The Lost History of John Thomas Evans (James Williams) of Elk Landing in Elkton, Cecil County; “Fugitive Slave in the Gold Rush”

Fugitive Slave in the Gold Rush: Life and Adventures of James Williams  (Blacks in the American West): Williams, James, Rohrbough, Malcolm J.:  9780803298125: Books

In the fall of 2019 I was surveying sources at the Maryland State Archives Hall of Records in Annapolis when I observed Prof. Ezra Greenspan at work on research on the records of Aaron Anthony, and his son John P. Anthony, as concerns Stephen Henry Bailey (1820 – 1894, USCT) 1st cousin to Frederick Bailey Douglass, and Perry Bailey (1814 – 1880), older brother to Frederick Bailey Douglass.

As Prof. Greenspan reviewed records of the Lloyd family, I remarked that the state of Maryland tells a lifeless and incomplete nursery rhyme story of the vastness and intricacy of its antebellum history of the Underground Railroad and Reconstruction with its repetitive rhetoric on Douglass, Tubman and others who have appeared on the covers of state publications for decades. 

Specifically, I mentioned there should be a publication or effort to identify within the various regions of Maryland those that left the state to make significant and consequential contributions elsewhere, such as the AME ministers from Maryland that founded the AME church in the state of Florida.

In response to my riff, Greenspan remarked it was a measurable and significant step forward in his lifetime for Maryland, as well as the overall country, to begin to recognize Douglass and Tubman prominently with statues and artifices of state propaganda.

I can accept Prof. Greenspan’s observations for what it’s worth. As an elder, he has seen a slow acceptance and inclusion of Douglass and Tubman in our larger historical narrative. Yet as 2020 finally fades there is an imperative to uplift and advance the lost history once and forever or let us be damned in historical ignorance and apathy forever.

For example, the existing Network to Freedom infrastructure within the state of Maryland which includes 80 / 85 or so sites (many being unrelated to the UGRR such as the Howard County Historical Society’s location at the Miller Branch of the Howard County Library) is incredibly incomplete and inconsistent. 

Lost History Associates has 50 stories that remain untold, with another 50 after that, and yet again another 50 stories, tales, narratives and histories the WGM and the apathetic state historical / tourism industrial complex could not care less about. 

Therefore … we give you a lost history on the house. 

Raise your lighters up in the midnight hour for the lost history. 

I, JOHN THOMAS, was born in Elkton, Cecil county, Maryland, April 1st, A. D. 1825, in the house of my master, William Hollingsworth, being born a slave. I remained with him until I was thirteen years of age, when I took one of his blooded mares and made my escape.

Whilst riding, I met a number of men, one of whom said to me: “Little boy, where are you going?” “I am going to Mr. Cuche’s mill.”

“Who do you belong to?” “I belong to Mr. William Hollingsworth.”

I, at the time, had on two pairs of pants, with leather suspenders over my coat. A man asked me, “Why do you wear your suspenders over your coat?” “These are my overalls, to keep my pants clean.”

Ere I arrived at Mr. Cuche’s mill, I met a little boy. I said to him, “Little boy, what is the name of the next town beyond Mr. Cuche’s mill?”

He told me, “New London Cross Roads.”

Ere I arrived there I met a white man. He accosted me thus: “Boy, who do you belong to?” I told him that I belonged to Mr. William Hollingsworth.

“Where are you going to now?” “I am going to New London.”

At New London I met a school-boy. I asked him, “Where is the line that divides Maryland from Pennsylvania?” He said, “New London is the line.” I asked him, “What is the name of the next town?” He said, “Eaton Town.”

On my way I met another man; he said to me, “Where are you going?” I answered, “To Eaton Town.”

He said, “Where are you from?” I said, “Cuche’s Mill.” He asked me if I belonged to Mr. Cuche? I said, “Yes.”

On my way I met two more men. They asked the same questions. I answered as before.

When I arrived at Eaton Town I asked a little boy what the name of the next town was. He said, “Russelville.”

As I went I saw a colored man cutting wood in the woods. I asked him, “What was the name of the next town?”

He said, “Russelville.” I asked him if any colored families lived there? He said, “Yes; Uncle Sammy Glasgow.” He advised me to stop there. He asked me where I belonged. I said, “In New London Cross Roads.” And for fear that he would ask to whom I belonged, I whipped up my house and went my way.

I was then a few miles in Pennsylvania, and I felt that I was a free boy and in a free State. I met a man, and he asked me where I was going? I said “Russelville, to Uncle Sammy Glasgow.”

He asked me if I was a free boy. I said, “Yes.” He said “You look more like one of those little runaway niggers than anything else that I know of.” I said, “Well, if you think I am a runaway, you had better stop me, but I think you will soon let me go.”

I then went to Russelville, and asked for Sammy Glasgow, and a noble old gentleman came to the door, and I asked him if he could tell me the way to Somerset, and he pointed out the way. I asked him if he knew any colored families there.

He said, “Yes.” He told me of one William Jourden, the first house that I came to, on my left hand. This Jourden was my stepfather; he married my mother, who had runaway years before, and the way that I knew where she lived was through a man by the name of Jim Ham, who was driving a team in Lancaster City, whose home was in Elkton.

He came home on a visit, and was talking to one of the slave women one night; he sat with his arm around her, I, a little boy, sitting in the chimney corner asleep, as they thought, but with one eye open and alistening.

He whispered to her, saying, “I saw that boy’s mother.” She said, “Did you? Where?”

He said, “In Somerset; she is married and doing well; she married a man by the name of William Jourden.” When I arrived at my mother’s house, I met my stepfather in the yard cutting wood, and I asked him if Mrs. Jourden was at home? He said, “Yes;” and asked me in.

I went in and sat down by the door. My mother asked me my name. I answered, “James Williams.” She said. “Come to the fire and warm yourself!” I said, “No; that I was not cold.” After sitting there awhile, I asked her if she had any children.

 William Hollingsworth
William Hollingsworth (1780 – 1844) is buried in Elkton.

She said, “Yes;” and named one boy that belonged to William Hollingsworth, in Elkton.

I asked if she had any more. She named my sister that belonged to Thomas Moore, of Elkton, Vic, that had run away and was betrayed by a colored man, for the sum of one hundred dollars.

I had a brother that went with my mother when she run away from Maryland. She did not say anything about him, but spoke of John Thomas. I asked her if she would know him if she saw him.

She said, “Yes.” I said, “Are you sure that you would know him?” She answered, “Yes; don’t you think I would know my own child?” And becoming somewhat excited, she told me that I had a great deal of impudence; and her loud tone brought her husband in, and he suspicioned me of being a spy for the kidnappers.

He came with a stick and stood by the door, when an old lady, by the name of Hannah Brown, exclaimed: “Aunt Abby, don’t you know your own child? Bless God, that is him.”

Then my mother came and greeted me, and my father also. My mother cried, “My God, my son, what are you doing here?” I said, “that I had given leg-bail for security.” My father took the horse and hid it in the fodder stack. That night, one William Smith; who was a good old minister, went back on the road, about six miles, with the horse, and put her on the straight road, and started her for home; but the bridle he cut up and threw into a mill race. I was told that on the morning of the second day the horse stood at her master’s gate.

To show the reader how my mother got free, I shall have to digress a little.

She was sold by Tom Moore to Mr. Hollingsworth, for a term of two years, for the sum of one hundred dollars, and at the expiration of that time, she was to go back to Tom Moore’s.

One morning Mr. Hollingsworth said, “Abby, it is hard enough to serve two masters, and worse to serve three. You have got three months to serve me yet, but, here is twenty-five dollars; I won’t tell you to run away. You can do as you like.” He told my uncle Frisby to take the horse and cart and carry her as far as a brook, called Dogwood Run, on the way to Pennsylvania.

By these means my mother got her freedom, which shows that Hollings-worth had a Christian spirit, though a slaveholder. I stayed one night at my mother’s, and in the morning I was taken on the underground railroad, and they carried me to one Asa Walton, who lived at Penningtonville, Pennsylvania, and he took me on one of his fastest horses and carried me to one Daniel Givens, a good old abolitionist, who lived near Lancaster City; and I travelled onward from one to another, on the underground railroad, until I got to a place of refuge.

This way of travel was called the Underground Railroad.

At the age of sixteen I commenced my labors with the underground road. The way that we used to conduct the business was this: a white man would carry a certain number of slaves for a certain amount, and if they did not all have money, then those that had had to raise the sum that was required.

“RUNAWAY.” The Cecil Whig, 02 Aug, 1856, page 2.

We used to communicate with each other in this wise: one of us would go to the slaves and find out how many wanted to go, and then we would inform the party who was to take them, and some favorable night they would meet us out in the woods; we would then blow a whistle, and the man in waiting would answer “all right;” he would then take his load and travel by night, until he got into a free State.

Then I have taken a covered wagon, with as many as fourteen in, and if I met any one that asked me where I was going, I told them that I was going to market. I became so daring, that I went within twenty miles of Elkton. At one time the kidnappers were within one mile of me; I turned the corner of a house, and went into some bushes, and that was the last they saw of me.

The way we abolitionists had of doing our business was called the underground railroad.


Elk Landing – Find Your Chesapeake


Lost History Notes: U.S. Marshal Frederick Douglass entertained with President of Dorchester & Delaware Railroad in Cambridge; planned to speak in Somerset County’s Princess Anne

From research collection of William Alston-El and Old Anacostia Douglassonians. Copyright enforced with full force of US Constitution and Criminal Code.

Before presentation of “The Lost History of Frederick Douglass in Cambridgelast September at the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in downtown Cambridge the consequential September 1877 visit of United States Marshal of the District of Columbia Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass, in company with Hon. John Mercer Langston, to Cambridge was unknown in the local, regional, statewide, national and international mythology of the Eastern Shore’s most famous prodigal son.

With nearly 100 people attending the dual presentation of Master Eastern Shore Historian Dr. Linda Duyer and Old Anacostia Douglassonian John H. Muller, hosted by Honorable Mr. Donald Pinder and Honorable William “Bill” Jarmon of the Harriet Tubman Organization it is evident there is an abundant interest in the lost history of Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass within Cambridge and adjacent communities of the Delmarva Peninsula.

Continuous scholastic investigation has yielded more context and perspective to the lost history of Frederick Douglass in Cambridge and the expanse of the Delmarva.

Closely connected within and to Shore communities through associations and affiliations with both the Baltimore Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the Delaware Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, Dr. Douglass was associated with fraternal organizations on the Shore led by members of the Bailey Tribe, as well as networks within fields of education, politics, and journalism on the Delmarva.

Covering unknown tens of thousands of miles criss-crossing the country and world by ferry, steamboat, stage coach, street car and railroad for more than a half-century Dr. Douglass was a travelling man.

On several occasions across years of research we have found Dr. Douglass involved with what today would be called public policy issues of “urbanism,” such as petitioning the United States Senate to approve a proposal for extended service of the Anacostia and Potomac River Railway Company, a company in which Douglass was an investor and held stock.

As an advocate for organized labor and integration of transportation accommodations, there are several lines of discussion Dr. Douglass and W. Wilson Byrne, President of the Dorchester and Delaware Rail Road, could have maintained during the course of their entertainment in Cambridge.

“Dorchester and Delaware Railroad.” Poor, Henry V. Poor’s Manual of the Railroads of the United States, 1870 – 1871. Vol. 3. New York: 1870. p. 451.

Based in Cambridge, Bryne organized investors and a survey in the late 1860s, with the line from Camrbridge in Dorchester County to Seaford, Delaware completed in 1869.

In future posts we will discuss more of the lost history of Frederick Douglass and the railroads as it relates to a collection of railroad lines, train stations and executives. We know folks out there love railroad history and therefore the lost local history of Douglass on the Shore is also the lost local history of Delmarva railroads.

Ghost Visit of Dr. Douglass to Princess Anne, county seat of Somerset County

During the course of known and lost visits Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass made to the Shore — St. Michaels, Talbot County (June 1877); Easton, Talbot County & Cambridge, Dorchester County (September 1877); Easton, Talbot County & Cambridge, Dorchester County (November 1878); Queenstown & Centreville Queen Anne’s County (October 1879); Salisbury, Wicomico County (February 1880); Wye Island and Wye House [Talbot County], June 1881; Denton, Caroline County (November 1883); Port Depost & Rising Sun, Cecil County, (December 1885) and Easton & St. Michaels [Talbot County] (March 1893) — we have found at least three “Ghosts Visits.”

These are at least three occasions Douglass had confirmed and intended to visit and speak within a community of Maryland’s Eastern Shore yet for reasons beyond his control, such as bad weather grounding travel across the Chesapeake Bay, he was unable to meet his ambitious schedule.

Along with Ghosts Visits to Caroline County (1879) and Kent County (1889) we can confirm Dr. Frederick (Bailey) Douglass had full intention to speak in Princess Anne, the county seat of Maryland’s southernmost Somerset County (1877).

African Methodist Episcopal Church Bishop Alexander Wayman recalls serving Port Deposit, Steward Richard Randolph Disney of Cecil County “was one of the best I ever had in any church”

Coming up a childhood associate with Anna Murray on the Caroline County side of the Tuckahoe creek, 7th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church Alexander Walker Wayman (1821 – 1895) first caught word of the reputation of rebellious Frederick Bailey in St. Michaels in 1836 and would subsequently meet Dr. Frederick Douglass in Philadelphia years later in the 1840s.

At nineteen years old, in 1840, Wayman left the wood frame churches of the Choptank River behind for Baltimore City. Following passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 Rev. Wayman was assigned to serve the Port Deposit Charge and communities abutting the ancient Susquehanna River in Cecil County, Maryland whose shores were crossed by unknown number of runaway slaves including Frederick Bailey escaping Baltimore City in 1838.

When assigned to Port Deposit in 1853 Wayman, a native of Caroline County, worked alongside Cecil County native Richard Randolph Disney.

Wayman recalled in the 1880s that Disney “was my Steward at Port Deposit, and was one of the best I ever had in any church.” Reportedly, in 1857 Disney was licensed to preach by the African Methodist Episcopal Church and pursuant made his way to Canada to aid fugitive slaves where he would become a Bishop in the British Methodist Episcopal Church.

After service in the Port Deposit Charge Wayman would travel the expanse of Western Maryland assisting congregations and leadership in Frederick, Hagerstown, Cumberland and Frostburg en route to his election as the 7th Bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

In February 1895 Wayman eulogized Frederick Douglass, his friend of a half-century, at Metropolitan AME Church in downtown Washington City, around the corner from the White House.


        APRIL, 1853. I finished up my second year at Union Bethel Church, Washington, D. C., and went to meet the Baltimore Annual Conference, which met in Baltimore City. Bishop Nazrey presided for the first time over the Baltimore Conference. The members received him very cordially. The session was not a protracted one. J. R. Sterrett and John H. Gaines were admitted on trial. D. W. Moore, Jacob Brooks, M. F. Sluby, and Thomas H. Manning were ordained Deacons. Edward Chambers and John H. Henson were ordained Elders.

At the close of this Conference I was appointed to Port Deposit Circuit. It went a little hard with me after having spent five years in succession in Washington City to take a country circuit. But as I had promised years before to obey as a son in the Gospel, I went and had a very pleasant year.

        I was told by the authorities that the laws of the State were against my remaining there, as I came from the District of Columbia. I had four appointments, which I visited every two weeks. The present Bishop Dizney of the B. M. E. Church was my Steward at Port Deposit, and was one of the best I ever had in any church. The B. M. E. Church made a wise selection when they voted for him to fill the place of Bishop Nazrey.

        I found the people on this circuit very kind indeed, which made me think that after all, in some respects, a country life is more to be desired than a city one.

        During this winter there was a very deep snow, and I was bound up for several weeks at the house of Rev. Stephen P. Bayard. Having purchased two books on phonography, I resolved to learn how to write short-hand. On Monday morning I commenced, and Saturday night I was able to read the first lesson in the book without a teacher. I have never since doubted the capacity of a man to learn whatever he wishes to.


Wayman, Alexander Walker. My Recollections of African M. E. Ministers, or Forty Years’ Experience in the African Methodist Episcopal Church. 1881.

Frederick Douglass letter to Ellis P. Passmore of Rising Sun, published in Cecil Whig (November 3, 1888)

In the weeks leading up the 1888 Presidential Election speculations and intrigue abound throughout the country. During nearly every Congressional and Presidential Election it was reported, prompted by ambitious political operatives and newspaper editors, that Frederick Douglass either questioned the Republican Party’s commitments to Civil Rights or its slate of local and national candidates. Whenever the position of Dr. Douglass was misreported or fabricated he addressed it directly and forthrightly.

Cecil Whig Building in Elkton, Maryland, around 1905. Courtesy of Cecil County History & Prof. Mike Dixon.

Inaugurated in March 1885 as the first Democratic President since James Buchanan (1857 – 1861), New Yorker Grover Cleveland faced a challenge from former United States Senator Benjamin Harrison of Indiana. Douglass was an active campaigner for Harrison.

When a fictitious interview with Douglass, claiming to express his concern for Harrison’s electoral map to victory, appeared in “Democratic papers,” Douglass responded in public and in private.

In the wake of this false account Douglass sent a private letter to Ellis P. Passmore, likely integral to the December 1885 visit Douglass made to Rising Sun in Cecil County. The letter was published in the Cecil Whig to reaffirm the unwavering support and confidence of Douglass in the Harrison ticket in New York and Indiana.

Harrison would win both states and 220 total electoral votes on his way to defeating Cleveland in 1888, although losing the popular vote. Cleveland would defeat Harrison in a rematch in 1892.

Cecil Whig, “Another Lie Nailed.” 3 November, 1888. (Eklton, MD)
Frederick Douglass to Ellis P. Passmore. Rising Sun, Maryland (Cecil County)

Another Lie Nailed.

The Democratic papers very recently published an alleged interview with Fred Douglass in which he was reported as being very much discouraged by the Republican prospects in New York and Indiana. The published interview bore all the ear-marks of its fraudulent ori[g]in and which Mr. Douglass took the first opportunity to denounce. Our Cecil County voters will be interested in reading the following letter from him addressed to Mr. Ellis P. Passmore, a prominent Republican of Rising Sun in this county :


October 29, 1888.

Dear Friend : – There is not one word of truth in the story of my discouragement. I have never expressed a doubt of the election of Benjamin Harrison. The story of the contrary is pure invention designed to bolster up the waning confidence of the Democracy.

You have perhaps already seen my public denial.

Truly yours,


Frederick Douglass and John Creswell; Maryland’s “Forgotten Abolitionist” from Port Deposit in Cecil County, Maryland

To uplift the lost history of Dr. Frederick Douglass on the Eastern Shore we must carefully consider the connections and contributions of Douglass to the ecosystem of Maryland’s expansive network of reformist circles including the church, secondary and higher education, editors, Women’s Rights, Civil Rights and temperance, among other issues and causes of progressive public policy and public administration.

From small-town council members to county commissioners to Baltimore mayors to governors to U.S. Representatives and U.S. Senators, Dr. Douglass knew generations of Maryland politicians of both parties at the municipal, state and national levels.

As a Border State the sectional divisions of the Union and the Confederacy, which tore the country apart, divided and separated regions of Maryland, as well as prominent families. President Lincoln’s suspension of Habeas Corpus and deployment of federal troops to enforce martial law impacted Baltimore City and areas of the Eastern Shore.

With the adoption of a new state constitution in November 1864, which abolished slavery, the process of Reconstruction began in Maryland before the conclusion of armed conflict.

During the Reconstruction of Maryland a prominent lost figure of local and national influence was Port Deposit’s John Creswell (1828 – 1891), an associate of Dr. Frederick Douglass.

According to, ” Forgotten Abolitionist: John A. J. Creswell of Maryland” published by Dickinson College’s House Divided Project:

In 1864, Creswell helped secure passage of an antislavery constitution in Maryland, the first (and only) popular vote for abolition in any U.S. state. He also led off the final congressional debates for the Thirteenth Amendment in January 1865, with an eloquent address that showcased the changing times. Nor did Creswell stop with this newfound embrace of freedom. After the war, the Marylander also became an unlikely advocate for equality of opportunity. While serving as a Postmaster General during the Grant Administration, Creswell helped to integrate and modernize the federal post office system.

Douglass and Creswell share stage at 15th Amendment rally in Baltimore

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Staunton Spectator. 31 May 1870.

Due the persistent proclivity to continue to whitewash the history of Dr. Douglass in Maryland, and across the country, very little is known beyond base and rudimentary mythology.

Therefore it is incumbent and extra necessary for Old Anacostia Douglassonians to set up throughout the state of Maryland and on the Eastern Shore to uplift the sacred lost history whereas several statewide institutions supported with public dollars have contributed little to nothing to further a scholastic understanding of Dr. Douglass.

As evidence of the general nature of the Lost History of Douglass in the state of Maryland, a very generous and respected “street historian” out of the Upper Chesapeake / Lower Susquehanna region of the Delmarva was unfamiliar with the connections between U.S. Representative, U.S. Senator, and Postmaster General John Creswell and Dr. Douglass.

It appears from initial research Douglass and Creswell traveled in the same circles of Radical Republicans and Women’s Right advocates with Baltimore City being the crossroads of their collective activities and contributions.

Library of Congress.

The most noteworthy connection of Postmaster General Creswell and Dr. Frederick Douglass was the lecture stage they shared in May 1870 at parade festivities celebrating the passage of the 15th Amendment, which supported the first generation of African American Congressmen and Senators entering the halls of the United States Capitol.

This history has been tragically lost.

But remember we are getting a taxpayer funded statue of Douglass in Annapolis? Save me the vapidness and speechifying of the mythology. Enough with the disgraceful historical illiteracy of the state.

Show and tell the lost history of Dr. Douglass. Your time is up. It’s a new day in local history. Get at me before I get at the lost history.