This excerpt from “The Underground Railroad” by William Still documents the escape of Samuel Miles from Somerset County, Maryland.
Samuel escaped because his master refused to let him see his wife and child who were free.
Still and the Philadelphia committee of the Underground Railroad helped Samuel travel to freedom in Canada.
From there, Samuel wrote a detailed letter to William Still to arrange for his wife and son to join him.
About The Book
“The Underground Railroad” was published in 1872. The book gives the testimonies of hundreds of slaves who escaped to freedom using the network of agents and safe houses.
The author, William Still, was a black abolitionist and businessman who was a key member of the Philadelphia stop in the freedom network.
The book is in the public domain. It can be found in the Library of Congress.
Any headings and italicized text in the excerpt below were added by the website editor. The rest is nearly verbatim from the book. There are some changes to the punctuation.
Excerpt – Arrival No. 6. Samuel Miles, alias Robert King
Samuel was a representative of Revel’s Neck, Somerset Co., Md.
His master he regarded as a “very fractious man, hard to please.”
The cause of the trouble or unpleasantness, which resulted in Samuel’s Underground adventure, was traceable to his master’s refusal to allow him to visit his wife.
Not only was Samuel denied this privilege, but he was equally denied all privileges.
His master probably thought that Sam had no mind, nor any need of a wife.
Whether this was really so or not, Sam was shrewd enough to “leave his old master with the bag to hold,” which was sensible.
Thirty-one years of Samuel’s life were passed in Slavery, ere he escaped. The remainder of his days he felt bound to have the benefit of himself.
In leaving home he had to part with his wife and one child, Sarah and little Henry, who were fortunately free.
Letter From Samuel Miles To William Still
On arriving in Canada Samuel wrote back for his wife, &c., as follows:
ST. CATHARINES, C.W., Aug. 20th, 1855.
To MR. WM. STILL, DEAR FRIEND:
It gives me pleasure to inform you that I have had the good fortune to reach this northern Canaan.
I got here yesterday and am in good health and happy in the enjoyment of Freedom, but am very anxious to have my wife and child here with me.
I wish you to write to her immediately on receiving this and let her know where I am you will recollect her name Sarah Miles at Baltimore on the corner of Hamburg and Eutaw streets.
Please encourage her in making a start and give her the necessary directions how to come. She will please to make the time as short as possible in getting through to Canada.
Say to my wife that I wish her to write immediately to the friends that I told her to address as soon as she hears from me.
Inform her that I now stop in St. Catharines near the Niagara Falls that I am not yet in business but expect to get into business very soon—That I am in the enjoyment of good health and hoping that this communication may find my affectionate wife the same.
That I have been highly favored with friends throughout my journey.
I wish my wife to write to me as soon as she can and let me know how soon I may expect to see her on this side of the Niagara River.
My wife had better call on Dr. Perkins and perhaps he will let her have the money he had in charge for me but that I failed of receiving when I left Baltimore.
Please direct the letter for my wife to Mr. George Lister, in Hill street between Howard and Sharp.
My compliments to all enquiring friends.
Very respectfully yours,
P.S. Please send the thread along as a token and my wife will understand that all is right. S.M.