Oscar D. Ball (alias John Delaney) and Montgomery Graham, runaways, 1857
From William Still, The Underground Rail Road, (William Still, 1871), pp. 414-417.
Although the name of John T. Gordon appears signed to the above advertisement,1 he was not the owner of Montgomery and Oscar. According to their own testimony they belonged to a maiden lady, by the name of Miss Elizabeth Gordon, who probably thought that the business of advertising for runaway negroes was rather beneath her.
While both these passengers manifested great satisfaction in leaving their mistress they did not give her a bad name. On the contrary they gave her just such a character as the lady might have been pleased with in the main. They described her thus: "Mistress was a spare woman, tolerably tall, and very kind, except when sick, she would not pay much attention then. She was a member of the Southern Methodist Church, and was strict in her religion."
Having a good degree of faith in his mistress, Oscar made bold one day to ask her how much she would take for him. She agreed to take eight hundred dollars. Oscar wishing to drive a pretty close bargain offered her seven hundred dollars, hoping that she would view the matter in a religious light, and would come down one hundred dollars. After reflection instead of making a reduction, she raised the amount to one thousand dollars, which Oscar concluded was too much for himself. It was not, however, as much as he was worth according to his mistress' estimate, for she declared that she had often been offered fifteen hundred dollars for him. Miss Gordon raised Oscar from a child and had treated him as a pet. When he was a little "shaver" seven or eight years of age, she made it a practice to have him sleep with her, showing that she had no prejudice.
Being rather of a rare type of slave-holders she is entitled to special credit. Montgomery the companion of Oscar could scarcely be distinguished from the white folks. In speaking of his mistress, however, he did not express himself in terms quite so complimentary as Oscar. With regard to giving "passes," he considered her narrow, to say the least. But he was in such perfectly good humor with everybody, owing to the fact that he had succeeded in getting his neck out of the yoke, that he evidently had no desire to say hard things about her.
Judging from his story he had been for a long time desiring his freedom, and looking diligently for the Underground Rail Road, but he had many things to contend with when looking the matter of escape in the face. Arriving in Philadelphia, and finding himself breathing free air, receiving aid and encouragement in a manner that he had never known before, he was one of the happiest of creatures.
Oscar left his wife and one child, one brother and two sisters. Montgomery left one sister, but no other near kin.
Instead of going to Canada, Oscar and his comrade pitched their tents in Oswego, N.Y., where they changed their names, and instead of returning themselves to their kind mistress they were wicked enough to be plotting as to how some of their friends might get off on the Underground Rail Road, as may be seen from the appended letters from Oscar, who was thought to be sluggish, etc.
1 "FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS REWARD.-Ran away from the owner in Alexandria, Va., on the night of the 13th inst., two young negro men, from twenty to twenty-five years of age. MONTGOMERY is a very bright mulatto, about five feet, six inches in height, of polite manners, and smiles much when speaking or spoken to. OSCAR is of a tawny complexion, about six feet high, sluggish in appearance and movements, and of awkward manners. One hundred dollars each will be paid for the delivery of the above slaves if taken in a slave state, or two hundred dollars each if taken in a free state. One or more slaves belonging to other owners, it is supposed, went in their company. Address: JOHN T. GORDON, Alexandria, Va."
July 5th, 2007