Archives of Maryland
(Biographical Series)

Hannah Leverton (b. 1800 - d. 1866)
MSA SC 5496-51529                                                                                                                                                                                                           Accomplice to Slave Flight, Caroline County                 

Biography:

       Hannah Leverton and her husband Jacob were considered some of the earliest underground railroad conductors in Maryland. As members of the Society of Friends, the Levertons felt a moral obligation to help downtrodden African-Americans in their pursuit of freedom. Most Quakers had formally condemned slavery by the late 18th century, even expelling members who refused to abandon the institution. They had been members of the Nicholite or "New Quakers" sect, a radical offshoot that emphasized modesty and espoused the evils of slavery throughout the 1760's.1 Ultimately, most of the Nicholites joined existing Quaker congregations, which were very similar ideologically. Both Hannah and Jacob had been raised in these traditions, and became extremely active as a result.  

    Hannah Wilson Wright was only 22 years old when she married the 49 year old Jacob Leverton, in 1823. The ceremony took place at the Tuckahoe Neck Meeting House, presumably where they were members as well.2 Jacob's previous two wives had died prematurely. Hannah had also been married previously, having one child before her husband died in 1817.3 The Levertons were part of the insular, and geographically isolated community of Eastern Shore Friends, located around the southern border of Caroline County near Preston. The settlement also happened to be along the path of many enslaved blacks, who were hoping to reach freedom in the North. There were two free colored males in Leverton's household for the 1840 Census.4 The area was also home to numerous free African-American families, whose numbers in Caroline County were more than twice as large as enslaved blacks. In fact, there were only 752 slaves recorded for the entire county in 1840.5 This was probably a contributing factor to the relatively tolerant attitude that local whites had toward the Quaker settlement. Other nearby counties, with their prosperous and well-connected slaveholding elites, would be much less inclined to accept such behavior. The Levertons lived in this unique environment, and chose to engage in this risky business over many years.  

    The primary documentation of their involvement comes from a newspaper account, written in 1898 by William T. Kelley, son of their former neighbor Jonah Kelley. Writing in the Quaker publication,  Friends Intelligencer, Kelley recounted a story about the "noted Abolitionists." In the midst of harvesting their crops one morning, the Levertons were visited by a young African-American on the run from her master. He claimed that "she had blood stains on her garments caused by punishment." Jacob agreed to take in the girl and later that night they took his carriage northward in the darkness. While it is unclear what role she played, Hannah was undoubtedly present for these events and likely provided support for the wounded freedom seeker. The slaveholder, having tracked her movements the next day, confronted Leverton about the girl soon after. He essentially admitted to helping her along the way, and that "he had carried out the Scriptural injunction" with his actions. Still, the owner took Jacob to court. Kelley contended that Leverton was forced to give up one or two of his farms in order to settle the lawsuit. He also claimed that Jacob died soon after those proceedings, which would have placed the events in or just before 1847.6 

    Indeed, court records seem to confirm that he was involved in a suit beginning in 1843, which resulted in a debt of $2000 to William Hooper and William Charles.7 These same two men had placed an advertisement regarding the flight of 18 year old Jane Hughes the previous summer.8 It is likely that Hooper and Charles were the beneficiaries of the legal punishment against the Levertons, though this is difficult to confirm without further documentation. Kelley's account is correct in asserting thatJacob Leverton did not live much longer after the trial. His 1847 will left Hannah a portion of his land, as well as 500 dollars and numerous household items. 9 She may have remained on the family property for some time after his death. However, by 1850 the 50 year old widow was living with her daughter Ruth and son in-law Twiford Noble, also in Caroline County.10  

    It is possible that she continued to support fleeing slaves even after seeing the toll such efforts took on her husband. Hannah Leverton may have been the woman who was visited by Harriet Tubman the night after she fled in 1849. The Levertons lived near Dr. Anthony C. Thompson, for whom Tubman's parents worked for much of the decade. Therefore, she was most likely familiar with the Quaker community and its attitudes toward slavery. In a later interview, Harriet revealed that she had confided her plans with a local white woman, who would provide her with directions and names of potential accomplices along the path to Philadelphia.11 It is also possible that Jonah Kelley's wife Hester had contributed to this cause, though her son made no such mention in his account. 

     By 1860 Hannah was living in Indiana, at the house of William D. Frampton, a fellow Maryland native.12 Her stepson Arthur W. Leverton had been run out of Caroline County in 1858, after being implicated in a similar case when the freedom seekers were caught before reaching the Mason-Dixon line. He also joined the growing exodus of Maryland Quakers, who hoped to form a more just society in the midwest. In his 1898 recollection, William T. Kelley confirmed that the widow moved west towards Indianapolis sometime after her husband's trial and subsequent death.13 Hannah Leverton died there in 1866, just after the Federal Government officially outlawed the institution against which her family and religious community had fought for over 100 years.
 


Footnotes - 

1. Nabb Research Center. Wroten Jr, William H. "Joseph Nichols and the Movement of Nicholites" Salisbury Times, 11 October, 1963.

2. Patricia C Guida. Arthur W. Leverton, Underground Railroad Agent, and His Family: The Levertons, Whiteleys and Wrights. Caroline County Historical Society Inc. 2007.

3. Ibid. 

4. Ancestry.com. 1840 United States Federal Census, Caroline County, Maryland, p. 66.

5. University of Virginia Library, Historical Census Browser, Geospatial and Statistical Data Center, 2004, http://mapserver.lib.virginia.edu.

6. William T. Kelley "Underground R.R. Reminiscences." Friends' Intelligencer and Journal, Volume 55, p. 264-265 (1898).

7. CAROLINE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT (Docket), 1837-1933.

8. American and Commercial Daily Advertiser. 7 July, 1842.

9. CAROLINE COUNTY (Wills) Book WAF #A, pp. 385-387, Jacob Leverton, 11 May 1847.

10. Ancestry.com. 1850 United States Federal Census, Caroline County, Maryland, District-Not Stated, p. 182.

11. Kate Clifford Larson. Bound for the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 2004, pp. 80-84.

12. Ancestry.com. 1860 United States Federal Census, Washington Twp., Wayne County, Indiana, p. 1.

13. Kelley, p. 265.

Researched and Written by David Armenti, 2012.

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