Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Tom Elliot (b. 1835 - d.  )
MSA SC 5496-1080
Fled from slavery, Dorchester County, 1857


    Tom Elliott successfully escaped from Dorchester County on about March 8, 1857. He was a part of the "Dover Eight", a group of fugitives that became the primary concern of slave holders and abolitionists alike. He and fellow runaway Denard Hughes had been owned by Pritchett Meredith, a prosperous farmer in Bucktown, who held at least 14 African-Americans in bondage.1 As with most who tried to escape in large groups, their journey was fraught with complications.

    As early as March 11, Meredith had placed an advertisement in the Baltimore Sun, offering $600 for the two fugitives. He suspected, perhaps correctly, that the two men would try to meet with Elliott's uncle Moses Pinket, who lived in Wilmington.2 Once in Delaware, the group was forwarded to a free black man named Thomas Otwell, who had been considered a trusted accomplice by Harriet Tubman. Under the auspices of safely sheltering them, Otwell instead betrayed the runaways, directing them to the Dover jail with hopes of collecting the estimated $3000 reward. There the group became suspicious, and made a dramatic escape from the gun-toting sheriff. One of Elliott's associates Henry Predeaux allegedly shoveled hot embers in the sheriff's direction while the others made out of a broken window.3

    With help from local Underground Railroad operatives, Elliott and at least four others made it safely to Philadelphia, where William Still recorded the details of their harrowing journey. Tom settled briefly in the fugitive community of St. Catharine's, Ontario, becoming a close associate of Harriet Tubman. When John Brown visited the area to recruit supporters for his strike against slavery in Virginia, Elliott and Hughes were two of the many who initially volunteered. He appears to have become somewhat of a "right-hand man" for Tubman's efforts in the community. Brown, fearing that the heroine's health was failing, wrote to black publisher William H. Day, "if she is unwell get her to send Thomas Eliot." Though the Canadian contingent ultimately decided not to join the mission, Elliott and the others had shown a strong inclination to continue fighting against slavery.4

    After living in Canada for a few years, Tom Elliott moved down to Auburn, New York, where another ex-slave neighborhood had developed around the Tubman family property. Around 1864, Elliott would actually marry Harriett's great-niece, Ann Marie Stewart, with whom he had two daughters, Mary and Nellie.5 However, Ann Marie had died by 1880 and Tom remarried to a native New Yorker named Helen, whose parents had both been born in Canada. Elliott worked as a laborer, likely maintaining personal and economic connections to the other former Maryland slaves in the city.6 However, there is little else to provide detail about his life in Auburn.

Footnotes -

1. 1850 United States Federal Census, Slave Schedule, Dorchester County, MD, District 1, p. 16. 1860 United States Federal Census, Slave Schedule, Dorchester County, MD, District 7, p. 7  - p. 8.

2. "$600 Reward," Baltimore Sun, 13 March 1857.

3. William Still. Underground Rail Road: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, etc. Philadelphia, PA: Porter & Coales, Publishers, 1872,  pp. 72-74.

4. Kate Clifford Larson. Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2004,      pp. 158-161.

5. 1870 United States Federal Census, Auburn, New York, Ward 2, p. 11.

6. 1880 United States Federal Census, Auburn, New York, Ward 3, p. 12.

Researched and Written by David Armenti, 2012.

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