Did you know… Mary Milburn?
Mary, also known as Louisa Jones, was a slave in southern Virginia. Her situation, unlike many other slaves, was not particularly one of abuse or maltreatment. Her owners, two maiden ladies named Chapman, treated her well enough, provided her with food, clothing, and basic education, as well as shielding her from problems with men. However, it galled her spirit that she was a slave. She observed the slave markets, where young girls not so different from herself, were stripped, examined, and sold to the most obnoxious slave traders. She determined to escape.
She was able to contact members of the Underground Railroad. One day, with little warning, word came that passage by steamer to Philadelphia might be obtained – but she would have to leave immediately, and she would have to travel as a man.
Mary didn’t hesitate. She found some men’s clothing that fit well enough, gathered a small bag, and left by night. When she reached the steamer dock and her contact, she was required to climb into a wooden crate, which was then nailed shut and carried aboard the steamer. When the officers made their usual search, she stayed quiet and calm – no one discovered her. She had a letter of introduction to William Lloyd Garrison, whom she found when her box was opened in Philadelphia. She had skill with a needle, and a will to work, and soon found herself employment in Boston.
She writes [spelling original] :
“BOSTON, May 15th, 1858.
DEAR FRIEND:— I have selected this oppotunity to write you a few lines, hopeing thay may find you and yours enjoying helth and happiness. I arrived hear on Thirsday last, and had a lettor of intoduction giving to me by one of the gentlemen at the Antoslavery office in New York, to Mr. Garrison in Boston, I found him and his lady both to bee very clever. I stopped with them the first day of my arrivel hear, since that Time I have been living with Mrs. Hilliard I have met with so menny of my acquaintances hear, that I all most immagion my self to bee in the old country. I have not been to Canaday yet, as you expected. I had the pleasure of seeing the lettor that you wrote to them on the subject. I suffered much on the road with head ake but since that time I have no reason to complain, please do not for git to send the degarritips in the Shaimpain basket with Dr. Lundys, Mr. Lesley said he will send them by express, tell Julia kelly, that through mistake, I took one of her pocket handkerchift, that was laying on the table, but I shall keep it in remembranc of the onner. I must bring my lettor to a close as I have nothing more to say, and believe me to be your faithfull friend. LOUISA P. JONES. P.S. Remember me to each, and every member of your familly and all Enquiring Friends.”
William Still. The Underground Railroad / A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships, Hair-Breadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in Their Efforts for Freedom, As Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author. (Kindle Locations 11744-11753).