This excerpt from “The Underground Railroad” by William Still documents three fugitives who walked from Virginia to Greenville, Pennsylvania.
From Greenville, they took the train to arrive in Philadelphia and seek the help of the local Underground Railroad committee.
The escaping party included:
- Daniel Davis alias David Smith
- Adam Nicholson alias John Wynkoop
- Reuben Bowles alias Reuben Cunnigan
Fugitives frequently changed their names and took aliases to evade from capture.
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 – Daniel Davis Alias David Smith
Daniel was only about twenty, just at a capital age to make a bold strike for freedom.
The appearance and air of this young aspirant for liberty indicated that he was not of the material to be held in chains. He was a man of medium size, well-built, dark color, and intelligent.
Hon. Charles J. Fortner, M.C. was the reputed owner of this young fugitive, but the honorable gentleman having no use for his services, or because he may have profited more by hiring him out, Daniel was placed in the employ of a farmer, by the name of Adam Quigley.
It was at this time he resolved that he would not be a slave any longer.
He declared that Quigley was a “very mean man,” one for whom he had no respect whatever. Indeed he felt that the system of Slavery was an abomination in any form it might be viewed.
While he was yet so young, he had pretty clear views with regard to Slavery, and remembered with feelings of deep indignation, how his father had been sold when he himself was a boy, just as a horse might have been sold; and how his mother was dragging her chains in Slavery, up to the hour he fled.
Thus in company with his two companions he was prepared for any sacrifice.
Adam Nicholson Alias John Wynkoop
Adam’S tale is soon told;
All that is on the old record in addition to his full name, is in the following words:
“Adam is dark, rugged and sensible, and was owned by Alexander Hill, a drunkard, gambler, &c.”
Reuben Bowles Alias Cunnigan
Reuben had been hired out to John Sabbard near Hedgeville.
Startled at hearing that he was to be sold, he was led to consider the propriety of seeking flight via the Underground Rail Road.
How The Trio Escaped To Philadephia
These three young men were all fine specimens of farm hands, and possessed more than average common sense, considering the oppression they had to labor under.
They walked the entire distance from Hedgeville, Virginia, to Greenville, Pennsylvania.
There they took the cars and walked no more.
They appeared travel-worn, garments dirty, and forlorn; but the Committee had them cleanly washed, hair cut and shaved, change of clothing furnished, &c., which at once made them look like very different men.
Means were appropriated to send them on free of cost.