Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Emeline Hawkins (b.? - d.?)
MSA SC 5496-15142
Fled from slavery, Queen Anne County, Maryland, 1845


Emeline Hawkins was a slave of James Glanding of Queen Anne’s County, Maryland. Her husband, Sam Hawkins, was a free black who owned his own home nearby.  Together the couple had six children, all slaves and all spread out among separate farms in the Beaver Dam section of Queen Anne’ County.  For a time while Emeline was enslaved, Sam lived near her, and the owners of his family members allowed close contact between them.  When James Glanding died in 1839, Sam and Emeline’s eldest sons, Chester, age sixteen, and Samuel, age fourteen, were given to Glanding’s son, Charles Wesley Glanding.  Emeline herself was sent to Elizabeth N. Turner, also of Queen Anne’s County.  The 1840 census lists all eight members of the Hawkins family as free, but evidence shows that Chester and young Samuel were definitely the property of Charles Glanding.  However, all six children were living in Sam’s home: Chester, Samuel, Sally Ann, Washington, an eight year old and an eighteen month old.  Some were probably still slaves.  Sam had been attempting to purchase his wife and enslaved children’s freedom for several years, but to no avail.  After his offers were again rejected in 1845, Sam decided to take his family and run. 

In November 1845, Sam and his family fled the Eastern Shore with the help of Samuel D. Burris, a free black Underground Railroad agent.  They planned to cross the border into Delaware and meet Thomas Garrett, an agent who had successfully smuggled hundreds of slaves from Maryland up to and through Pennsylvania.  Burris first led the Hawkins family to the home of a black friend in Camden, Delaware, where four male slaves met up with the group.  While there, a Quaker named Ezekiel Jenkins gave the group, now totaling thirteen fugitives, a letter to present to either Daniel Corbit, John Alston, or his cousin, John Hunn, three men who could help them in the next town.  Traveling through a snowstorm, the men walked the twenty-seven miles while Emeline and the children rode in a wagon driven by Sam.  On a December morning in 1845, after battling the weather, the group finally arrived at the Middletown, Delaware residence of Hunn, a Quaker involved with the Underground Railroad in Delaware, where they handed him the letter from his cousin.  He asked whether had they stopped at the homes of either Corbit or Alston, and the fugitives told him that they hadn't.  By this point, all were suffering from the harsh weather.  As Hunn states, "One man, in trying to pull his boots off, found they were frozen to his feet...Most of them were badly frost-bitten from walking through the six inches of snow.”1  Here the slaves were fed and cared for, and some of them went to rest in the barn.  Underground Railroad agent William T. Kelley later wrote of Hunn, "In my day it has been more to John Hunn’s labors and preaching that the Underground Railroad was kept running through Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland than to any other person."2

As they settled in, a neighbor watching the group became suspicious and ventured over to Hunn's house, looking all the while for the slaves but not telling Hunn of his suspicions.  The neighbor reported the group to the Constable of Middletown, Richard C. Hays, who arrived shortly.  With Hays came a search party from Queen Anne’s County, consisting of William Hardcastle, William Chesney, Thomas Merritt, Robert A. Cochran, and his son, Robert T. Cochran.  They were slave hunters looking for the missing Hawkins family.  The men presented a runaway slave advertisement to Hunn valuing the slaves at one thousand dollars, and demanded that they be handed over.  Samuel and his family were not able to escape before the white men discovered them, and the men’s rifles kept the fugitives from resisting.  Though the men at first doubted that Sam’s freedom certificate was authentic, one of the men soon confirmed its validity.  However, since he had been caught in the company of several runaway slaves, he was arrested for aiding in the escape.  Thus, Sam was taken to the magistrate’s office in Middletown, where a man promised Sam that he and his family could go free if he turned over his two eldest sons.  Sam agreed, but when his wife arrived with the rest of his family, the authorities took them all into custody and sent them to New Castle, Delaware.3

The four other slaves who had met up with the Hawkins family had stayed at Hunn's home while the others were taken in.  They chose to continue on, leaving at about nine o'clock at night with Burris, headed for Garrett's hardware and iron store in Wilmington, Delaware.  With them they carried a letter from John Hunn written to Garrett detailing the events that had taken place.  Garrett accepted the men into his store on December 18, added four tally marks to his record of fugitives aided as he always did to present at antislavery meetings, and sent them on their way.  After midnight, Garrett was asked by the Sheriff of New Castle and his daughter, both of whom were opposed to slavery, to meet at the jail to help resolve the situation.  Garrett obliged, and at the jail contended that Hawkins and his wife had assured him "that themselves and four small children were entitled to freedom; that himself and wife had been keeping house and living together as free persons previous to the birth of the eldest of the four children."4  During all of this, the slave hunters had been forced to leave town to retrieve a legal document, so the Sheriff released the Hawkins family into Garrett's custody.  Garrett, along with United States Senator John Wales, had the party taken before the Chief Justice of Delaware, Judge Booth, who released the fugitives on a writ of habeas corpus, which allowed them to be tried before a judge.  Immediately, the sheriff brought them before the same Judge Booth, who immediately dismissed the charges against them and let them go free.  After a brief stop at Garrett’s home, the fugitives were put on a carriage and sent to his store in Wilmington.  From there, they traveled on to freedom.  Long after the Hawkins family had been sent on their way, the Queen Anne’s County search party returned with the legal documents, only to learn that the slaves had been released.  That Tuesday, Burris, after successfully helping the other four men escape, returned to Hunn’s home with a letter for him from Garrett.  The letter read, "My joy on this occasion was great, and I returned thanks to God for this wonderful escape of so many human beings from the charnel house of slavery."5

Six weeks later, a suit was filed against Garrett and Hunn by a man named James A. Bayard, on behalf of the slave holders, making three claims: that the entire Hawkins family was enslaved, that Garrett had violated the Fugitive Slave Acts in assisting the family, and that Garrett and his accomplices had assisted four other adults from Maryland who ran away from their owners.  The proceedings took place during the May term in 1848 at the United States District Court in New Castle, with Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney (who eight years later presided over the Dred Scott Case in the United States Supreme Court) and Judge Willard Hall presiding.  Bayard, who would go on to become a State Senator and the United States District Attorney under President Martin Van Buren, represented the plaintiffs, while Wales represented Garrett and Hunn.  There were six hearings in all, beginning between Wednesday, May 24, 1848 and Monday, May 29, 1848.  Garrett and Hunn wound up being convicted by a jury of slave owning farmers.  The jury imposed heavy fines on the defendants; in the words of Kelley, the court "fined them to the extent of every dollar they possessed in the world."6  Charles Glanding was awarded one thousand dollars from Garrett for debts, and Elizabeth Turner received two thousand five hundred dollars from him.  Glanding had petitioned for an additional two thousand dollars from Garrett for trespassing, but damages were awarded at one thousand.  Elizabeth Turner sued Garrett for trespassing for five thousand dollars, but the court only awarded nine hundred.  Even still, Garrett was fined a total of five thousand four hundred dollars, and Hunn had to pay a total of two thousand five hundred dollars.  At the close of the trial, when given the opportunity to speak, Garrett made an hour long address, during which he professed that he would continue to help fugitive slaves reach freedom, even more so from that point forward, and stated, "Friend, I haven't a dollar in the world, but if thee knows a fugitive who needs a breakfast, send him to me."7  Garrett's words were so touching that "at the conclusion of his speech one of the jurors who had convicted him strode across the benches, grasped his hand, and begged his forgiveness."8  William Still wrote, "Mr. Garrett kept his pledge and redoubled his exertions.  The trial advertised him, and such was the demand on him for shelter, that he was compelled to put another story on his back buildings.  His friends helped him to start again in business, and commencing anew in his sixteenth year with nothing, he again amassed a handsome competence, generously contributing all the while to every work in behalf of the down trodden Blacks or his suffering fellowmen of any color."9  Of the Hawkins family, Hunn wrote that they "went from Wilmington to Byberry [Pennsylvania], and settled near the farm of Robert Purvis," a member of the Pennsylvania Antislavery society.  Their descendants went on to live in the same neighborhood, under the name of Hackett.10

Footnotes -

 1 Still, William, Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, etc. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Porter & Coales, 1872. 716.
2 Kelley, William T. The Underground Railroad in the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware (Friends Intelligencer, 1898)
3 Whispers of Angels: A Story of the Underground Railroad, "Biographies: The Hawkins Family,"
4 James A. McGowan, Station Master on the Underground Railroad: The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett. (Moylan, PA: The Whimsie Press, 1977), 56.
5James A. McGowan, Station Master on the Underground Railroad: The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett. (Moylan, PA: The Whimsie Press, 1977), 58.
6 Kelley, William T. The Underground Railroad in the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware (Friends Intelligencer, 1898)
7 Judith Bentley, Dear Friend: Thomas Garrett and William Still, Collaborators on the Underground Railroad. (New York: Cobblehill Books, 1997), 21.
8William Still, The Underground Railroad. (Chicago: Johnson Publishing Company Inc., 1970), 654.
10 James A. McGowan, Station Master on the Underground Railroad: The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett. (Moylan, PA: The Whimsie Press, 1977), 59.

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