Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

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Samuel Demson (b. ? - d. ?)
MSA SC 5496-10598
Accomplice to slave flight, Alleghany County, Maryland, 1850s


Samuel Demson, formerly a runaway slave from Vicksburg, Mississippi, was a sexton in the Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Cumberland, Maryland during the tenure of the Reverend Hillhouse Buell.  According to local folklore of the Shantytown in Cumberland the church was one "stop" on the Underground Railroad for several slaves, and Samuel was directly involved with helping these slaves escape to freedom.  The many  runaway ads which mentioned the Canal as a possible route or destination are evidence that the construction of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal offered some slaves an opportunity to run away.The runaways would follow the canal to Cumberland and while under the cover of the high brush, they would wait for a signal from the church.  Samuel rang the church bell twice when the coast was clear, and the runaways would come up the hill to a gate, which led to a maze of tunnels under the church.  After resting, receiving food and instructions, the runaways were taken through the tunnels that exited to the other side of the rectory which was across the road,  from which point it was only a five mile walk to the Mason-Dixon Line and freedom.

Return to Samuel Demson's Introductory Page

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