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CHAPTER XII. Parker’s Own Story.
    The Leader of the Defenders Tells his Story of what Occurred at “the Riot”—The Author Gives Reasons why He takes the Narrative with Some Allowance—A Valuable Historical Contribution.

I deem it entirely fair and proper at this stage of the narrative to republish entire William Parker’s own account of what took place at his house during “the Riot.” It is reproduced in the assurance that each reader may—as he, and especially she, will—give it such credibility as the circumstances may command for it. It is fit that it be presented with certain qualifications to the general reader and to the increasing number who may peruse this history in the spirit in which it is written, viz., one of purely historic inquiry.

The Atlantic Monthly (Boston), for February, 1866, published the first part of what is entitled “The Freedman’s Story,” introduced by one who signed himself “E. K.,” and said he was asked to revise it for publication “or weave its facts into a story which would show the fitness of the Southern black for the right of suffrage.” The editor evades the natural inquiry whether the text is wholly Parker’s or partially his own; but it is printed as that of a freedman or ex-slave and as evidence “of the manhood of his race to that impartial grand-jury, the American people.”

Of course it cannot be unreservedly accepted for the purpose for which it was offered, that is: to prove the fitness of the Southern freedman for suffrage; for it is not the narrative of a man who was suddenly freed and enfranchised by the circumstances of war, but of one who became a fugitive slave many years earlier and had the advantage of Northern life and Canadian experience in the intervening period.

[Pg 101]But it is of very decided value to this attempted impartial and impersonal history, because it purports to tell the story of the Riot as the man most responsible for it and most conspicuous in it saw and heard its incidents; and, because he never had an opportunity to tell it under the restraints of a judicial examination or the obligations of an oath. It must be taken as his voluntary testimony, when he had no hopes of reward or fear of punishment to incite or restrain him.

The earlier part of his life’s story has been already abstracted, so far as it has any importance to this history. It leaves no room for doubt that he was a heroic and a desperate man; that he was instigated by ideas of personal liberty for himself and others, without regard to law; and that both offensively and defensively he was “enlisted for the war” to the death against all and every attempt to execute the Fugitive Slave Law.

Whether he is accurate in his statement of what occurred on the day of “the Riot,” each reader must determine for himself or herself. For myself, individually, I doubt the literal truth of parts of his narration, while I concede that in the main it is true and it certainly throws more illumination on the actual occurrences than the testimony of any other single witness.

I detect a note of braggadocio through all Parker’s narrative, which slightly discounts its truthfulness. His defiance of “all United States”; his admitted attempts to deceive Gorsuch as to the presence of his slaves on the premises; and his avowed purpose to shoot Gorsuch influence my judgment. Such considerations might not have weight with those who believe a man may be a good citizen who violates and defies a bad law. The literary style of “The Freedman’s Story” leaves little room for doubt that his manuscript was edited by some one with a purpose other than strictly historical.

On the other hand, no other person was in so favorable a[Pg 102] position as Parker to tell the actual story of the Riot, if he saw fit to do so, and when this version was published Parker had nothing to gain or lose from telling the truth, but the zeal of his editor to exalt “the freedman” may have tinctured the story. That he could remember its details so exactly as to verbally reproduce the many conversations in the Atlantic fifteen years later, is more than doubtful—it is impossible; and his pretense to do so discounts the attempt. In many respects the narration accords with the testimony of other eye-witnesses and it is not out of harmony in the main with the evidence produced on the trial. While it ascribes language to Mr. Gorsuch that likely he did not use, and may put into his hands weapons that he did not carry, Parker’s story certainly gives the Gorsuches, father and son, due credit for valor; and it makes some of their allies scarcely more timid than the trial disclosed them to have been.

Howbeit, the story told by Parker is an essential part of the history of the case and it is here reprinted out of fairness to all parties so far as it relates to the Riot and events immediately preceding it.
William Parker’s Story.

The Atlantic Monthly article, Part II, March, 1866, to which attention has been given, presupposes a previous account of Parker’s early life, the escape of the Gorsuch slaves, the warrants for their recapture, the departure of Deputy Marshal Kline to execute them and “Sam Williams’s” mission to Lancaster County to warn them and their friends of the impending raid upon them, substantially as they have been told already. Parker then proceeds:

The information brought by Mr. Williams spread through the vicinity like a fire in the prairies; and when I went home from my work in the evening, I found Pinckney (whom I should have said before was my brother-in-law), Abraham Johnson, Samuel Thompson and Joshua Kite at my[Pg 103] house, all of them excited about the rumor. I laughed at them, and said it was all talk. This was the 10th of September, 1851. They stopped for the night with us, and we went to bed as usual. Before daylight, Joshua Kite rose, and started for his home. Directly, he ran back to the house, burst open the door, crying, “O William! kidnappers! kidnappers!”

He said that, when he was just beyond the yard, two men crossed before him, as if to stop him, and others came up on either side. As he said this, they had reached the door. Joshua ran up stairs (we slept up stairs), and they followed him; but I met them at the landing, and asked, “Who are you?”

The leader, Kline, replied, “I am the United States Marshal.”

I then told him to take another step and I would break his neck.

He again said, “I am the United States Marshal.”

I told him I did not care for him nor the United States. At that he turned and went down stairs.

Pinckney said, as he turned to go down,—“Where is the use in fighting? They will take us.”

Kline heard him, and said, “Yes, give up, for we can and will take you anyhow.”

I told them all not to be afraid, nor to give up to any slaveholder, but to fight until death.

“Yes,” said Kline, “I have heard many a negro talk as big as you, and then have taken him; and I’ll take you.”

“You have not taken me yet,” I replied; “and if you undertake it you will have your name recorded in history for this day’s work.”

Mr. Gorsuch then spoke, and said,—“Come, Mr. Kline, let’s go up stairs and take them. We can take them. Come, follow me. I’ll go up and get my property. What’s in the[Pg 104] way? The law is in my favor, and the people are in my favor.”

At that he began to ascend the stair; but I said to him,—“See here, old man, you can come up, but you can’t go down again. Once up here, you are mine.”

Kline then said—“Stop, Mr. Gorsuch. I will read the warrant, and then, I think, they will give up.”

He then read the warrant, and said,—“Now, you see, we are commanded to take you, dead or alive; so you may as well give up at once.”

“Go up, Mr. Kline,” then said Gorsuch, “you are the Marshal.”

Kline started, and when a little way up said, “I am coming.”

I said, “Well, come on.”

But he was too cowardly to show his face. He went down again and said,—“You had better give up without any more fuss, for we are bound to take you anyhow. I told you before that I was the United States Marshal, yet you will not give up. I’ll not trouble the slaves. I will take you and make you pay for all.”

“Well,” I answered, “take me and make me pay for all. I’ll pay for all.”

Mr. Gorsuch then said, “You have my property.”

To which I replied,—“Go in the room down there, and see if there is anything there belonging to you. There are beds and a bureau, chairs, and other things. Then go out to the barn; there you will find a cow and some hogs. See if any of them are yours.”

He said,—“They are not mine; I want my men. They are here, and I am bound to have them.”

Thus we parleyed for a time, all because of the pusillanimity of the Marshal, when he, at last, said,—“I am tired waiting on you; I see you are not going to give up. Go to the[Pg 105] barn and fetch some straw,” said he to one of his men. “I will set the house on fire, and burn them up.”

“Burn us up and welcome,” said I. “None but a coward would say the like. You can burn us, but you can’t take us; before I give up, you will see my ashes scattered on the earth.”

By this time day had begun to dawn; and then my wife came to me and asked if she should blow the horn, to bring friends to our assistance. I assented, and she went to the garret for the purpose. When the horn sounded from the garret window, one of the ruffians asked the others what it meant; and Kline said to me, “What do you mean by blowing that horn?”

I did not answer. It was a custom with us, when a horn was blown at an unusual hour, to proceed to the spot promptly to see what was the matter. Kline ordered his men to shoot any one they saw blowing the horn. There was a peach-tree at that end of the house. Up it two of the men climbed; and when my wife went a second time to the window, they fired as soon as they heard the blast, but missed their aim. My wife then went down on her knees, and, drawing her head and body below the range of the window, the horn resting on the sill, blew blast after blast, while the shots poured thick and fast around her. They must have fired ten or twelve times. The house was of stone, and the windows were deep, which alone preserved her life.

They were evidently disconcerted by the blowing of the horn. Gorsuch said again, “I want my property, and I will have it.”

“Old man,” said I, “you look as if you belonged to some persuasion.”

“Never mind,” he answered, “what persuasion I belong to; I want my property.”

While I was leaning out of the window, Kline fired a pistol at me, but the shot went too high; the ball broke the glass just above my head. I was talking to Gorsuch at the time.[Pg 106] I seized a gun and aimed it at Gorsuch’s breast, for he evidently had instigated Kline to fire; but Pinckney caught my arm and said, “Don’t shoot.” The gun went off, just grazing Gorsuch’s shoulder. Another conversation then ensued between Gorsuch, Kline, and myself, when another one of the party fired at me but missed. Dickinson Gorsuch, I then saw, was preparing to shoot; and I told him if he missed, I would show him where shooting first came from.

I asked them to consider what they would have done, had they been in our position. “I know you want to kill us,” I said, “for you have shot at us time and again. We have only fired twice, although we have guns and ammunition, and could kill you all if we would, but we do not want to shed blood.”

“If you do not shoot any more,” then said Kline, “I will stop my men from firing.”

They then ceased for a time. This was about sunrise.

Mr. Gorsuch now said,—“Give up and let me have my property. Hear what the Marshal says; the Marshal is your friend. He advises you to give up without more fuss, for my property I will have.”

I denied that I had his property when he replied, “You have my men.”

“Am I your man?” I asked.

“No.”

I then called Pinckney forward.

“Is that your man?”

“No.”

Abraham Johnson I called next, but Gorsuch said he was not his man.

The only plan left was to call both Pinckney and Johnson again; for had I called the others, he would have recognized them, for they were his slaves.

Abraham Johnson said, “Does such a shrivelled up old[Pg 107] slaveholder as you own such a nice, genteel young man as I am?”

At this Gorsuch took offence, and charged me with dictating his language. I then told him there were but five of us, which he denied, and still insisted that I had his property. One of the party then attacked the Abolitionists, affirming that, although they declared there could not be property in man, the Bible was conclusive authority in favor of property in human flesh.

“Yes,” said Gorsuch, “does not the Bible say, ‘Servants, obey your masters’?”

I said that it did, but the same Bible said, “Give unto your servants that which is just and equal.”

At this stage of the proceedings, we went into a mutual Scripture inquiry, and bandied views in the manner of garrulous old wives.

When I spoke of duty to servants, Gorsuch said, “Do you know that?”

“Where,” I asked, “do you see it in Scripture that a man should traffic in his brother’s blood?”

“Do you call a nigger my brother?” said Gorsuch.

“Yes,” said I.

“William,” said Samuel Thompson, “he has been a class-leader.”

When Gorsuch heard that, he hung his head, but said nothing. We then all joined in singing,—
“Leader, what do you say
About the judgment day?
I will die on the field of battle,
Die on the field of battle,
With glory in my soul.”

Then we all began to shout, singing meantime, and shouted for a long while. Gorsuch, who was standing head bowed, said “What are you doing now?”

Samuel Thompson replied, “Preaching a sinner’s funeral sermon.”

[Pg 108]“You had better give up, and come down.”

I then said to Gorsuch,—“‘If a brother see a sword coming, and he warn not his brother, then the brother’s blood is required at his hands; but if the brother see the sword coming, and warn his brother, and his brother flee not, then his brother’s blood is required at his own hand.’ I see the sword coming, and, old man, I warn you to flee; if you flee not, your blood be upon your own hand.”

It was now about seven o’clock.

“You had better give up,” said old Mr. Gorsuch, after another while, “and come down, for I have come a long way this morning, and want my breakfast; for my property I will have, or I’ll breakfast in hell. I will go up and get it.”

He then started up stairs, and came far enough to see us all plainly. We were just about to fire upon him, when Dickinson Gorsuch, who was standing on the old oven, before the door, and could see into the upstairs room through the window, jumped down and caught his father, saying,—“O father, do come down! do come down! They have guns, swords, and all kinds of weapons! They’ll kill you! Do come down!”

The old man turned and left. When down with him, young Gorsuch could scarce draw breath, and the father looked more like a dead than a living man, so frightened were they at their supposed danger. The old man stood some time without saying anything; at last he said, as if soliloquizing, “I want my property, and I will have it.”

Kline broke forth, “If you don’t give up by fair means, you will have to by foul.”

I told him we would not surrender on any conditions.

Young Gorsuch then said,—“Don’t ask them to give up,—make them do it. We have money, and can call men to take them. What is it that money won’t buy?”

Then said Kline,—“I am getting tired waiting on you; I see you are not going to give up.”

[Pg 109]He then wrote a note and handed it to Joshua Gorsuch, saying at the same time,—“Take it, and bring a hundred men from Lancaster.”

As he started, I said,—“See here! When you go to Lancaster, don’t bring a hundred men,—bring five hundred. It will take all the men in Lancaster to change our purpose or take us alive.”

He stopped to confer with Kline, when Pinckney said, “We had better give up.”

“You are getting afraid,” said I.

“Yes,” said Kline, “give up like men. The rest would give up if it were not for you.”

“I am not afraid,” said Pinckney; “but where is the sense in fighting against so many men, and only five of us?”

The whites, at this time, were coming from all quarters, and Kline was enrolling them as fast as they came. Their numbers alarmed Pinckney, and I told him to go and sit down; but he said, “No, I will go down stairs.”

I told him, if he attempted it, I should be compelled to blow out his brains. “Don’t believe that any living man can take you,” I said. “Don’t give up to any slaveholder.”

To Abraham Johnson, who was near me, I then turned. He declared he was not afraid. “I will fight till I die,” he said.

At this time, Hannah, Pinckney’s wife, had become impatient of our persistent course; and my wife, who brought me her message urging us to surrender, seized a corn-cutter, and declared she would cut off the head of the first one who should attempt to give up.

Another one of Gorsuch’s slaves was coming along the high-road at this time, and I beckoned to him to go around. Pinckney saw him, and soon became more inspired. Elijah Lewis, a Quaker, also came along about this time: I beckoned to him, likewise; but he came straight on, and was met by Kline, who ordered him to assist him. Lewis asked for his authority,[Pg 110] and Kline handed him the warrant. While Lewis was reading, Castner Hanway came up, and Lewis handed the warrant to him. Lewis asked Kline what Parker said.

Kline replied, “He won’t give up.”

Then Lewis and Hanway both said to the Marshal,—“If Parker says they will not give up, you had better let them alone, for he will kill some of you. We are not going to risk our lives”—and they turned to go away.

While they were talking, I came down and stood in the doorway, my men following behind.

Old Mr. Gorsuch said, when I appeared, “They’ll come out, and get away!” and he came back to the gate.

I then said to him,—“You said you could and would take us. Now you have the chance.”

They were a cowardly-looking set of men.

Mr. Gorsuch said, “You can’t come out here.”

“Why?” said I. “This is my place. I pay rent for it. I’ll let you see if I can’t come out.”

“I don’t care if you do pay rent for it,” said he. “If you come out, I will give you the contents of these”—presenting, at the same time, two revolvers, one in each hand.

I said, “Old man, if you don’t go away, I will break your neck.”

I then walked up to where he stood his arms resting on the gate, trembling as if afflicted with palsy, and laid my hand on his shoulder, saying, “I have seen pistols before today.” Kline now came running up, and entreated Gorsuch to come away.

“No,” said the latter, “I will have my property, or go to hell.”

“What do you intend to do?” said Kline to me.

“I intend to fight,” said I. “I intend to try your strength.”

“If you will withdraw your men,” he replied, “I will withdraw mine.”

[Pg 111]I told him it was too late. “You would not withdraw when you had the chance,—you shall not now.”

Kline then went back to Hanway and Lewis. Gorsuch made a signal to his men, and they all fell into line. I followed his example as well as I could; but as we were not more than ten paces apart, it was difficult to do so. At this time we numbered but ten, while there were between thirty and forty of the white men.

While I was talking to Gorsuch, his son said, “Father, will you take all this from a nigger?”

I answered him by saying that I respected old age; but that, if he would repeat that, I should knock his teeth down his throat. At this he fired upon me, and I ran up to him and knocked the pistol out of his hand, when he let the other one fall and ran in the field.

My brother-in-law, who was standing near, then said, “I can stop him”—and with his double-barrel gun he fired.

Young Gorsuch fell, but rose and ran on again. Pinckney fired a second time and again Gorsuch fell, but was soon up again and, running into the cornfield, lay down in the fence corner.

I returned to my men, and found Samuel Thompson talking to old Mr. Gorsuch, his master. They were both angry.

“Old man, you had better go home to Maryland,” said Samuel.

“You had better give up, and come home with me,” said the old man.

Thompson took Pinckney’s gun from him, struck Gorsuch, and brought him to his knees. Gorsuch rose and signalled to his men. Thompson then knocked him down again, and he again rose. At this time all the white men opened fire, and we rushed upon them; when they turned, threw down their guns and ran away. We, being closely engaged, clubbed our rifles. We were too closely pressed to fire, but we found a good deal could be done with empty guns.

[Pg 112]Old Mr. Gorsuch was the bravest of his party; he held on to his pistols until the last, while all the others threw away their weapons. I saw as many as three at a time fighting with him. Sometimes he was on his knees, then on his back, and again his feet would be where his head should be. He was a fine soldier and a brave man. Whenever he saw the least opportunity, he would take aim. While in close quarters with the whites, we could load and fire but two or three times. Our guns got bent and out of order. So damaged did they become, that we could shoot with but two or three of them. Samuel Thompson bent his gun on old Mr. Gorsuch so badly, that it was of no use to us.

When the white men ran, they scattered. I ran after Nathan Nelson, but could not catch him. I never saw a man run faster. Returning, I saw Joshua Gorsuch coming, and Pinckney behind him. I reminded him that he would like “to take hold of a nigger,” told him that now was his “chance,” and struck him a blow on the side of the head, which stopped him. Pinckney came up behind, and gave him a blow which brought him to the ground; as the others passed, they gave him a kick or jumped upon him, until the blood oozed out at his ears.

Nicholas Hutchings and Nathan Nelson of Baltimore County, Maryland, could outrun any men I ever saw. They and Kline were not brave, like the Gorsuches. Could our men have got them, they would have been satisfied.

One of our men ran after Dr. Pierce, as he richly deserved attention; but Pierce caught up with Castner Hanway, who rode between the fugitive and the Doctor, to shield him and some others. Hanway was told to get out of the way, or he would forfeit his life; he went aside quickly, and the man fired at the Marylander, but missed him,—he was too far off. I do not know whether he was wounded or not; but I do know that, if it had not been for Hanway, he would have been killed.

[Pg 113]Having driven the slavocrats off in every direction, our party now turned towards their several homes. Some of us, however, went back to my house, where we found several of the neighbors.

The scene at the house beggars description. Old Mr. Gorsuch was lying in the yard in a pool of blood, and confusion reigned both inside and outside of the house.

Levi Pownall said to me, “The weather is so hot and the flies are so bad, will you give me a sheet to put over the corpse?”

In reply, I gave him permission to get anything he needed from the house.

“Dickinson Gorsuch is lying in the fence-corner, and I believe he is dying. Give me something for him to drink,” said Pownall, who seemed to be acting the part of the Good Samaritan.

When he returned from ministering to Dickinson, he told me he could not live.

The riot, so called, was now entirely ended. The elder Gorsuch was dead; his son and nephew were both wounded, and I have reason to believe others were,—how many, it would be difficult to say. Of our party, only two were wounded. One received a ball in his hand, near the wrist; but it only entered the skin, and he pushed it out with his thumb. Another received a ball in the fleshy part of his thigh, which had to be extracted; but neither of them were sick or crippled by the wounds. When young Gorsuch fired at me in the early part of the battle, both balls passed through my hat, cutting off my hair close to the skin, but they drew no blood. The marks were not more than an inch apart.

A story was afterwards circulated that Mr. Gorsuch shot his own slave, and in retaliation his slave shot him; but it was without foundation. His slave struck him the first and second blows; then three or four sprang upon him, and, when he became helpless, left him to pursue others. The women[Pg 114] put an end to him. His slaves, so far from meeting death at his hands, are all still living.

After the fight, my wife was obliged to secrete herself, leaving the children in care of her mother, and to the charities of our neighbors. I was questioned by my friends as to what I should do, as they were looking for officers to arrest me. I determined not to be taken alive, and told them so; but, thinking advice as to our future course necessary, went to see some old friends and consult about it. Their advice was to leave, as, were we captured and imprisoned, they could not foresee the result. Acting upon this hint, we set out for home, when we met some female friends, who told us that forty or fifty armed men were at my house, looking for me, and that we had better stay away from the place, if we did not want to be taken. Abraham Johnson and Pinckney hereupon halted, to agree upon the best course, while I turned around and went another way.

Before setting out on my long journey northward, I determined to have an interview with my family, if possible, and to that end changed my course. As we went along the road to where I found them, we met men in companies of three and four, who had been drawn together by the excitement. On one occasion, we met ten or twelve together. They all left the road, and climbed over the fences into fields to let us pass; and then after we had passed, turned, and looked after us as far as they could see. Had we been carrying destruction to all human kind, they could not have acted more absurdly. We went to a friend’s house and stayed for the rest of the day, and until nine o’clock that night when we set out for Canada.

The great trial now was to leave my wife and family. Uncertain as to the result of the journey, I felt I would rather die than be separated from them. It had to be done, however; and we went forth with heavy hearts, outcasts for the sake of liberty. When we had walked as far as Christiana,[Pg 115] we saw a large crowd, late as it was, to some of whom, at least, I must have been known, as we heard distinctly, “A’n’t that Parker?”

“Yes,” was answered, “that’s Parker.”

Kline was called for, and he, with some nine or ten more, followed after. We stopped, and then they stopped. One said to his comrades, “Go on,—that’s him.” And another replied, “You go.” So they contended for a time who should come to us. At last they went back. I was sorry to see them go back, for I wanted to meet Kline and end the day’s transactions.

We went on unmolested to Penningtonville; and, in consequence of the excitement, thought best to continue on to Parkesburg. Nothing worth mention occurred for a time. We proceeded to Downingtown, and thence six miles beyond, to the house of a friend. We stopped with him on Saturday night, and on the evening of the 14th went fifteen miles farther. Here I learned from a preacher, directly from the city, that the excitement in Philadelphia was too great for us to risk our safety by going there. Another man present advised us to go to Norristown.

At Norristown we rested a day. The friends gave us ten dollars, and sent us in a vehicle to Quakertown. Our driver, being partly intoxicated, set us down at the wrong place, which obliged us to stay out all night. At eleven o’clock the next day we got to Quakertown. We had gone about six miles out of the way, and had to go directly across the country. We rested the 16th, and set out in the evening for Friendsville.

A friend piloted us some distance, and we travelled until we became very tired, when we went to bed under a haystack. On the 17th, we took breakfast at an inn. We passed a small village, and asked a man whom we met with a dearborn, what would be his charge to Windgap. “One dollar and fifty[Pg 116] cents,” was the ready answer. So in we got, and rode to that place.

As we wanted to make some inquiries when we struck the north and south road, I went into the postoffice, and asked for a letter for John Thomas, which of course I did not get. The postmaster scrutinized us closely,—more so, indeed, than any one had done on the Blue Mountains,—but informed us that Friendsville was between forty and fifty miles away. After going about nine miles, we stopped in the evening of the 18th at an inn, got supper, were politely served, and had an excellent night’s rest. On the next day we set out for Tannersville, hiring a conveyance for twenty-two miles of the way. We had no further difficulty on the entire road to Rochester,—more than five hundred miles by the route we travelled.

Some amusing incidents occurred, however, which it may be well to relate in this connection. The next morning, after stopping at the tavern, we took the cars and rode to Homerville, where, after waiting an hour, as our landlord of the night previous had directed us, we took stage. Being the first applicants for tickets, we secured inside seats, and, from the number of us, we took up all of the places inside; but, another traveller coming, I tendered him mine, and rode with the driver. The passenger thanked me; but the driver, a churl, and the most prejudiced person I ever came in contact with, would never wait after a stop until I could get on, but would drive away, and leave me to swing, climb, or cling on to the stage as best I could. Our traveller, at last noticing his behavior, told him promptly not to be so fast, but let all passengers get on, which had the effect to restrain him a little.

At Big Eddy we took the cars. Directly opposite me sat a gentleman, who, on learning that I was for Rochester, said he was going there too, and afterwards proved an agreeable travelling companion.

A newsboy came in with papers, some of which the passengers[Pg 117] bought. Upon opening them, they read of the fight at Christiana.

“O, see here!” said my neighbor; “great excitement at Christiana; a—a statesman killed, and his son and nephew badly wounded.”

After reading, the passengers began to exchange opinions on the case. Some said they would like to catch Parker, and get the thousand dollars reward offered by the State; but the man opposite to me said, “Parker must be a powerful man.”

I thought to myself, “If you could tell what I can, you could judge about that.”

Pinckney and Johnson became alarmed, and wanted to leave the cars at the next stopping-place; but I told them there was no danger. I then asked particularly about Christiana, where it was, on what railroad, and other questions, to all of which I received correct replies. One of the men became so much attached to me, that, when we would go to an eating-saloon, he would pay for both. At Jefferson we thought of leaving the cars, and taking the boat; but they told us to keep on the cars, and we would get to Rochester by nine o’clock the next night.

We left Jefferson about four o’clock in the morning, and arrived at Rochester at nine the same morning. Just before reaching Rochester, when in conversation with my travelling friend, I ventured to ask what would be done with Parker, should he be taken.

“I do not know,” he replied; “but the laws of Pennsylvania would not hang him,—they might imprison him. But it would be different, very different, should they get him into Maryland. The people in all the Slave States are so prejudiced against colored people, that they never give them justice. But I don’t believe they will get Parker. I think he is in Canada by this time; at least, I hope so,—for I believe[Pg 118] he did right and, had I been in his place, I would have done as he did. Any good citizen will say the same. I believe Parker to be a brave man; and all you colored people should look at it as we white people look at our brave men, and do as we do. You see Parker was not fighting for a country, nor for praise. He was fighting for freedom: he only wanted liberty, as other men do. You colored people should protect him, and remember him as long as you live. We are coming near our parting-place, and I do not know if we shall ever meet again. I shall be in Rochester some two or three days before I return home; and I would like to have your company back.”

I told him it would be some time before we returned.

The cars then stopped, when he bade me good by. As strange as it may appear, he did not ask me my name; and I was afraid to inquire his, from fear he would.

On leaving the cars, after walking two or three squares, we overtook a colored man, who conducted us to the house of a friend of mine. He welcomed me at once, as we were acquainted before, took me up stairs to wash and comb, and prepare, as he said, for company.

As I was combing, a lady came up and said, “Which of you is Mr. Parker?”

“I am,” said I,—“what there is left of me.”

She gave me her hand, and said, “And this is William Parker!”

She appeared to be so excited that she could not say what she wished to. We were told we would not get much rest, and we did not; for visitors were constantly coming. One gentleman was surprised that we got away from the cars, as spies were all about, and there were two thousand dollars reward for the party.

We left at eight o’clock that evening, in a carriage, for the boat, bound for Kingston in Canada. As we went on board, the bell was ringing. After walking about a little, a friend pointed out to me the officers on the “hunt” for us; and just as the boat pushed off from the wharf, some of our[Pg 119] friends on shore called me by name. Our pursuers looked very much like fools, as they were. I told one of the gentlemen on shore to write to Kline that I was in Canada. Ten dollars were generously contributed by the Rochester friends for our expenses; and altogether their kindness was heartfelt, and was most gratefully appreciated by us.

Once on the boat, and fairly out at sea towards the land of liberty, my mind became calm, and my spirits very much depressed at thought of my wife and children. Before, I had little time to think much about them, my mind being on my journey. Now I became silent and abstracted. Although fond of company, no one was company for me now.

We landed at Kingston on the 21st of September, at six o’clock in the morning, and walked around for a long time, without meeting any one we had ever known. At last, however, I saw a colored man I knew in Maryland. He at first pretended to have no knowledge of me, but finally recognized me. I made known our distressed condition when he said he was not going home then, but, if we would have breakfast, he would pay for it. How different the treatment received from this man—himself an exile for the sake of liberty, and in its full enjoyment on free soil—and the self-sacrificing spirit of our Rochester colored brother, who made haste to welcome us to his ample home,—the well-earned reward of his faithful labors!

On Monday evening, the 23d, we started for Toronto, where we arrived safely the next day. Directly after landing, we heard that Governor Johnston, of Pennsylvania, had made a demand on the Governor of Canada for me, under the Extradition Treaty. Pinckney and Johnson advised me to go to the country, and remain where I should not be known; but I refused. I intended to see what they would do with me. Going at once to the Government House, I entered the first office I came to. The official requested me to be seated. The following is the substance of the conversation between us,[Pg 120] as near as I can remember. I told him I had heard that Governor Johnston, of Pennsylvania, had requested his government to send me back. At this he came forward, held forth his hand, and said, “Is this William Parker?”

I took his hand, and assured him I was the man. When he started to come, I thought he was intending to seize me, and I prepared myself to knock him down. His genial sympathetic manner it was that convinced me he meant well.

He made me sit down, and said—“Yes, they want you back again. Will you go?”

“I will not be taken back alive,” said I. “I ran away from my master to be free,—I have run from the United States to be free. I am now going to stop running.”

“Are you a fugitive from labor?” he asked.

I told him I was.

“Why,” he answered, “they say you are a fugitive from justice.” He then asked me where my master lived.

I told him, “In Anne Arundel County, Maryland.”

“Is there such a county in Maryland?” he asked.

“There is,” I answered.

He took down a map, examined it, and said, “You are right.”

I then told him the name of the farm, and my master’s name. Further questions bearing upon the country towns near, the nearest river, etc., followed, all of which I answered to his satisfaction.

“How does it happen,” he then asked, “that you lived in Pennsylvania so long, and no person knew you were a fugitive from labor?”

“I do not get other people to keep my secrets, sir,” I replied. “My brother and family only knew that I had been a slave.”

He then assured me that I would not, in his opinion, have to go back. Many coming in at this time on business, I was told to call again at three o’clock, which I did. The person[Pg 121] in the office, a clerk, told me to take no further trouble about it, until that day four weeks. “But you are as free a man as I am,” said he. When I told the news to Pinckney and Johnson, they were greatly relieved in mind.

I ate breakfast with the greatest relish, got a letter written to a friend in Chester County for my wife, and set about arrangements to settle at or near Toronto.

We tried hard to get work, but the task was difficult. I think three weeks elapsed before we got work that could be called work. Sometimes we would secure a small job, worth two or three shillings, and sometimes a smaller one, worth not more than one shilling; and these not oftener than once or twice in a week. We became greatly discouraged; and, to add to my misery, I was constantly hearing some alarming report about my wife and children. Sometimes they had carried her back into slavery,—sometimes the children, and sometimes the entire party. Then there would come a contradiction. I was soon so completely worn down by my fears for them, that I thought my heart would break. To add to my disquietude, no answer came to my letters, although I went to the office regularly every day. At last I got a letter with the glad news that my wife and children were safe, and would be sent to Canada. I told the person reading for me to stop, and tell them to send her “right now,”—I could not wait to hear the rest of the letter.

Two months from the day I landed in Toronto, my wife arrived, but without the children. She had had a very bad time. Twice they had her in custody; and, a third time, her young master came after her, which obliged her to flee before day, so that the children had to remain behind for the time. I was so glad to see her that I forgot about the children.

The day my wife came, I had nothing but the clothes on my back, and was in debt for my board, without any work to depend upon. My situation was truly distressing. I took[Pg 122] the resolution, and went to a store where I made known my circumstances to the proprietor, offering to work for him to pay for some necessaries. He readily consented, and I supplied myself with bedding, meal and flour. As I had selected a place before, we went that evening about two miles into the country, and settled ourselves for the winter.

When in Kingston, I had heard of the Buxton settlement, and of the Revds. Dr. Willis and Mr. King, the agents. My informant, after stating all the particulars, induced me to think it was a desirable place; and having quite a little sum of money due to me in the States, I wrote for it, and waited until May. It not being sent, I called upon Dr. Willis, who treated me kindly. I proposed to settle in Elgin, if he would loan means for the first instalment. He said he would see about it, and I should call again. On my second visit, he agreed to assist me, and proposed that I should get another man to go on a lot with me.

Abraham Johnson and I arranged to settle together, and, with Dr. Willis’s letter to Mr. King on our behalf, I embarked with my family on a schooner for the West. After five days’ sailing, we reached Windsor. Not having the means to take us to Chatham, I called upon Henry Bibb, and laid my case before him. He took us in, treated us with great politeness, and afterwards took me with him to Detroit, where, after an introduction to some friends, a purse of five dollars was made up. I divided the money among my companions, and started them for Chatham, but was obliged to stay at Windsor and Detroit two days longer.

While stopping at Windsor, I went again to Detroit, with two or three friends, when, at one of the steamboats just landed, some officers arrested three fugitives, on pretence of being horse thieves. I was satisfied they were slaves, and said so, when Henry Bibb went to the telegraph office and learned through a message that they were. In the crowd and excitement, the sheriff threatened to imprison me for[Pg 123] my interference. I felt indignant, and told him to do so, whereupon he opened the door. About this time there was more excitement, and then a man slipped into the jail, unseen by the officers, opened the gate, and the three prisoners went out, and made their escape to Windsor. I stopped through that night in Detroit, and started the next day for Chatham, where I found my family snugly provided for at a boarding-house kept by Mr. Younge.

Chatham was a thriving town at that time, and the genuine liberty enjoyed by its numerous colored residents pleased me greatly; but our destination was Buxton, and thither we went on the following day. We arrived there in the evening, and I called immediately upon Mr. King, and presented Dr. Willis’s letter. He received me very politely, and said that, after I should feel rested, I could go out and select a lot. He also kindly offered to give me meal and pork for my family, until I could get work.

In due time, Johnson and I each chose a fifty-acre lot for although when in Toronto we agreed with Dr. Willis to take one lot between us, when we saw the land we thought we could pay for two lots. I got the money in a little time, and paid the Doctor back. I built a house, and we moved into it that same fall, and in it I live yet. (1866.)

When I first settled in Buxton, the white settlers in the vicinity were much opposed to colored people. Their prejudices were very strong; but the spread of intelligence and religion in the community has wrought a great change in them. Prejudice is fast being uprooted; indeed, they do not appear like the same people that they were. In a short time I hope the foul spirit will depart entirely.

I have now to bring my narrative to a close; and in so doing I would return thanks to Almighty God for the many mercies and favors he has bestowed upon me, and especially for delivering me out of the hands of slaveholders, and placing me in a land of liberty, where I can worship God under[Pg 124] my own vine and fig-tree, with none to molest or make me afraid. I am also particularly thankful to my old friends and neighbors in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania,—to the friends in Norristown, Quakertown, Rochester, and Detroit, and to Dr. Willis of Toronto, for their disinterested benevolence and kindness to me and my family. When hunted, they sheltered me; when hungry and naked, they clothed and fed me; and when a stranger in a strange land, they aided and encouraged me. May the Lord in his great mercy remember and bless them, as they remembered and blessed me.



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