Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Henry Predeaux (b. circa 1830 - d. ?)
MSA SC 5496-7978
Fled from Slavery, Dorchester County, Maryland, 1857


    Henry Predeaux successfully escaped Dorchester County, Maryland in March 1857 at the age of twenty-seven.  He fled after his owner, district court jurist Ara Spence, threatened to sell him. Predeaux, or Predo, was part of  a group of fugitives from Bucktown, who came to be known as the "Dover Eight." They were given their initial directions from Harriet Tubman, who was also from that neighborhood on the Eastern Shore. After making it to Delaware, the group was betrayed by Thomas Otwell, who was supposed to lead the fugitives to another Underground Railroad agent, but instead took them to the Dover jail. Realizing the deception, Predeaux remarked that he "did not like the looks of the place." The sheriff nearly succeeded in getting the group to enter a cell, but Henry's suspicions caused them to remain in the hallway. Sensing that his true intentions were revealed, the lawman retreated to his private quarters in order to arm himself. There, his family awoke in a panic, exacerbating an already hectic scene. Predeaux made the snap decision to fling "a shovel full of fire" across the floor to keep the sheriff from unleashing his pistols. "Our hero Henry," as Still refers to him, then broke open the window in time for the group to escape unscathed.1

    The various fugitives, including Denard Hughes and Thomas Elliott, parted ways, but most eventually landed in Philadelphia to receive direction from the Vigilance Committee.2 The group's dramatic escape from the Delaware jail became somewhat legendary among abolitionists, who used the tale to promote their cause and highlight the fugitives' great determination. However, Eastern Shore slave holders were just as cognizant of the events, which they saw as further evidence of the presence of accomplices in their midst. 

    The Reverend Samuel Green was ultimately targeted in April for allegedly supporting the "Dover Eight," and possibly other recent escapees. Though he could not be definitively connected to those infractions, the Dorchester County courts convicted Green of possessing the "abolitionist handbill" Uncle Tom's Cabin. Green was just the most highly publicized example of a free black on the Eastern Shore being implicated by enraged planters, who were increasingly suffering from mass flight  in the late 1850's.2 While several of the other fugitives were known to have reached Canada, it is unclear what fate befell Henry Predeaux after 1857. However, his leadership and bravery during their eventful journey are indicative of the man's determination to strike a blow against the institution of slavery in Maryland.

Footnotes -

1. Kate Clifford Larson. Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2004,       pp. 138-141. 

2. William Still. Underground Rail Road: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, etc. Philadelphia, PA: Porter & Coales, Publishers, 1872.

3. Ibid.

Return to Henry Predeaux's Introductory Page

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