therefore, beg- 
ged of him to buy me. Mr. Ballad, who was 
one of the best planters in the neighbourhood, 
said that he was not able to buy me, and stat- 
ed, that he was obliged to take me back to my 
master, on account of the heavy fine attaching 
to a man harbouring a slave. Mr. Ballad 
proceeded to take me back ; as we came in 
sight of Mr. Gooch's, all the treatment that I 
had met with there, came forcibly upon my 
mind, the powerful influence of which is beyond 
description. On my knees, with tears in my 
eyes, with terror in my countenance, and fer- 
vency in all my features, I implored Mr. Bal- 
lad to buy me, but he again refused, and I was 



22 ROPEITS ESCAPE 

taken back to my dreaded and cruel master. 
Having reached Mr. Gooch's he proceeded 
to punish me. This he did, by first tying my 
wrists together and placing them over the 
knees, he then put a stick through, under my 
knees and over my arms, and having thus se- 
cured my arms, he proceeded to flog me, and 
gave me five hundred lashes on my bare back. 
This may appear incredible, but the marks 
which they left, at present remain on my body, 
a standing testimony to the truth of this state- 
ment of his severity. He then chained me 
down in a log-pen with a forty pounds chain, 
and made me lie on the damp earth all night. 
In the mornii g, after his breakfast, he came 
to me, and without giving me any breakfast, 
tied me to a large heavy arrow, which is usu- 
ally drawn by a horse, and made me drag x it 
to the cotton field for the horse to use in tho 
field. Thus, the reader will see, that it was 
of no possible use to my master, to make me 



FROM SLAVERY. 23 

drag it to the cotton field and not through 
it; his cruelty went so far, as actually to 
make me the slave of his horse, and thus to 
degrade me. He then flogged me again, and 
set me to work in the corn field the whole of 
that day, and at night, chained me down in 
the log-pen as before. The next morning, 
he took me to the cotton field, and gave me 
a third flogging, and sent me to hoe cotton. 
At this time, I was dreadfully sore and weak 
with the repeated floggings and cruel treat- 
ment I had endured. He put me under a 
black man, with orders, that if I did not 
keep my row up in hoeing with this man, he 
was to flog me. The reader must recollect 
here, that not being used to this kind of work, 
having been a domestic slave, it was impos- 
sible for me to keep up with him, and there- 
fore, I was repeatedly flogged during the day. 
Mr. Gooch had a female servant about 
eighteen years old, who had also been a do- 
mestic slave, and, through not being able to 



24 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

fulfil her task, had run away : which slave 
he was at this time punishing for that of- 
fence. On the third day, he chained me to 
this female slave, with a large chain of forty 
pounds* weight round my neck. It was most 
harrowing to my feelings thus to be chained 
to a young female slave, for whom I would 
rather have suffered one hundred lashes than 
she should have been thus treated ; he kept 
me chained to her during the week, and re- 
peatedly flogged us both, while thus chained 
together, and forced us to keep up with the 
other slaves, although retarded by the heavy 
weight of the log-chain. 

Here again, words cannot describe the 
misery which possessed both body and mind 
whilst under this treatment, and which was 
most dreadfully increased by the sympathy 
which I felt for my poor, degraded fellow-suf- 

* This was a chain that they used to draw logs 
with from the woods, when they clear their land. 



FROM SLAVERY. 25 

ferer. On the Friday morning, I entreated 
my master to set me free from my chains, and 
promised him to do the task, which was given 
me, and more, if possible, if he would desist 
from flogging me. This he refused to do until 
Saturday night, when he did set me free.— 
This must rather be ascribed to his own in- 
terest in preserving me from death, as it was 
very evident I could no longer have survived 
under such treatment. 

After this, though still determined in my 
own mind to escape, I stayed with him some 
months, during which, he frequently flogged 
me, but not so severely as before related. — 
During this time, I had opportunity for reco- 
vering my health, and using means to heal my 
wounds. My master's cruelty was not confined 
to me, it was his general conduct to all his 
slaves. I might relate many instances to sub- 
stantiate this, but will confine myself to one or 
two. Mr. Gooch, it is proper to observe, was 
a member of a Baptist Church, called Black 
c 



2(i ROPERVS ESCAPE 

Jack Meeting House, in Cashaw county, 
which church I attended for several years, 
but was never inside. This is accounted for, 
by the fact, that the coloured population are 
not permitted to mix with the white popula- 
tion. In the Roman Catholic church no 
distinction is made. Mr. Gooch had a slave 
named Phil, who was a member of a Method- 
ist church ; this man was between seventy 
and eighty years of age : he was so feeble 
that he could not accomplish his tasks, for 
which his master used to chain him round 
the neck, and run him down a steep hill ; 
this treatment he never relinquished to the 
time of his death. Another case, was that 
of a slave, named Peter, who, for not doing 
his task, he flogged nearly to death, and af- 
terwards pulled out his pistol to shoot him, 
but his, (Mr. Gooch's) daughter snatched 
the pistol from his hand. Another mode of 
punishment which this man adopted, was 
that of using iron horns, with bells, attached 



FROM SLAVERY. 27 

to the back of the slave's neck. The follow- 
ing is the instrument of torture : 




A WOMAN WITH IRON HORNS AND BELLS 
ON, TO KEEP HER FROM RUNNING AWAY. 

This instrument he used to prevent the ne- 
groes running away, being a very ponderous 
machine, several feet in height, and the cross 
pieces being two feet four, and six feet in 
length. This custom is generally adopted 
among the slave holders in South Carolina, 



81 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

and some other slave States. One morning, 
about an hour before day break, I was going 
on an errand for my master ; having proceed- 
ed about a quarter of a mile, I came up to a 
man named King, (Mr. Sumlin's overseer.) 
who had caught a young girl that had run 
away with the above machine on her. She 
had proceeded four miles from her station, 
with the intention of getting into the hands of 
a more humane master. She came up with 
this overseer nearly dead, and could get no 
farther; he immediately secured her, and took 
her back to her master, a Mr. Johnson. 

Having been in the habit of going over 
many slave States with my master, I had good 
opportunities of witnessing the harsh treat- 
ment which was adopted by masters towards 
their slaves. As I have never heard or read 
anything connected with slavery, so cruel as 
what I have myself witnessed, it will be as 
well to mention a case or two. 

A large farmer, Colonel M'Quiller, in 



FROM SLAVERY. 29 

Cashaw county, South Carolina, was in the 
habit of driving nails into a hogshead, so as to 
leave the point of the nail just protruding in 
the inside of the cask ; into this, he used to 
put his slaves for punishment, and roll them 
down a very long and steep hill. I have 
heard from several slaves, (though I had no 
means of ascertaining the truth of the state- 
ment,) that in this way he had killed six or 
seven of his slaves. This plan was first adopt- 
ed by a Mr. Perry, who lived on the Catarba 
River, and has since been adopted by several 
planters. Another was, that of a young lad, 
who had been hired by Mr. Bell, a member 
of a holding church, to hoe three-quarters 
of an acre of cotton per day. Having been 
brought up as a domestic slave, be was not 
able to accomplish the task assigned to him. 
On the Saturday night, he left three or four 
rows to do on the Sunday ; on the same night 
it rained very hard, by which the master could 
tell that he had done some of the rows ou the 
C 3 



30 ROPERS ESCAPE 

Sunday ; on Monday, his master took and 
tied him up to a tree in the field, and kept 
him there the whole of that day, and flogged 
him at intervals. At night, w^en he was ta- 
ken down, he was so weak that he could not 
get home, having a mile to go. Two white 
men who were employed by Mr. Bell, put 
him on a horse, took him home, and threw 
him down on the kitchen floor, while they 
proceeded to their supper. In a little time, 
they heard some deep groans proceeding from 
the kitchen, they went to see him die, he had 
groaned his last. Thus, Mr. Bell flogged 
the poor boy, even to death ; for what ? for 
breaking the Sabbath, when he (his master) 
had set him a task, on Saturday, which it was 
not possible for him to do, and which, if he 
did not do no mercy would be extended to- 
wards him ! The general custom in this respect 
is, that if a man kills his own slave, no notice 
is taken of it by the civil functionaries ; but if 
a man kills a slave, belonging to another 



FROM SLAVERY. 31 

master, he is compelled to pay the worth of 
the slave. In this case, a jury met, returned 
a verdict of u Wilful Murder" against this 
man, and ordered him to pay the value. Mr. 
Bell was unable to do this, but a Mr. Cun- 
ningham paid the debt, and took this Mr. 
Bell, with this recommendation for cruelty, to 
be his overseer. 

It will be observed, that most of the cases 
here cited, are those in respect to males. 
Many instances, however, in respect to fe- 
males, might be mentioned, but are too dis- 
gusting to appear in this narrative. The 
cases here brought forward are not rare, but 
the continued feature of slavery. But I must 
now follow up the narrative, as regards my- 
self, in peculiar. I stayed with this master 
for several months, during which time we 
went on very well in general. In August, 
1831, (this was my first acquaintance with 
any date;) I happened to hear a man mention 
this date, and, as it excited my curiosity, I 



32 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

asked what it meant, they told me it was tbe 
number of the year from the birth of Christ. 
Oq this date, August, 1831, some cows broke 
in a crib where the corn is kept, and ate a 
great deal. For this, his slaves were tied up, 
and received several floggings ; but myself 
and another man, hearing the groans of those 
who were being flogged, stayed back in the 
field, and would not come up. Upon this,- I 
thought to escape punishment. On the Mon- 
day morning, however, I heard my master 
flogging the other man who was in the field ; 
he could riot see me, it being a field of Indian 
corn, which grows to a great height. Being 
afraid that he would catch me, and dreading 
a flogging more than many other, I deter- 
mined to run for it ; and, after travelling forty 
miles, I arrived at the estate of Mr. Craw- 
ford, in North Carolina, Mecklinburgh coun- 
ty. Having formerly heard people talk about 
the Free States, I determined upon going 
thither, and, if possible, in my way to find out 



FROM SLAVERY. S3- 



ray .poor mother, who was in slavery, several 
hundred miles from Chester; bat the hope o£ 
doing the latter, was very faint, and, even if 
I did, it was not likely that she would know 
me, having been separated from her when be- 
tween five and six years old. 

The first night I slept in a barn, upon Mr, 
Crawford's estate, and, having overslept my- 
self, was awoke by Mr. Crawford's overseer, 
upon which I was dreadfully frightened ; he 
asked me, what I was doing there? I made 
no reply to him then ; and he making sure 
that he had secured a run-a-way slave, did 
not press me for an answer. On my way to 
his house, however, I made up the following 
story, which I told him in the presence of his 
wife ; — I said that I had been bound to a very 
cruel master when I was a little boy, and thac 
having been treated very badly, I wanted to 
get home to see my mother. This statement 
may appear to some to be untrue, bnt as I 
understood the w r ord bound, I considered it to 



ROPER'S ESC API: 

to apply to my case, having been sold to him, 
and thereby bound to serve him ; though still, 
I did rather hope that he would understand it, 
that I was bound when a boy, till twenty-one 
years of age. Though I was white at that 
time, he would not believe my story, on ac- 
count of my hair being curly and woolly, 
which led him to conclude I was possessed of 
enslaved blood. The overseer's wife, how- 
ever, who seemed much interested in me, said 
she did not think I was of the African origin, 
and that she had seen white men still darker 
than me; her persuasion prevailed; and af- 
ter the overseer had given me as much butter- 
milk as I could drink, and something to eat, 
which was very acceptable, having had no- 
thing for two days, I set off for Charlotte, in 
North Carolina, the largest town in the coun- 
ty. I went on very quickly the whole of that 
day, fearful of being pursued. The trees were 
very thick on each side of the road, and only 
a few houses, at the distance of two or three 



FROM SLAVERY. 35 

miles apart ; as I proceeded, I turned round 
in all directions to see if I was pursued, and if 
I caught a glimpse of any one coming along the 
road, I immediately rushed into the thickest 
part of the wood, to elude the grasp of what, 
I was afraid, might be my master. I went 
on in this way the whole day; at night, I 
came up with two waggons, they had been to 
market; the regular road waggons? do not ge- 
nerally put up at inns, but encamp in the 
roads and fields. When I came to them, I 
told them the same story I had told Mr. 
Crawford's overseer, with the assurance that 
the statement would meet the same success. 
After they had heard me, they gave me some- 
thing to eat, and also a lodging in the camp 
with them. 

I then went on with them about five miles, 
and they agreed to take me with them as far 
as they went, if I would assist them. This I 
promised to do. In the morning, however, I 
was much frightened by one of the men put 



3« ROPER'S ESCAPE 

ting several questions to me — we were then 
about three miles from Charlotte. When 
in a mile of the town, we stopped at a 
brook to water the horses; while stopping 
there I saw the men whispering, and fancying 
I overheard them say they would put me in 
Charlotte gacl when they got there. I made 
my escape into the woods, pretending to be 
looking nfter something till I got out of their 
sight. I then ran on as fast I could, but did 
not go through the town of Charlotte, as had 
been my intention, being a large town, I was 
fearful it might prove fatal to my escape. 
Here I was at a loss how to get on, as houses 
were not very distant from each other for 
nearly two hundred miles. 

While thinking what I should do, T observed 
some waggons before me, which I determined 
to keep behind, and never go nearer to them 
than a quarter of a mile — in this way I tra- 
velled till I got to Salisbury. If I happened 
to meet any person on the road, I was afraid 



FROM SLAVERY. 37 

they would take me up, I asked them how far 
the waggons had gone on before me ? to make 
them suppose I belonged to the waggons. At 
night, I slept on the ground, in the woods, 
some little distance from the waggons, but not 
near enough to be seen by the men belonging 
to them. All this time, I had bat little food, 
principally fruit, which I found on the road. 
On Thursday night, I got into Salisbury, 
having left Chester on the Monday morning 
preceding. After this, being afraid my master 
was in pursuit of me, I left the usual line of 
road, and took another direction, through 
Huntsville and Salem, principally through 
fields and woods ; on my way to Caswell 
Court-House, adistance of nearly two hundred 
miles from Salisbury,* I was stopped by a 
white man, to whom I told my old story, and 
again succeeded in my escape. I also came 



* The distance from Salisbury to Caswell Court- 
house is not so far, but I had to go a round about way, 
D 



38 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

up with a small cart, driven by a poor man, 
who had been moving into some of the west- 
ern territories, and was going back to Vir- 
ginia, to move some more of his luggage. 
On this, I told him I was going the same 
way to Hilton, thirteen miles from Caswell 
Court-House, he took me up in his cart, and 
went to the Red House, two miles from Mil- 
ton, the place where Mr. Mitchell took me 
from, when six years old, to go to the South- 
ern States. This was a very providential 
circumstance, for it happened, that at the 
time I had to pass through Caswell Court- 
House, a fair or election was going on, 
which caused the place to be much crowded 
with people, and rendered it more dangerous 
for me to pass through. 

At the Red Housa I left the cart, and 
wandered about a long time, not knowing 
which way to go and find my mother. Af- 
ter some time, I took the road leading over 
Ikeo Creek. I bhortly came up with a little 



FROM SLAVERY. 39 

girl, about six years old, and asked her where 
she was going, she said, to her mother's, 
pointing to a house on a hill, half a mile off. 
She had been at the overseer's house, and 
was returning to her mother. I then felt 
some emotions arising in my breast, which I 
cannot describe, but will be explained in the 
sequel. I told her I was very thirsty, and 
would go with her to get something to drink. 
On our way, I asked her several questions, 
such as her name, that of her mother, she 
said her's was Maria, and that of her mother's 
Nancy. I inquired, if her mother had any 
more children ? she said, five besides herself, 
and that they had been sold, that one had been 
sold when a little boy. I then asked the 
name of this child ? she said it was Moses. 
These answers as we approached the house, 
led me nearer and nearer to the finding out 
the object of my pursuit, and of recognising 
in the little girl, the person ot my own sister. 



40 ROPEBS ESCAPE 



CHAPTER III. 

An account of the Author's meeting with his mo- 
ther, who did not know him, but was with her a 
very short time before he was taken by armed 
men, and imprisoned for thirty-one days, and then 
taken back to his master. 

At last I got to my mother's house ! my mo- 
ther was at home, I asked her if she knew me ? 
she said, no. Her master was having a house 
built close by, and as the men were digging a 
well, she supposed that I was one of the dig- 
gers. I told her, I knew her very well, and 
thought that if she looked at me a little, she 
would know me, but this had no effect. I then 
asked her if she had any sons ? she said, yes ; 
but none so large as me. I then waited a few 
minutes, and narrated some circumstances to 
her, attending my being sold into slavery, and 
how she grieved at my loss. Here the mother's 



FROM SLAVERY. 41 

feelings on that dire occasion, and -which a 
mother only can know, rushed to her mind : 
she saw her own son before her, for whom she 
had so often wept ; and, in an instant, we were 
clasped in each other's arms, amidst the ardent 
interchange of caresses and tears of joy. Ten 
years had elapsed since I had seen my dear 
mother. My own feelings, and the circum- 
stances attending my coming home, have been 
often brought to mind since, on a perusal of 
the 42nd, 43rd, 44th, and 45th chapters of 
Genesis. What could picture my feelings so 
well, as I once more beheld the mother who 
had brought me into the world, and had 
nourished me, not with the anticipation of 
my being torn from her maternal care, when 
only six years old, to become the prey of a 
mercenary and blood-stained slave holder: I 
say, what picture so vivid in description of this 
part of my tale, as the 7th and 8th verses of 
the 42nd chapter of Genesis. " And Joseph 

saw his brethren, and he knew them, but made 
D3 



42 ROPER'S ESCAPTC 

himself strange unto them. And Joseph knew 
his brethren, but they knew not him." After 
the first emotion of the mother, on recognizing 
her first-born, had somewhat subsided, could 
the reader not fancy the little one, my sister, 
as she told her simple tale of meeting with me 
to her mother, how she would say, while the 
parent listened with intense interest : iC The 
man asked me straitly of our state and our 
kindred, saying, is your father yet alive, and 
have ye another brother." Or, wh( .\ at last, I 
could no longer refrain from making myself 
known, I say, I was ready to burst into a 
frenzy of joy. How applicable the 1st, 2nd, 
and 3rd verses of the 45th chapter, " Then 
Joseph could not refrain himself before all them 
that stood by him, and he wept aloud, and said 
unto his brethren, I am Joseph, doth my father 
still live." Then when the mother knew her 
son, when the brothers and sisters owned their 
brother ; " he kissed all his brethren and wept 
over them, and after that his brethren talked 



FROM SLAVERY. 43 

with him," 15th verse. At night my mother's 
husband, a blacksmith, belonging to Mr. Jef- 
ferson at the Red House, came home, he was 
surprised to see me with the family, not know- 
ing who I was. He had been married to my 
mother, when I was a babe, and had always 
been very fond of me. After the same tale 
had been told him, and the same emotions filled 
his soul, he again kissed the object of his early 
affection. The next morning I wanted to go 
on my joarney, in order to make sure of my 
escape to the Free States. But as might be 
expected, my mother, father, brothers, and 
sisters, could ill part with their long lost one \ 
and persuaded me to go into the woods in the 
day time, and at night come home and sleep 
there. This I did for about a week ; on the 
next Sunday night, I laid me down to sleep 
between my two brothers, on a pallet, which 
my mother had prepared for me ; about twelve 
o'clock I was suddenly awoke, and found my 



11 ROFER'S ESCAPE 

bed surrounded by twelve slave holders with 
pistols in hand who took me away (not al- 
lowing me to bid farewell to those 1 loved so 
dearly) to the Red House, where they con- 
fined me in a room the rest of the night, and 
in the morning lodged me in the gaol of Cas- 
well Court-House. 

What was the scene at home, what sorrow 
possessed their hearts, lam unable to describe, 
as I never after saw any of them more. I 
heard, however, that my mother was, soon af- 
ter I left, confined, and was very long before 
she recovered the effects of this disaster.* I 
was told afterwards, that some of those men 
who took me were professing Christians, but, 
to me, they did not seem to live up to what 
they professed ; they did not seem, by their 
practice, at least, to recognise that God as 
their God, who hath said, " thou shalt not 

* My mother had seven children living when I 
last saw her, and the above one was born soon after 
I left, made the eighth, and they are now all in slave- 
ixcept myself. 



FROM SLAVERY. 45 

deliver unto his master, the servant which is 
escaped from his master unto thee, he shall 
dwell with thee, even among you, in that 
place which he shall choose, in one of thy 
gates, where it liketh him best ; thou shalt 
not oppress him. — Deut. xxiii. 15, 16. 

I was confined here in a dungeon under 
ground, the grating of which looked to the 
door of the gaoler's house. His wife had a 
great antipathy to me. She was Mr. Roper's 
wife's cousin. My grandmother used to come 
to me nearly every day, and bring me some- 
thing to eat, besides the regular gaol allow- 
ance, by which, my sufferings were somewhat 
decreased. Whenever the gaoler went out, 
which he often did, his wife used to come to 
my dungeon, and shut the wooden door over 
the grating, by which I was nearly suffo- 
cated, the place being very damp and noisome. 
My master did not hear of my being in gaol 
for thirty-one days after I had been placed 
there. He immediately sent his son, and 



46 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

son-in-law, Mr. Anderson, after me. They 
came in a horse and chaise, took me from the 
gaol to a blacksmith's shop, and got an iron 
collar fitted round my neck, with a heavy 
chain attached, then tied my hands, and fas- 
tened the other end of the chain on ahorse, and 
put me on its back. Just before we started, 
my grandmother came to bid me farewell ; 
I gave her my hand as well as I could, and 
she having given me two or three presents, 
we parted. I had felt enough, far too much, 
for the weak state I was in ; but how shall I 
describe my feelings, upon parting with the 
last relative that 1 ever saw. The reader 
must judge by what would be his own feel- 
ings, under similar circumstances. We then 
went on for fifty miles ; I was very weak and 
could hardly sit on the horse. Having been 
in piison so long, I had lost the southern 
tan ; and as the people could not see my hair, 
having my hat on, they thought I was a 
white man — a criminal — and asked me what 



FROM SLAVERY. 47 

crime I had committed. We arrived late at 
night, at the house of Mr. Brittoa. I shall 
never forget the journey that night. The 
thunder was one continued roar, and the 
lightning blazing all around. I expected 
every minute that my iron collar would at- 
tract it, and I should be knocked off the 
horse, and dragged along the ground. This 
gentleman, a year or two before had liberated 
his slaves, and sent them into Ohio, haviug 
joined the society of Friends, which society 
does not allow the holding of slaves. I was, 
therefore, treated very well there, and they 
gave me a hearty supper, which did me much 
good in my weak state. 

They secured me in the night, by locking 
me to the post of the bed on which they slept. 
The next morning, we went on to Salisbury. 
At that place we stopped to water the horses ; 
they chained me to a tree in the yard, by the 
side of their chaise. On my horse they put 
the saddle bags which contained the provi- 



48 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

sions. As I was in the yard, a black man 
came and asked me what I had been doing, I 
told him that I had run away from my master, 
after which he told me several tales about the 
slaves, and among them he mentioned the 
case of a Quaker, who was then in prison, 
waiting to be hung, for giving a free passage 
to a slave. I had been considering all the 
way, how I could escape from my horse, and 
once had an idea of cutting his head off, but 
thought it too cruel ; and at last thought of 
trying to get a rasp and cut the chain by 
which I was fastened to the horse. As they 
often let me get on a quarter of a mile before 
them, I thought I should have a good op- 
portunity of doing this without being seen. 
The black man procured me a rasp, and I 
put it into the saddle bags which contained 
the provisions. We then went on our journey, 
and one of the sons asked me if I wanted any 
thing to eat ; I answered no, though very 
hungry at the time, as I was afraid of their 



FROM SLAVERY. 49 

going to the bags and discovering the rasp. 
However, they had not had their own meal 
at the inn as I had supposed, and went to 
the bags to supply themselves, where they 
found the rasp. Upon this, they fastened my 
horse beside the horse in their chaise, and 
kept a stricter watch over me. Nothing re- 
markable occurred till we got within eight 
miles of Mr. Gooch's, where we stopped a 
short time ; and, taking advantage of their 
absence, I broke a switch from some boughs 
above my head, lashed my horse, and set off 
at full speed. I had got about a quarter of a 
mile before they could get their horse loose 
from their chaise ; one then rode the horse, 
and the other ran as fast as he could after me. 
When I caught sight of them, I turned off 
the main road into the woods, hoping to 
escape their sight ; their horse, however, being 
much swifter than mine, they soon got within 
a short distance of me. I then came to a 

rail fence, which I found it very difficult to 

E 



50 



ROPER'S ESCAPE 



get over, but breaking several rails away, I 
effected my object. They then called upon 
me to stop more than three times, and I not 
doing so they fired after me, but the pistol 
only snapped. 




Mb. ANDERSON ATTEMPTING TO SHOOT THE 
AUTHOR, AFTER TELLING HIM TO STOP THREE 
TIMES, ACCORDING TO THE LAW. 

This is according to law ; after three calls 
they may shoot a run-away slave. Soon after 
the one on the horse came up with me, and 



FROM SLAVERY. 51 

catching hold of the bridle of my horse, push- 
ed the pistol to my side, the other soon came 
up, and breaking off several scout branches 
from the trees, they gave me about one hun- 
dred blows. This they did very near to a 
planter's house, the gentleman was not at 
home, but his wife came out and begged them 
not to kill me so near the house ; they took 
no notice of this, but kept on beating me. 
They then fastened me to the axle tree of 
their chaise, one of them got into the chaise, 
the other took my horse, and they ran me all 
the eight miles as fast as they could ; the one 
on my horse going behind to guard me 



KOrER-S ES< 



CHAPTER IV. 

The Author is Flogged and Punished in various 
ways, but still perseveres in his attempts to Es- 
cape, till he was sold to Mr. Wilson. 

In this way we came to my old master, Mr. 
Gooch. The first person I saw was himself; 
he unchained me from the chaise, and at first 
seemed to treat me very gently, asking me 
where I had been, &c. The first thing the 
sods did was to show the rasp which I had 
got to cut my chain. My master gave me a 
hearty dinner, the best he ever did give me, 
but it was to keep me from dying before he 
had given me all the flogging he intended. 
After dinner he took me to a log-house, strip- 
ped me quite naked, fastened a rail up very 
high, tied my hands to the rail, fastened my 
feet together, put a rail between my feet, and 



FROM SLAVERY. .53 

stood on one end of it to hold me down ; the 
two sons then gave me fifcy lashes each, the 
son-in-law another fifty, and Mr. Gooch 
himself fifty more. 




Mr. GOOCH STRIPPING THE AUTHOR TO 
FLOG HIM, HIS TWO SONS AND SON- 
IN-LAW PRESENT. THEY AT THIS TIME 
GIVE HIM FIFTY LASHES EACH. 
E 3 



fi4 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

While doing this his wife came out, and 
begged him not to kill me, the first act of 
sympathy I ever noticed in her. When I 
called for water, they brought a pail-full and 
threw it over my back, ploughed up by the 
lashes. After this, they took me to the 
blacksmith's shop, got two large bars of iron, 
which they bent round my feet, each bar 
weighing twenty pounds, and put a heavy log- 
chain on my neck. This was on Saturday. On 
the Monday, he chained me to the same fe- 
male slave as before. As he had to go out 
that day, he did not give me the punishment 
which he intended to give me every day, but 
at night when he came home, he made us 
walk round his estate, and by all the houses 
of the slaves, for them to taunt us ; when we 
came home, he told us, we must be up very 
early in the morning, and go to the field, be- 
fore the other slaves. We were up at day- 
break, but we could not get on fast, on ac- 
count of the heavy irons on my feet. It may 



FROM SLAVERY. 55 

be necessary to state here, that these irons 
were first made red hot and bent in a circle, 
so as just to allow of my feet going through ; 
it having been cooled, and my leg with the 
iron on lifted up to an anvil, it was made se- 
cure round my ancles. When I walked with 
these irons on, I used to hold them up with 
my hands by means of a cord. We walked 
about a mile in two hours, but knowing the 
punishment he was going to inflict on us, we 
made up our minds to escape into the woods, 
and secrete ourselves. This we did, and he 
not being able to find us, which they could 
not do ; and about twelve o'clock, when we 
thought they would give up looking for us at 
that time, we went on, and came to the banks 
of the Catarba. Here I got a stone, and 
opened the ring of the chain on her neck, and 
got it off; and as the chain round my neck 
was only passed through a ring, as soon as I 
got hei's off, I slipped the chain through my 



Z6 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

ring, and got it off my own neck * We then 
went on by the banks of the river for some dis- 
tance, and found a little canoe about two feet 
wide. I managed to get in, although the 
irons on my feet made it very dangerous, for 
if I had upset the canoe, I could not swim. 
The female got in after me, and gave me the 
paddles, by which we got some distance down 
the river. The current being very strong, it 
drove us against a small island ; we paddled 
round the island to the other side, and then 
made towards the opposite bank. Here again 
we were stopped by the current, and made up 
to a large rock in the river, between the is- 
land and the opposite shore. As the weather 
was very rough we landed on the rock and 
secured the canoe, as it was not possible to 
get back to the island. It was a very dark 
night, and rained tremendously; and, as the 

* It may be well to state here, that the ring which 
fastened the log chain together around the female's 
neck, was an open iron ring, similar to those used 
at the end of a watch chain. 



FROM SLAVERY. 57 

water was rising rapidly towards the top of 
the rock, we gave all up for lost, and some- 
times hoped, and sometimes feared to hope, 
that we should never see the morning. But 
Providence was moving in our favour ; the 
rain ceased, the water reached the edge of the 
rock, then receded, and we were out of danger 
from this cause. We remained all night upon 
the rock, and in the morning reached the op- 
posite shore, and then made our way through 
the woods till we came to a field of Indian 
corn, where we plucked some of the green 
ears and eat them, having had nothing for 
two days and nights. We came to the estate 

f ^ where we met with a coloured 

man who knew me, and having run away him- 
self from a bad master, he gave us some food, 
and told us we might sleep in the barn that 
night. Being very fatigued, we overslept 
ourselves; the proprietor came to ihe barn, 
but as I was in one corner under some 
Indian corn tops, and she in another, he did 



68 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

not perceive us, and we did not leave the barn 
before night, (Wednesday.) We then went 
out, got something to eat, and strayed about 
the estate till Sunday. On that day, I met 
with some men, one of whom had had irons 
on the same as me ; he told me that his mas- 
ter was going out to see his friends, and that 
he would try and get my feet loose ; for this 
purpose I parted with this female, fearing, that 
if she were caught with me, she would be 
forced to tell who took my irons off. The 
man tried some time without effect, he then 
gave me a file and I tried myself, but was 
disappointed on account of their thickness. 

On the Monday, T went on towards Lan- 
caster, and got within three miles of it that 
night ; and went towards the plantation of 
Mr. Crockett, as I knew some of his slaves, 
and hoped to get some food given me. When 
I got there, however the dogs smelt me out 
and barked ; upon which, Mr. Crockett came 
out ; followed me with his rifle, and came up 



FROM SLAVERY. 59 

with me. He put me on a horse's back, 
which put me to extreme pain, from the great 
weight hanging from my feet. We reached 
Lancaster gaol that night, and he lodged me 
there. I was placed in the next dungeon to a 
man who was going to be hung. I shall never 
forget his cries and groans, as he prayed all 
night for the mercy of God. Mr. Gooch did 
not hear of me for several weeks ; when he 
did, he sent his son-in-law, Mr. Anderson, af- 
fer me. ^Lr. Gooch himself came within a 
mile of Lancaster, and waited until Mr. An- 
derson brought me. At this time I had but 
one of the irons on my feet, having got so 
thin round my ancles that I had slipped one 
off while in gaol. His son-in-law tied my 
hands, and made me walk along till we came 
to Mr. Gooch. As soon as we arrived at 
M'Daniel's Ford, two miles above the Ferry, 
on the Catarba river, they made me wade 
across, themselves going on horseback. The 
water was very deep, and having irons on one 



CO KOPEITS ESCAPE 

and round my neck, I could not keep a foot- 
ing. They dragged me along by my chain 
on the top of the water. It was as much as 
they could do to hold me by the chain, the 
current being very strong. They then took 
me home, flogged me, put extra irons on my 
neck and feet, and put me under the driver, 
with more work than ever I had before. He 
did not flog me so severely as before, but con- 
tinued it every day. Among the instruments 
of torture employed, I here describe one : — 



FROM SLAVERY. 



6i 




THE AUTHOR HANGING BY HIS HANDS 
TIED TO A COTTON SCREW. 



* This screw is sometimes moved round by hand 

when there is a person hanging on it. The screw i3 
F 



62 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

This is a machine used for packing and 
pressing cotton. By it he hung me up by the 
hands at letter a, ahorse, and at times, a man 
moving round the screw e, and carrying it up 
and down, and pressing the block c into the 
box d, into which the cotton is put. At ihis 
time he hung me up for a quarter of an hour. 
I was carried up ten feet from the ground, 
when Mr. Gooch asked me if I was tired ? 
He then let me rest for five minutes, then car- 
ried me round again, after which, he let me 
down and put me in the box d, and shut me 
down in it for about ten minutes. After this 
torture, I stayed with him several months, and 
did my work very well. It was about the be- 
ginning of 1832, when he took off my irons, 
and being in dread of him, he having threat- 
ened me with more punishment, I attempted 
again to escape from him. At this time I got 



made with wood, a large tree cut down, and carved 
the shape of a screw. 



FROM SLAVERY. 63 

into North Carolina : but a reward having 
been offered for me, a Mr. Robinson caught 
me, and chained me to a chair, upon which 
he sat up with me all night, and next day pro- 
ceeded home with me. This was Saturday. 
Mr. Gooch had gone to church, several miles 
from his house. When he came back, the 
first thing he did was to pour some tar upon 
my head, then rubbed it all over my face, took 
a torch with pitch on, and set it on fire ; he 
put it out before it did me very great injury, 
but the pain which I endured was most excru- 
ciating, nearly all my hair having been burnt 
off. On Monday, he put irons on me again, 
weighing nearly fifty pounds. He threatened 
me again on the Sunday with another flog- 
ging ; and on the Monday morning, before 
day-break, I got away again, with my irons 
on, and was about three hours, going a dis- 
tance of two miles.* I had gone a good dis- 

* It must be recollected, that when a person is two 



64 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

tance, when I met with a coloured man, who 
got some wedges, and took my irons off. 
However, I was caught again, and put into 
prison in Charlotte, where Mr. Gooch came, 
and took me back to Chester. He asked me 
how I got my irons off ? They having been 
got off by a slave, I would not answer his 
question, for fear of getting the man punished. 
Upon this, he put the fingers of my hands 
into a vice, and squeezed all my nails off. He 
then had my feet put on an anvil, and ordered 
a man to beat my toes, till he smashed some 
of my nails off. The marks of this treatment 
still remain upon me, some of my nails never 
having grown perfect since. He inflicted this 
punishment, in order to get out of me how I 
got my irons off, but never succeeded. After 

miles from a house, in that part of the country, that 
he can hide himself in the woods for weeks, and I 
knew a slave who was hid for six months without 
discovery, the trees being so thick. 



FROM SLAVERY. 65 

this, he hardly knew what to do with me ; 
the whole stock of his cruelties seemed to be 
exhausted. He chained me down in the log- 
house. Soon after this, he sent a female slave 
to see if I was safe. Mr. Gooch had not 
secured me as he thought ; but had only run 
my chain through the ring, without locking it. 
This I observed ; and while the slave was 
coming, I was employed in loosening the 
chain with the hand that was not wounded. 
As soon as I observed her coming I drew 
the chain up tight, and she observing that I 
seemed fast, went away and told her master, 
who was in the field ordering the slaves. 
When she was gone, I drew the chain through 
the ring, escaped under the flooring of the 
log-house, and went on under it, till I came 
out at the other side, and ran on ; but, being 
sore and weak, I had not got a mile before I 
was caught, and again carried back. He tied 
me up to a tree in the woods at night, and 

made his slaves flog me. I cannot say how 
F3 



66 ROPER'S ESCArE 

many lashes I received ; but it was the worst 
flogging I ever had, and the last which Mr. 
Gooch ever gave me. 

There are several circumstances which oc- 
curred on this estate while I was there, rela- 
tive to other slaves, which it may be interest- 
ing to mention. Hardly a day ever passed 
without some one being flogged. To one of 
his female slaves he had given a dose of cas- 
tor oil and salts together, as much as she 
could take ;* he then got a box, about six feet 
by two and a half, and one and a half feet 
deep ; he put this slave under the box, and 
made the men fetch as many logs as they 
could get, and put them on the top of it ; un- 
der this she was made to stay all night. I 
believe, that if he had given this slave one, he 
had given her three thousand lashes. Mr. 
Gooch was a member of a Baptist church. 
His slaves thinking him a very bad sample 

* The female whom Mr. Gooch chained to me. 



FROM SLAVERY. 67 

of what a professing Christian ought to be, 
would not join the connexion he belonged to, 
thinking they must be a very bad set of peo- 
ple : there were many of them members of the 
Methodist Church.* On Sunday, the slaves 
can only go to church at the will of their 
master, when he gives them a pass for the 
time they are to be out. If they are found by 
the patrole after the time to which their pass 
extends, they are severely flogged. 

On Sunday nights a slave, named Allen, 
used to come to Mr. Gooch's estate for the 
purpose of exhorting and praying with Us 
brother slaves, by whose instrumentality many 
of them had been converted. One evening, 
Mr. Gooch caught them all in a room, turned 

* In fact, in some of the States nearly all of the 
slaves are Methodists ; and when in the field at work 
they may be often heard singing these words, " I am 
happy, I am happy, Lord pity poor me. — Me never 
know what happiness was, until I joined de Metho- 
dists. I am happy, Lord pity poor me." 



68 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

Allen oat, and threatened his slaves with one 
hundred lashes each, if they ever brought him 
there again. At one time Mr. Gooch was 
ill and confined to his room ; if any of the 
slaves had done anything which he thought 
deserved a flogging, he would have them 
brought into his bed-room and flogged before 
Lis eyes. 

With respect to food, he used to allow us 
one peck of Indian meal per week, which, 
after being sifted and the bran taken from it, 
would not be much more than half a peck. 
Meat we did not get for sometimes several 
weeks together ; however, he was proverbial 
for giving his slaves more food than any other 
slave-holder. I stayed with Mr. Gooch a 
year and a half; during that time the scenes 
of cruelty I witnessed and experienced, are 
not at all fitted for these pages. There is 
much to excite disgust in what lias been nar- 
rated, but hundreds of other cases might be 
mentioned. 



FROM SLAVERY. 69 



CHAPTER V. 

I was not long with Mr. Wilson, who was a Negro 
trader, before he exchanged me to Mr. Rowland, 
who was also a trader, for another slave, and after 
being with him about a year, was sold to Mr. 
Goodly, who exchanged me again to Mr. Louis. 

After this, Mr. Gooch seeing that I was de- 
termined to get away from him, chained me, 
and sent me with another female slave, whom 
he had treated very cruelly, to Mr. Britton, 
son of the before mentioned, a slave-dealer. We 
were to have gone to Georgia to be sold, but 
a bargain was struck before we arrived there. 
Mr. Britton had put chains on me to please 
Mr. Gooch, but having gone some little dis- 
tance we came up with a white man, who 
begged Mr. Britton to unchain me ; he then 
took off my handcuffs. We then went on to 
Union Court House, where we met a drove 



70 BOPEB'S ESCAPE 

of slaves belonging to Mr. Wilson, who ulti- 
mately bought me and sent me to his drove ; 
the girl was sold to a planter in the neighbour- 
hood as bad as Mr. Goocb.* In court week 
the negro traders and slave encamp a little 
way out of the town. The traders here will 
often sleep with the best looking female slaves 
among them, and they will often have many 
children in the year, which are said to be 
slave holder's children, by which means, 
through his villainy, he will make an immense 
profit of this intercourse, by selling the babe 
with its mother. They often keep an im- 
mense stock of slaves on hand ; many of them 
will be with the trader a year or more before 
they are sold. Mr. Marcus Rowland, the 
drover, who brought me, then returned with 
his slaves to his brother's house (Mr. John 

* As I am often asked " What became of the female 
I was chained to ?" The above is the girl, whom I have 
seen once since she was last sold, and from what I 
saw of her then, I do not think she can be alive now. 



FROM SLAVERY. 71 

Rowland), where he kept his drove on his 
way to Virginia. He kept me as a kind of 
servant. I had to grease the faces of the 
blacks every morning with sweet oil, to make 
them shine, before they are put up to sell. 
After he had been round several weeks and 
sold many slaves, he left me and some more at 
his brother's house, while he went on to 
Washington, about 600 miles, to buy some 
more slaves, the drove having got very small. 
We were treated very well while there, hav- 
ing plenty to eat and little work to do, in or- 
der to make us fat. I was brought up more 
as a domestic slave, as they generally prefer 
slaves of my colour for that purpose. When 
Mr. Rowland came back, having been absent 
about five months, he found all the slaves well 
except one female, who had been grieving 
very much at being parted from her parents, 
and at last died of grief. He dressed us very 
nicely and went on again. I travelled with 
him for a year, and had to look over the 



72 ROPERS ESCAPE 

slaves and see that they were dressed well, 
had plenty of food, and to oil their faces. 
During this time we stopped once at White 
House Church, a Baptist Association ; a pro- 
tracted camp meeting was holding there, on 
the plan of the revival meetings in this coun- 
try. We got there at the time of the meet- 
ing, and sold two female slaves on the Sunday 
morning, at the time the meeting broke up, to 
a gentleman who had been attending the meet- 
ing the whole of the week. While I was 
with Mr. Rowland, we were at many such 
meetings ; and the members of the churches 
are by this means so well influenced towards 
their fellow creatures at these meetings for the 
worship of God, that it becomes a fruitful 
season for the drover, who carries on an im- 
mense traffic with the attendants at these 
places. This is common to Baptists and Me- 
thodists. At the end of the year, he exchang- 
ed me to a farmer, Mr. David Goodley, for a 
female slave in Greenville, about fourteen 



FROM SLAVERY. 73 

miles from Greenville Court House. This 
gentleman was going to Missouri to settle, 
and on his way had to pass through Ohio, a 
free State. But having learnt after he bought 
me, that I had before tried to get away to the 
free States, he was afraid to take me with 
him, and I was exchanged to a Mr. Louis. 



H 



74 EOPER'S ESCAPE 



CHAPTER VI. 



Travels with Mr. Louis to Pendleton Indian Springs, 
from thence to Columbus, where I was sold at 
auction to Mr. Beveridge. Travels and history 
with Mr. Beveridge. 

Mr. Marvel Louis was in the habit of tra- 
velling a great deal, and took me as a do- 
mestic slave to wait on him. Mr. Louis 
boarded at the house of a Mr. Clevelin, a 
rich planter, at Greenville, South Carolina. 
Mr. L. was paying his addresses to the 
daughter of this gentleman, but was surpris- 
ed and routed in his approaches, by a Co- 
lonel Dorkins, of Union Court House, who 
ultimately carried her off in triumph. Af- 
ter this, Mr. Louis took to drinking, to 
drown his recollection of disappointed love. 

One day he went to Pendleton Races, and I 
waited on the road for him ; returning intoxi- 
cated he was thrown from his horse into a 



FROM SLAVERY. 7* 

brook, and was picked up by a gentleman, 
and taken to an inn, and I went there to take 
care of him. Next day, he went on to Pun- 
kintown with Mr. Warren R. Davis, a mem- 
ber of Congress ; I went with him. This 
was at the time of the agitation of the Union 
and Nullifying party, which was expected to 
end in a general war. The Nullifying party 
had a grand dinner on the occasion, after 
which, they gave their slaves all their refuse, 
for the purpose of bribing them to fight on the 
side of their party. The scene on this occa- 
sion was humorous, all the slaves scrambling 
after bare bones and crumbs, as if they had 
had nothing for weeks. When Mr. Louis 
had got over this fit of drunkenness, we re- 
turned to Greenville, where I had little to do 
except in the warehouse. There was preach- 
ing in the Court-house on the Sunday ; but 
scarcely had the sweet savour of the worship 
of God passed away, when, on Monday, a 



76 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

public auction was held for the sale of slaves, 
cattle, sugar, iron, &c. by Z. Davis, the high 
constable and others. 

On these days I was generally very busy 
in handing out the different articles for in- 
spection, and was employed in this way for 
several months. After which, Mr. Louis left 
his place for Pendleton ; but his health get- 
ting worse, and fast approaching consumption, 
he determined to travel. I went with him 
over Georgia to the Indian Springs, and from 
there to Columbus ; here he left me with 
Lawyer Kemp, a member of the State As- 
sembly, to take care of his horse and carriage 
till he came back from Cuba, where he went 
for the benefit of his health. I travelled 
round with Mr. Kemp, waiting until my 
master came back. I soon after heard, that 
Mr. Louis had died in Appalachicola, and 
had been buried at Tenessee Bluff. I was 
very much attached to the neighbourhood of 
Pendleton and Greenville, and feared, from 



FKOM SLAVERY. 77 

Mr. Louis's death, I should not get back 
there. 

As soon as this information arrived, Mr. 
Kemp put me, the carriage and horses, a gold 
watch, and cigars, up to auction, on which I 
was much frightened, knowing there would be 
some very cruel masters at the sale ; and fear- 
ing, I should again be disappointed in my at- 
tempt to escape from bondage. A Mr. Be- 
veridge, a Scotchman, from Appalachicola, 
bought me, the horses, and cigars.* He was 
not a cruel master ; he had been in America 
eighteen years, and I believe, I was the first 
slave he ever bought. Mr. Kemp had no 

* How Mr. Beveridge ever became a slave-holder* 

I cannot account for, for I believe him to be the 

only kind slave-holder in America, and not only 

that, I have been in England many years, and have 

never met with a kinder man than Mr. Beveridge, 

and have often prayed that God would deliver him 

from that one sin, a sin which he was kept from 

eighteen years. 

H 3 



78 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

right to sell me, which he did, before he had 
written to Mr. Louis's brother 

Shortly after this, Mr. Kemp, having had 
some altercation with General Woodfork, it 
ended in a duel, in which Mr. W. was killed. 
A few weeks after, as Mr. Kemp was pass- 
ing down a street, he was suddenly shot dead 
by Mr. Milton, a rival lawyer. When I 
heard this, I considered it a visitation of God 
on Mr. Kemp for having sold me unjustly, 
as I did not belong to him. This was soon 
discovered by me, Mr. Louis's brother hav- 
ing called at Mackintosh Hotel, Columbus, 
to claim me, but which he could not effect. 
After this, I travelled with Mr. Beveridge, 
through Georgia, to the warm springs, and 
then back to Columbus, going on to Mari- 
anna, his summer-house, in Florida. 

Here I met with better treatment than I 
had ever experienced before ; we travelled on 
the whole summer ; at the fall, Mr. Beveridge 
went to Appalachicola on business. Mr. Be- 



FROM SLAVERY. 79 

veridge was contractor for the mail, from Co- 
lumbus to Appalachicola, and owner of three 
steam-boats, the Versailles, Andrew Jack- 
son, and Van Buren. He made me steward 
on board on the Versailles, the whole winter. 
The river then got so low that the boats 
could not run. At this time Mr. Beveridge 
went to Mount Vernon. On our way, we 
had to pass through the Indian nation. We 
arrived at Columbus, where I was taken dan- 
gerously ill of a fever. After I got well, Mr. 
Beveridge returned to Marianna, through 
the Indian nation. Having gone about twelve 
miles, he was taken very ill. 

I took him out of the carriage to a brook, 
and washed his hands and face until he got 
better, when I got him into the carriage 
again, and drove off till we came to General 
Irving's, where he stopped several days on 
account of his health. While there, 1 ob- 
served on the floor of the kitchen several 



60 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

children, one about three months old, without 
my body to take care of her ; I asked where 
her mother was, and was told, that Mrs. Ir- 
ving had given her a very hard task to do at 
washinj, in a brook, about a quarter of a 
mile distant. We heard after, that not being 
able to get it done, she got some cords, tied 
them round her neck, climbed up a tree, 
swung off, and hung herself. Being missed, 
persons were sent after her, who observed 
several buzzards flying about a particular 
spot, to which they directed their steps, and 
found the poor woman nearly eaten up. 

After this, we travelled several months 
without any thing remarkable taking place. 



FROM SLAVERY. 81 



CHAPTER VII. 

The Author's last Attempt and final Escape from 
Marianna to Savannah, from thence to New York ; 
Quarantined at Staten Island. 

In the year 1834?, Mr. Beveridge, who was 
now residing iu Appalachicola, a town in West 
Florida, became a bankrupt, when all his pro- 
perty was sold, and I fell into the hands of a 
very cruel master, Mr. Register, a planter in 
the same State ; of whom, knowing his savage 
character, I always had a dread. Previously to 
his purchasing me, he had frequently taunted 
me, by saying, " you have been a gentleman 
long enough, and, whatever may be the conse- 
quences I intend to buy you." To which I 
remarked, that I would on no account live 
with him if I could help it. Nevertheless, 
intent upon his purpose, in the month of July, 
1834, he bought me ; after which I was so 



82 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

exasperated, that I cared not whether I lived 
or died ; in fact, whilst I was on my passage 
from Appalachicola, I procured a quart bottle* 
of whiskey, for the purpose of so intoxicating 
myself, that I might be able either to plunge 
myself into the river, or so enrage my master 
that he should dispatch me forthwith. I was, 
however, by a kind Providence, prevented 
from committing this horrid deed by an old 
slave on board, who, knowing my intention, 
secretly took the bottle from me ; after which 
my hands were tied, and I was led into the 
town ot Oehesa, to a warehouse, where my 
master was asked by the proprietor of the 
place, the reason of his confining my hands ; 
in answer to which Mr. Register said, that 
he had purchased me. The proprietor, how- 
ever, persuaded him to untie me ; after which, 
my master being excessively drunk, asked for 
a cow-hide, iutending to flog me, from which 



FROM SLAVERY. 83 

the proprietor dissuaded him, saying, that he 
had known me for some time, and he was 
sure that I did not require to be flogged. 
From this place we proceeded about mid-day 
on our way, he p^ced me on the bare back of 
a half-starved old horse, which he had pur- 
chased, and upon which sharp surface, he 
kindly intended I should ride about eighty 
miles, the distance we were then from his 
home. In this unpleasant situation I could 
not help reflecting upon the prospects before 
me, not forgetting that I had heard my new 
master had been in the habit of stealing cattle 
and other property, and among others things a 
slave woman, and that I had said, as it after- 
wards turned out, in the hearing of some one 
who communicated the saying to my master, 
that TrhzA been accustomed to live with a gen- 
tleman and not with a rogue; and, finding 
that he had been informed of this, I had the 



84 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

additional dread of a few hundred lashes for 
it ; on my arrival at my destination. 

About two hours after we started it began 
to rain very heavily, and continued to do so 
until we arrived at Marianna, about twelve at 
night, when we were to rest till morning. My 
master here questioned me as to whether I in- 
tended to run away or not ; and, I not then 
knowing the sin of lying, at once told him that 
I would not. He then gave me his clothes to 
dry ; I took them to the kitchen for that pur- 
pose, and he retired to bed, taking a bag of 
clothes belonging to me with him, as a kind of 
security, I presume, for my safety. In an 
hour or two afterwards, I took his clothes to 
him dried, and found him fast asleep. 1 placed 
them by his side, and said that I would then 
take my own to dry too, taking care to speak 
loud enough to ascertain whether he was asleep 
or not, knowing that he had a dirk and pistol 
by his side, which he would not have hesitated 
using against me, if I had attempted secretly 



FROM SLAVERY. 35 

to have procured them. I was glad to find 
that the effects of his drinking the day before 
had caused his sleeping very soundly, and I 
immediately resolved on making my escape ; 
and without loss of time started with my few 
clothes into the woods, which were in the im- 
mediate neighbourhood ; and, after running 
many miles, I came up to the river Chapoli, 
which is very deep, and so beset with alliga- 
tors, that I dared not attempt to swim across. 
I paced up and down this river, with the 
hope of finding a conveyance across, for a 
whole day, the succeeding night, and till noon 
on the following day, which was Saturday. 
About twelve o'clock on that day I discovered 
an Indian canoe, which had not from all ap- 
pearance been used for some time ; this of 
course, I used to convey myself across, and 
after being obliged to go a little way down the 
river, by means of a piece of wood I provi- 
dentially found in the boat, I landed on the 

opposite side. Here I found myself surround- 
I 



86 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

ed by planters looking for me, in consequence 
of which, I hid myself in the bushes until 
night, when I again travelled several miles to 
the farm of a Mr. Robinson, a large sugar and 
cotton planter, where I rested till morning in 
a field. Afterwards I set out, w r orking my 
way through the woods, about twenty miles 
towards the east ; this I knew by my know- 
ledge of the position of the 6iin at its rising. 
Having reached the Chattahoochee river, 
which divides Florida from Georgia, I was 
again puzzled to know how to cross ; it was 
about three o'clock in the day, when a number 
of persons were fishing; having walked for 
some hours along the banks, I at last, after 
dark, procured a ferry-boat, which not being 
able, from the swiftness of the river, to steer 
direct across, I was carried many miles down 
the river, landing on the Georgian side, from 
whence I proceeded on through the woods two 
or three miles, and came to a little farm-house 
about twelve o'clock at night ; at a short dis- 



FROM SLAVERY. 87 

tance from the house I found an old slave hut, 
into which I went, and informed the old man 
who appeared seventy or eighty years old, that 
I had had a very bad master, from whom I 
run away ; and asked him if he could give 
me something to eat, having had no suitable 
food for three or four days ; he told me he 
had nothing but a piece of dry Indian bread, 
which he cheerfully gave me ; having eaten it, 
I went on a short distance from the hut, and 
laid down in the wood to rest for an hour or 
two. All the following day (Monday) I con- 
tinued travelling through the woods, and was 
greatly distressed for want of water to quench 
my thirst, it being a very dry country, till I 
came to Spring Creek, which is a wide, deep 
stream, and with some of which I gladly 
quenched my thirst. I then proceeded to 
cross the same, by a bridge close by, and con- 
tinued my way until dusk. I came to a gen- 
tleman's house in the woods, where I inquired 
how far it was to the next house, taking care 



88 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

to watch an opportunity to ask some individ- 
ual whom I could master, and get away from, 
if any interruption to my progress was at- 
tempted. I went on for some time, it being a 
very fine moonlight night, and was presently 
alarmed by the howling of a wolf near me ; 
which, I concluded, was calling others to join 
him in attacking me, having understood that 
they always assemble in numbers for such a 
purpose ; the howling increased, and I was 
still pursued, and the numbers were evidently 
increasing fast ; but I was happily rescued 
from my dreadful fright, by coming to some 
cattle, which attracted as I supposed, the 
wolves, and saved my life ; for I could not 
get up the trees for safety they being very tall 
pines, the lowest branches of which were, at 
least, forty or fifty feet from the ground, and 
the trunks very large and smooth. 

About two o'clock I came to the house of a 
Mr. Cherry, on the borders of the Flint River, 
I went up to the house, and called them up to 



FEOM SLAVERY. 8i> 

beg something to eat ; but having nothing 
cooked, they kindly allowed me to lie down in 
the porch, where they made me a bed. In 
conversation with this Mr. Cherry, I discover- 
ed that 1 had known him before, having been 
in a steam-boat, the Versailles, some months 
previous, which sunk very near the house, but 
which I did not at first disern to be the same, 
I then thought it would not be prudent for me 
to stop there, and, therefore, told them, I was 
in a hurry to get on, and must start very early 
again, he having no idea who I was ; and I 
gave his son six cents to take me across the 
river, which he did when the sun was about 
half an hour high, and unfortunately landed 
me where there was a man building a boat, 
who knew me very well, and my former mas- 
ter too, — he calling me by name, asked me 
where I was going. 

I was very much frightened at being dis- 
covered, but summoned up courage, and said, 

that my master had gone to Tallyhassa by the 
13 



90 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

coach, and that there was not room for me, 
and I had to walk round to meet him. I then 
asked the man to put me in the best road to 
get there, which, however, I knew as well as 
he did, having travelled there before ; he di- 
rected me the best way ; but I, of course, took 
the contrary direction, wanting to get on to 
Savannah. By this hasty and wicked decep- 
tion, I saved myself from going to Bainbridge 
prison, which was close by, and to which I 
should certainly have been taken had it been 
known that I was making my escape. 

Leaving Bainbridge, I proceeded about for- 
ty miles, travelling all day under a scorching 
sun, through the woods in which I saw many 
deer and serpents, until I reached Thomas 
Town, in the evening. 1 there inquired the 
way to Augusta, of a man whom 1 met, and 
also asked where I could obtain lodgings, and 
was told there was a poor minister about a 
mile from the place who would give me lodg- 
ings. I accordingly went, and found them in 



FROM SLAVERY. $1 

a little log-house, where, having awakened 
the family, I found them all lying on the bare 
boards, where I joined them, for the remain- 
der of the night. 

In the morning the old gentleman prayed 
for me, that I might be preserved on my jour- 
ney ; he had previously asked me where I 
was going, and knowing, that if I told him 
the right place, any that inquired of him for 
me would be able to find me, asked the way 
to Augusta, instead of Savannah, my real des- 
tination. I also told him, that I was partly 
Indian and partly white, but I am also partly 
African, but this I omitted to tell him, know- 
ing if I did I shouM be apprehended. After 
I had left this hut, I again inquired for Au- 
gusta, for the purpose of misleading my pur- 
suers, but I afterwards took my course through 
the woods, and came into a road, called the 
Coffee road, which General Jackson cut down 
for his troops at the time of the war, between 
the Americans and Spaniards, in Florida ; in 



92 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

which road there are but few houses, and 
which I preferred for the purpose of avoiding 
detection. 

After several days I left this road and took 
a more direct way to Savannah, where I had 
to wade through two rivers before I came 
to the Alatamah, which I crossed in a ferry- 
boat, about a mile below the place where the 
rivers Oconee and Ocmulgee run together into 
one river, called the Alatamah. I here met 
with some cattle drovers, who were collecting 
cattle to drive to Savannah. On walking on 
before them, I began to consider in what way 
I could obtain a passport for Savannah, and 
determined on the following plan : — 

I called at a cottage, and after I had talked 
sometime with the wife, who began to feel 
greatly for me, in consequence of my telling 
her a little of my history, (her husband being 
out hunting) I pretended to show her my 
passport, feeling for it everywhere about my 
coat and hat, and not finding it, I went back 



FROM SLAVERY. 93 

a little way, pretending to look for it but 
came back, saying, I was very sorry, but I did 
not know where it was. At last, the man 
came home, carrying a deer upon his shoul- 
ders, which he brought into the yard, and be- 
gan to dress it. The wife then went out to 
tell him my situation, and afcer long persua- 
sion, he said he could not write, but that if I 
could tell his son what was in my passport, 
he would write me one ; knowing that I should 
not be able to pass through Savannah without 
one, and having heard several free coloured 
men read theirs, I thought I could tell the boy 
what to write. The lad sat down and wrote 
what I told him, nearly filling a large sheet of 
paper for the passport, and another with re- 
commendations. These being completed, I 
was invited to partake of the fresh venison, 
which the woman of the house had prepared 
for dinner, and having done so, and feeling 
grateful for their kindness, I proceeded on my 
way. Going along, 1 took my papers out of 



94 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

my pocket, and looking at them, although I 
could not read a word, I perceived that the 
boy's wriiing was very unlike other writing 
that I had seen, and was greatly blotted be- 
sides, consequently, I was afraid that these 
documents would not answer my purpose, and 
began to consider what other plan I could 
pursue to obtain another pass. 

I had now to wade through another river 
to which I came, and which I had great dif- 
ficult in crossing, in consequence of the 
water overflowing the banks of several rivers 
to the extent of upwards of twenty miles. In 
the midst of the water, I passed one night 
upon a small island, and the next day I went 
through the remainder of the water. On many 
occasions, I was obliged to walk upon my 
toes, and consequently, found the advantage of 
being six feet two inches high, (I have grown 
three inches since,) and at other times was 
obliged to swim. In the middle of this ex- 
tremity, I felt it would be imprudent for me 



FROM SLAVERY. 95 

to return ; for if my master was in pursuit of 
me, my safest place from him was in the wa- 
ter, it I could keep my head above the sur- 
face. I was, however, dreadfully frightened 
at the crocodiles, and most earnesly prayed 
that I might be kept from a watery grave, 
and resolved, that if again I landed, I would 
spend my life iu the service of God. 

Having, through mercy, again started on 
my journey, I met with the drovers ; and hav- 
ing, whilst in the waters, taken the pass out 
of my hat, and so dipped it in the water as to 
spoil it, I showed it to the men, and asked 
them where I could get another. They told 
me, that in the neighbourhood, there lived a 
rich cotton merchant who would write me one. 
They took me to him, and gave their word 
that they saw the passport before it was wet, 
(for I had previously showed it to them,) upon 
which, the cotton-planter wrote a free pass 
and a recommendation, to which the cow-dro- 
vers affixed their marks. 



96 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

The recommendation was as follows : — 
"John Roper, a very interesting young lad, 
whom I have seen and travelled with for 
eighty or ninety miles on his road from Flo- 
rida, is a free man, descended from Indian 
and white. I trust, he will be allowed to pass 
on without interruption, being convinced from 
what I have seen, that he is free, and though 
dark, is not an African. I had seen his pa- 
pers before they were wetted." 

These cow-drovers, who procured me the 
passport and recommendation from the cotton- 
planter, could not read ; and they were intox- 
icated, when they went with me to him. I 
am part African, as well as Indian and white, 
my father, being a white man, Henry Roper, 
Esq. Caswell County, North Carolina, U. S. 
a very wealthy slave-holder, who sold me 
when quite a child, for the strong resemblance 
I bore him. My mother is part Indian, part 
African ; but I dared not disclose that, or I 
should have been taken up, I then had eleven 



FROM SLAVERY. 97 

miles to go to Savannah, one of the greatest 
slave-holding cities in America, and where 
they are always looking out for run-away 
slaves. When at this city, I had travelled 
about five hundred miles * It required great 
courage to pass through this place. I went 
through the main street with apparent confi- 
dence, though much alarmed ; did not stop at 
any house in the city, but went down immedi- 
ately to the docks, and inquired for a berth, 
as a steward to a vessel to New York. I had 
been in this capacity before on the Apalachi- 
cola River. The person whom I asked to 
procure me a berth, was steward of one of the 
New York Packets ; he knew Captain Dec- 
kay, of the schooner Fox, and got me a situ- 
ation on board that vessel in five minutes after 
I had been at the docks. The Schooner Fox 
was a very old vessel, twenty- seven years old, 

* The distance between these two places is much 

less than five hundred miles ; but I was obliged to 

travel round about, in order to avoid being caught. 
K 



98 ROPEB'S ESCAPE 

laden with lumber and cattle for New York; 
she was rotten, and could not be insured. 
The sailors were afraid of her ; but I ventured 
on board, and five minuter after, we dropped 
from the docks into the river. My spirits 
then began to revive, and I thought I should 
get to a free country directly. We cast an- 
chor in the stream, to keep the sailors on, as 
they were so dissatisfied with the vessel, and 
lay there four days ; during which time, I had 
to go into the city several times, which expo- 
sed me to great danger, as my master was 
after me, and I dreaded meeting him in the 
city. 

Fearing the Fox would not sail before I 
should be seized, I deserted her, and went on 
board a bring sailing to Providence, that was 
towed out by a steam-boat,* and got thirty 

* An iron boat, the first that was ever buit in 
America, belonging to Mr. Lemayor, and this was 
also the first time she sailed. 



FROM SLAVERY. 99 

miles from Savannah. During this time I 
endeavoured to persuade the steward to take 
me as an assistant, and hoped to have accom- 
plished my purpose ; but the captain had ex- 
amined me attentively, and thought I was a 
slave, he therefore ordered me, when the 
steam-boat was sent back, to go on board her 
to Savannah, as the fine for taking a slave 
from that city to any of the Free States, is 
five hundred dollars. I reluctantly went back 
to Savannah, amoDg slave holders and slaves. 
My mind was in a sad state ; and I was under 
strong temptation to throw myself into the 
river. I had deserted the schooner Fox, and 
knew that the captain might put me into pri- 
son till the vessel was ready to sail ; if this 
happened, and my master had come to jail in 
search of me, I must have gone back to sla- 
very. But when I reached the docks at Sa- 
vannah, the first person I met was the cap- 
tain of the Fox, looking for another steward 



160 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

in my place. He was a very kind man, be- 
longing to the Free States, and inquired if I 
would go back to his vessel. This usage was 
very different to what I expected, and I glad- 
ly accepted his offer. This captain did not 
know that I was a slave. In about two days 
we sailed from Savannah to New York. 

I am (August 1834,) unable to express the 
joy I now felt. I never was at sea before, 
and, after I had been out about an hour, was 
taken with sea-sickness, which continued five 
days. I was scarcely able to stand up, and 
one of the sailors was obliged to take my 
place. The captain was very kind to me all 
this time ; but even after I recovered, I was 
not sufficiently well to do my duty properly, 
and could not give satisfaction to the sailors, 
who swore at me, and asked my why I ship- 
ped, as I was not used to the sea ? We had 
a very quick passage ; and in six days, after 
leaving Savannah, we were in the harbour at 
Statten Island, where the vessel was quaran- 



FROM SLAVERY. 101 

tined for two days, six miles from New York. 
The captain went to the city, but left me 
aboard with the sailors, who had most of them 
been brought up in the slave holding States, 
and were very cruel men. One of the sailors 
was particularly angry with me, because he 
had to perform the duties of my place ; and 
while the captain was in the city, the sailors 
called me to the fore-hatch, where they said 
they would treat me. I went, and while I 
was talking, they threw a rope round my neck 
and nearly choked me. The blood streamed 
from my nose profusely. They also took up 
ropes with large knots, and knocked me over 
the head. They said, I was a negro ; they 
despised me ; and I expected they would have 
thrown me into the water. When we arriv- 
ed at the city, these men, who had so ill- 
treated me, ran away that they might escape 
the punishment which would otherwise have 
been inflicted on them. 
K 3 



102 ROPER'S ESCAPE 



CHAPTER VIII. 

Arrived in New York, went on to Poughkeepsie, 
Albany, Vermont, Boston, and return to New 
York — Embarked for England. 

When I arrived in the city of New York, I 
thought I was free ; but learned I was not, 
and could be taken there. I went out into 
the coiintry several miles, and tried to get em- 
ployment; but failed, as I had no recommen- 
dation. I then returned to New York ; but 
finding the same difficulty there to get work, 
as in the country, I went back to the vessel, 
which was to sail eighty miles up the Hudson 
river, to Poughkeepsie. When I arrived, I 
obtained employment at an inn, and after I 
had been there about two days, was seized 
with the cholera, which was at that place. 
The complaint was, without doubt, brought on 
by my having subsisted on fruit only, for sev- 



FROM SLAVERY. 103 

eral days, while I was in the slave States. 
The landlord of the inn came to me when I 
was in bed, suffering violently from cholera, 
and told me, he knew I had that complaint, 
and as it had never been in his house, I could 
not stop there any longer. No one would en- 
ter my room, except a young lady, who ap- 
peared very pious and amiable, and had visit- 
ed persons with the cholera. She immediate- 
ly procured me some medicine at her own 
expence, and administered it herself; and 
whilst I was groaning with agony, the land- 
lord came up and ordered me out of the house 
directly. Most, of the persons in Poughkeep- 
sie had retired for the night, and I lay nnder 
a shed on some cotton bales. The medicine 
relieved me, having been given so promptly; 
and next morning I went from the shed, and 
laid on the banks of the river below the city. 
Towards evening. I felt much better, and went 
on in a steam-boat, to the city of Albany, 
about eighty miles. When I reached there, I 



104 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

went into the country, and tried for three or 
four days to procure employment, but failed. 

At that time I had scarcely any money, and 
lived upon fruit; so I returned to Albany, 
where I could get no work, as I could not 
show the recommendations I possessed, which 
were only from slave States; and I did not 
wish any one to know I came from them. 
After a time, I went up the western canal as 
steward in one of the boats. When I had 
gone about 350 miles up the canal, I found I 
was going too much towards the slave States, 
in consequence of which, I returned to Albany, 
and went up the northern canal, into one of 
the New England States — Vermont. The 
distance I had travelled, including the 350 
miles I had to return from the west, and the 
100 to Vermont, was 2300 miles. When I 
reached Vermont, I found the people very 
hospitable and kind: they seemed opposed to 
slavery, so I told them I was a run-away 



FROM SLAVERY. 105 

slave. I hired myself to a firm in Sudbury.* 
After I had been in Sudbury some time, the 
neighbouring farmers told me, that I had 
hired myself for much less money than 1 
ought. I mentioned it to my employers, who 
were very angry about it; I was advised to 
leave by some of the people round, who 
thought the gentleman I was with would 
write to my former master, informing him 
where I was, and obtain the reward fixed 
upon me. Fearing I should be taken, I em- 
mediately left, and went into the town of Lud- 

* During my stay in this town, I thought of the vow 
I made in the water, (page 92,) and I became more 
thoughtful about the salvation of my soul. I attended 
the Methodist Chapel, where a Mr. Benton preached 
and there I began to feel that I was a great sinner^ 
During the latter part of my stay here, I became more 
anxious about salvation, and I entertained the absurd 
notion that religion would come to me in some extraor- 
dinary way. With this impression, I used to go into 
the woods two hours before day-light to pray, and ex- 
pected something would take place, and I should be- 
come religious. 



10<i ROPER'S ESCAPE 

low, where I met with a kind friend, Mr. — ,* 
who sent me to school for several weeks. At 
this time, I was advertised in the papers, and 
was obliged to leave. I went a little way out 
of Ludlow,f to a retired place, and lived two 

weeks with a Mr. ; deacon of a Baptist 

church at Ludlow : at this place I could have 
obtained education, had it been safe to have 

*It would not be proper to mention any names as a 
person in any of the States in America, found harbou- 
ring a slave, would have to pay a heavy fine. 

■f Whilst in this neighbourhood, I attended the Bap- 
tist Meeting, and trust the preaching of the gospel was 
much blessed to my soul. As this was the first time I 
was ever favoured with any education, I was \ery in- 
tent upon learning to read the Bible, and in a few 
weeks I was able, from my own reading, to repeat by 
heart the whole of the last chapter of Matthew. I also 
attended the prayer and inquiry meetings, where the 
attendants used to relate their experience, and I was 
requested to do the same. I found these meetings a 
great blessing, and they were the means, under God, of 
communicating to my mind a more clear and distinc 
knowledge of the- way of salvation by Jesus Christ. 



FROM SLAVERY. 107 

remained. From there I went to New 
Hampshire, where I was not safe, so went to 
Boston, Massachusetts, with tin hope of re- 
turning to Ludlow, a place to which I was 
much attached. At Boston, I met with a 
friend, who kept a shop, and took me to assist 
him for several weeks. Here I did not con- 
sider myself safe, as persons from all parts of 
the country were continually coming to the 
shop, and I fearod some might come who knew 
me. I now had my head shaved, and bought 
a wig, and engaged myself to a Mr. Perkins, 
of Brookline, three miles from Boston, where 
I remained about a month. Some of the 
family discovered that I wore a wig, and said 
that I was a run-away slave ; bnt the neigh- 
bours all around thought I was a white, to 
prove which, I have a document in my pos- 
session to call me to military duty. The law 
is, that no slave or coloured person performs 
this, but every other person in America, of 
the age of twenty-one, is called upon to per- 



1&8 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

form military duty, once or twice in the year 
or pay a fine. 

COPY OF THE DOCUMENT. 

" Mr. Moses Roper, 

" You being duly enrolled as a sol- 
dier in the Company, under the command of 
Captain Benjamin Bradley, are hereby notifi- 
ed and ordered to appear at the Town House, 
in Brookline, on Friday, 28ih instant, at 3 
o'clock, p. M , for the purpose of filling the 
vacancy in the said Company, occasioned by 
the promotion of Lieut. Nathaniel M. Weeks, 
and of filling any other vacancy which may 
then and there occur in the said Company, 
and then wait further orders. 

" By order of the Captain, 

" F. P. Wentworth, Clerk. 

rt Broohline^ August, \4th, 1835.* 

* Being very tall, I was taken to be twenty-one ; but 
my correct age, as far as I can tell, is stated in page 1 5. 



FROM SLAVERY. 109 

I then returned to the city of Boston, to 
the shop where I was before. Several weeks 
after I had returned to my situation, two co- 
loured men informed me, that a gentleman 
had been inquiring for a person, whom, from 
the description, I knew to be myself, and of- 
fered them a considerable sum if they would 
disclose my place of abode ; but they, being 
much opposed to slavery, came and told me ; 
upon which information, I secreted myself till 
I could get off. I went into the Green moun- 
tains for several weeks, from thence to the 
city of New York, and remained in secret 
several days, till I heard of a ship, the Na- 
poleon, sailing to England, and on the 11th 
of November, 1835, I sailed, taking nay 
letters of recommendation, to the Drs. Mor- 
rison and Raffles, and the Rev. Alexander 
Fletcher. The time I first started from sla- 
very, was in July, 1834, so that I was nearly 

sixteen months in making my escape. 
L 



110 ROPER'S ESCAPE 



CHAPTER IX 



The Author arrives at Liverpool, November 29, 1835 
— Manchester. — London. 

On the 29th of November, 1835, I reached 
Liverpool ; and my feelings when I first 
touched the shores of Britain were indescrib- 
able, and can only be properly understood 
by those who have escaped from the cruel 
bondage of slavery. 

u 'Tis liberty alone, that gives the flower of fleeting 

life its lustre and perfume ; 
And we are weeds without it." 

** Slaves cannot breathe in England : 

If their lungs receive our air, that moment they are 

free 
They touch our country, and their shackles fall." 

Cow per. 

When I reached Liverpool, I proceeded to 
Dr. Raffles, and handed my letters of recom- 
mendation to him. Ke received me very 
kindly, and introduced me to a member of his 



FROM SLAVERY. Ill 

church, with whom I stayed the night. — 
Here I met with the greatest attention and 
kindness. The next day I went to Manches- 
ter, where I met with many kind friends ; 
among others, Mr. Adshead, of that town, to 
whom I desire, through this medium, to return 
my most sincere thanks for the many great 
services which he rendered me, adding both to 
my spiritual and temporal comfort. I would 
not, however, forget to remember here Mr. 
Leese, Mr. Giles, Mr. Crewdson, and Mr. 
Clare, the latter of whom, gave me a letter to 
Mr. Scoble, the secretary of the Anti-slavery 
Society. I remained here several days, and 
then proceeded to London, December 12th, 
1835, and immediately called on Mr. Scoble, 
to whom I delivered my letter. This gentle- 
man procured me a lodging. I then lost no 
time in delivering my letters to Dr. Morrison 
and the Rev. Alexander Fletcher, who receiv- 
ed me with the greatest kindness ; and shortly 
after this, Dr. Morrison sent my letter from 



112 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

New York, with another from himself, to the 
Patriot Newspaper, in which he kindly im- 
plored the sympathy of the public in my be- 
half. The appeal was read by Mr. Christo- 
pherson, a member of Dr. Morrison's church, 
of which gentleman, I express but little of 
my feelings and gratitude, when I say, that 
throughout he has been towards me a parent, 
for whose tenderness and sympathy I desire 
ever to feel that attachment which I do not 
know how to express. 

I stayed at his house several weeks, being 
treated as one of the family. The appeal in 
the Patriot, referred to getting a suitable 
academy for me, which the Rev. Dr. Cox re- 
commended at Hackney, where I remained 
half a year, going through the rudiments of an 
English education. At this time, I attended 
the ministry of Dr. Cox, which I enjoyed very 
much, and to which I ascribe the attainment 
of clearer views of divine grace than I had 
before. I had attended here several months, 



FROM SLAVERY. 113 

when I expressed my wish to Dr. Cox, to 
become a member of his church, I was pro- 
posed ; and after stating my experience, was 
admitted, March 31st, 1836. 

Here it is necessary that I should draw this 
narrative to a close, not that my materials are 
exhausted, but that I am unwilling to extend 
it to a size which might preclude many well- 
wishers from the possession of it. 

But I must remark, that my feelings of hap- 
piness at having escaped from cruel bondage, 
are not unmixed with sorrow of a very touch- 
ing kind. " The Land of the Iree" still 
contains the mother,* the brothers, and the 
sister of Moses Roper, not enjoying liberty, 

* About five months ago the Author wrote to Dr. 
Gallon, his mother's master, to know what sum 
would be sufficient to purchase her freedom, and he 
has received the following painful answer : — 

Milton, North Carolina, Aug. 28*A, 1839. 
" Your mother and her family were transferred from 
this place, two or three yearsago,toGrunsborough,in 

# 



114 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

not the possessors of like feelings with me, 
not having even a distant glimpse of advanc- 
ing towards freedom, but still slaves ! This 
is a weight which hangs heavy on me. As 
circumstances at present stand, there is not 
much prospect o( ever again seeing those dear 
ones, from whom, on the Sunday night, I was 
torn away by armed slave holders, and carried 
into cruel bondage.* And nothing would 
contribute so much to my entire happiness, if 
the kindness of gracious Providence should 
ever place me in such favourable circum- 
stances, as to be able to purchase their free- 
dom. But I desire to express my entire re- 
signation to the will of God. Should that 
Divine Being who made of one flesh all the 

the State of Alabama, and I regret to inform you 
that your mother is since dead." 
[§|?The author has since ascertained that the above- 
is untrue, and sent merely to annoy him. 
April, 1843. 

*See page 44. 
% 



FROM SLAVERY. 115 

kindreds of the earth, see fit that I should 
again clasp them to my breast, and see in 
them the reality of free men and free women, 
how shall I, a poor mortal, be enabled to 
sing a strain of praise sufficiently appropriate 
to such a boon from heaven. 

But if the all-wise disposer of all things 
should see fit to keep them still in suffering 
and bondage, it is a mercy to know that he 
orders all things well, that he is still the 
judge of all the earth, and that under such 
dispensations of his providence, he is work- 
ing out that which shall be most for the ad- 
vantage of his creatures. 

Whatever I may have experienced in 
America, at the hands of cruel taskmasters, 
yet I am unwilling to speak in any but re- 
spectful terms of the land of my birth. It is 
far from rny wish to attempt to degrade 
America in the eyes of Britons. I love her 
Institutions in the Free States, her zeal for 
Christ ; I bear no enmity to the slave-holders 



116 ROPER'S ESCAPE 

but regret their delusions, many I am aware 
are deeply sensible of the fault, but some I 
regret to say are not, and I could wish to 
open their eyes to their sin ; may the period 
come, when God shall wipe off this deep stain 
from her constitution, and may America soon 
be indeed the land of the free. 

In conclusion, I thank my dear friends in 
England for their affectionate attentions, and 
may God help me to show by my future walk 
in life, that I am not wanting in my acknow- 
ledgments of their kindness. But above all, 
to the God of all grace, I desire here before 
his people, that all the way in which he has 
led me has been the right way, and as in his 
mercy and wisdom, he has led me to this 
country, where I am allowed to go free, may 
all my actions tend to lead me on, through 
the mercy of God in Christ, in the right way 
to a city of habitation. 

THE END. 



J0*