Collection: The Fugitive Blacksmith

The Flight – Fugitive Blacksmith

It was the Sabbath: the holy day which God in his infinite wisdom gave for the rest of both man and beast. In the state of Maryland, the slaves generally have the Sabbath, except in those districts where the evil weed, tobacco, is cultivated; and then, when it is the season for setting the plant, they are liable to be robbed of this only rest. It was in the month of November, somewhat past the middle of the month. It was a bright day, and all was quiet. Most of the slaves were resting about their quarters; others had leave to visit their friends on other plantations, and were absent. The evening previous I had arranged my little bundle of clothing, and had secreted it at some distance from the house. I had spent most of the forenoon in my workshop, engaged in deep and solemn thought. It is impossible for me now to recollect all the perplexing thoughts that passed through my mind during that forenoon; it was a day of heart aching to me. But I distinctly remember the two great difficulties that stood in the way of my flight: I had a father and mother whom I dearly loved, I had also six sisters and four brothers on the plantation. The question was, shall I hide my purpose from them? moreover, how will my flight affect...

Read More

The Good Woman of the Toll Gate – Fugitive Blacksmith

The resolution of which I informed the reader at the close of the last chapter, being put into practice, I continued my flight on the public road; and a little after the sun rose, I came in sight of a toll gate again. For a moment all the events which followed my passing a toll gate on Wednesday morning, came fresh to my recollection, and produced some hesitation; but at all events, said I, I will try again. On arriving at the gate, I found it attended by an elderly woman, whom I afterwards learned was a widow, and an excellent Christian woman. I asked her if I was in Pennsylvania. On being informed that I was, I asked her if she knew where I could get employ? She said she did not; but advised me to go to W.W., a Quaker, who lived about three miles from her, whom I would find to take an interest in me. She gave me directions which way to take; I thanked her, and bade her good morning, and was very careful to follow her directions. In about half an hour I stood trembling at the door of W.W. After knocking, the door opened upon a comfortably spread table; the sight of which seemed at once to increase my hunger sevenfold. Not daring to enter, I said I had been sent to...

Read More

Preface – Fugitive Blacksmith

The brief narrative I here introduce to the public, consists of outline notes originally thrown together to guide my memory when lecturing on this part of the subject of slavery. This will account for its style, and will also show that the work is not full. The question may be asked, Why I have published anything so long after my escape from slavery? I answer I have been induced to do so on account of the increasing disposition to overlook the fact, that THE SIN of slavery lies in the chattel principle, or relation. Especially have I felt anxious to save professing Christians, and my brethren in the ministry, from falling into a great mistake. My feelings are always outraged when I hear them speak of “kind masters, “Christian masters,” the mildest form of slavery, “well fed and clothed slaves,” as extenuations of slavery; I am satisfied they either mean to pervert the truth, or they do not know what they say. The being of slavery, its soul and body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill of sale principle; the cart whip, starvation, and nakedness, are its inevitable consequences to a greater or less extent, warring with the dispositions of men. There lies a skein of silk upon a lady’s work table. How smooth and handsome are the threads. But while that lady...

Read More

Seven Months’ Residence – Fugitive Blacksmith

On leaving W.W., I wended my way in deep sorrow and melancholy, onward towards Philadelphia, and after traveling two days and a night, I found shelter and employ in the family of J. K., another member of the Society of Friends, a farmer. The religious atmosphere in this family was excellent. Mrs. K. gave me the first copy of the Holy Scriptures I ever possessed, she also gave me much excellent counsel. She was a preacher in the Society of Friends; this occasioned her with her husband to be much of their time from home. This left the charge of the farm upon me, and besides put it out of their power to render me that aid in my studies which my former friend had. I, however, kept myself closely concealed, by confining myself to the limits of the farm, and using all my leisure time in study. This place was more secluded, and I felt less of dread and fear of discovery than I had before, and although seriously embarrassed for want of an instructor, I realized some pleasure and profit in my studies. I often employed myself in drawing rude maps of the solar system, and diagrams illustrating the theory of solar eclipses. I felt also a fondness for reading the Bible, and committing chapters, and verses of hymns to memory. Often on the Sabbath when alone...

Read More

The Feeding and Clothing of the Slaves – Fugitive Blacksmith

The slaves are generally fed upon salt pork, herrings and Indian corn. The manner of dealing it out to them is as follows: —Each working man, on Monday morning, goes to the cellar of the master where the provisions are kept, and where the overseer takes his stand with some one to assist him, when he, with a pair of steel yards, weighs out to every man the amount of three and a half pounds, to last him till the ensuing Monday, allowing him just half-a-pound per day. Once in a few weeks there is a change made, by which, instead of the three and a half pounds of pork, each man receives twelve herrings, allowing two a-day. The only bread kind the slaves have is that made of Indian meal. In some of the lower counties, the masters usually give their slaves the corn in the ear; and they have to grind it for themselves by night at hand mills. But my master had a quantity sent to the grist mill at a time, to be ground into coarse meal, and kept it in a large chest in his cellar, where the woman who cooked for the boys could get it daily. This was baked in large loaves, called “steel pound bread.” Sometimes as a change it was made into “Johnny Cake,” and then at others into mush....

Read More

The Family I Left in Slavery – Fugitive Blacksmith

It is but natural that the reader should wish to hear a word about the family I left behind. There are frequently large slave families with whom God seems to deal in a remarkable manner. I believe my family is an instance. I have already stated that when I fled, I left a father, mother, and eleven brothers and sisters. These were all, except my oldest brother, owned by the man from whom I fled. It will be seen at once then how the fear of implicating them embarrassed me in the outset. They suffered nothing, however, but a strong suspicion, until about six months after I had left; when the following circumstance took place: When I left my friend W.W. in Pennsylvania to go on north, I ventured to write a letter back to one of my brothers, informing him how I was; and this letter was directed to the care of a white man who was hired on the plantation, who worked in the garden with my father, and who professed a warm friendship to our family; but instead of acting in good faith, he handed the letter to my master. I am sorry that truth compels me to say that that man was an Englishman. From that day the family were handled most strangely. The history begins thus: they were all sold into Virginia, the adjoining...

Read More

A Dreary Night in the Woods – Fugitive Blacksmith

Almost immediately on entering the wood, I not only found myself embosomed in the darkness of the night, but I also found myself entangled in a thick forest of undergrowth, which had been quite thoroughly wetted by the afternoon rain. I penetrated through the wood, thick and thin, and more or less wet, to the distance I should think of three miles. By this time my clothes were all thoroughly soaked through, and I felt once more a gloom and wretchedness; the recollection of which makes me shudder at this distant day. My young friends in this highly favored Christian country, surrounded with all the comforts of home and parental care, visited by pastors and Sabbath school teachers, think of the dreary condition of the blacksmith boy in the dark wood that night; and then consider that thousands of his brethren have had to undergo much greater hardships in their flight from slavery. I was now out of the hands of those who had so cruelly teased me during the day; but a number of fearful thoughts rushed into my mind to alarm me. It was dark and cloudy, so that I could not see the north star. How do I know what ravenous beasts are in this wood? How do I know what precipices may be within its bounds? I cannot rest in this wood tomorrow, for it...

Read More

Appendix – Fugitive Blacksmith

These two letters are simply introduced to show what the state of my feelings was with reference to slavery at the time they were written. I had just heard several facts with regard to my parents, which had awakened my mind to great excitement. To My Father, Mother, Brothers, And Sisters. The following was written in 1844: Dearly Beloved In Bonds, About seventeen long years have now rolled away, since in the Providence of Almighty God, I left your embraces, and set out upon a daring adventure in search of freedom. Since that time, I have felt most severely the loss of the sun and moon and eleven stars from my social sky. Many, many a thick cloud of anguish has pressed my brow and sent deep down into my soul the bitter waters of sorrow in consequence. And you have doubtless had your troubles and anxious seasons also about your fugitive star. I have learned that some of you have been sold, and again taken back by Colonel ——. How many of you are living and together, I cannot tell. My great grief is, lest you should have suffered this or some additional punishment on account of my Exodus. I indulge the hope that it will afford you some consolation to know that your son and brother is yet alive. That God has dealt wonderfully and kindly with...

Read More

My Birth and Parentage – Fugitive Blacksmith

I was born in the state of Maryland, which is one of the smallest and most northern of the slave holding states; the products of this state are wheat, rye, Indian corn, tobacco, with some hemp, flax, &c. By looking at the map, it will be seen that Maryland, like Virginia her neighbor, is divided by the Chesapeake Bay into eastern and western shores. My birthplace was on the eastern shore, where there are seven or eight small counties; the farms are small, and tobacco is mostly raised. At an early period in the history of Maryland, her lands began to be exhausted by the bad cultivation peculiar to slave states; and hence she soon commenced the business of breeding slaves for the more southern states. This has given an enormity to slavery, in Maryland, differing from that which attaches to the system in Louisiana, and equaled by none of the kind, except Virginia and Kentucky, and not by either of these in extent. My parents did not both belong to the same owner: my father belonged to a man named; my mother belonged to a man named. This not only made me a slave, but made me the slave of him to whom my mother belonged; as the primary law of slavery is, that the child shall follow the condition of the mother. When I was about four...

Read More

The Fugitive Blacksmith

The Fugitive Blacksmith: Events in the history of James W. C. Pennington, Pastor of a Presbyterian Church, New York, formerly a slave in the State of Maryland, United States. The principal portion of the ‘Tract,’ as Mr. Pennington modestly styles his book, consists of an autobiography of his early life as a slave, and of his escape from bondage, and final settlement in New York as a Presbyterian Minister. His adventures and hair breadth escapes invest the narrative with startling interest, and excite the deepest sympathies of the reader.

Read More


Free Genealogy Archives

It takes a village to grow a family tree!
Genealogy Update - Keeping you up-to-date!
101 Best Websites 2016

Pin It on Pinterest