Aunt Sally - The Cross The Way To Freedom - Isaac Williams - ebook

Aunt Sally - The Cross The Way To Freedom ebook

Isaac Williams



There are very few Anti-Slavery books adapted to the young, yet no field could furnish a more attractive literature for children than this. Robinson Crusoe and the Arabian Nights would seem lifeless and uninteresting by the side of hundreds of true and simple narratives which might be written of slave life in our Southern States. This story of "Aunt Sally" is, probably, no more remarkable than multitudes of others; only it has chanced to come to notice. It is strictly true in all its incidents. It has not been embellished, or wrought up for effect, but is given, as nearly as possible, in the words in which it was related to the writer.

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Aunt Sally

Or,The Cross The Way Of Freedom

A Narrative Of The Slave-Life And PurchaseOf The Mother Of Rev. IsaacWilliams, Of Detroit,Michigan

Isaac Williams


Aunt Sally


Chapter I. Introductory

Chapter II. Introductory Continued

Chapter III.Sunshine And Clouds Of Childhood.

Chapter IV. The Camp Meeting.

Chapter V. The Wedding.

Chapter VI. A Slave's Work And A Slave's Home.

Chapter VII. A Husband Sold.

Chapter VIII. A New Husband--Children Sold.

Chapter IX. The Home Desolate--The Mother Sold Too.

Chapter X. The Slave-Pen.

Chapter XI. The Slave-Gang.

Chapter XII. Almost Despair.

Chapter XVIII. Sold Again--Gleams Of Light.

Chapter XIV. The Lash--Flight And Return.

Chapter XV. The Tyrannical Mistress--A Slave's Sabbath.

Chapter XVI. News From A Long-Lost Son.

Chapter XVII. The Light Of Hope At Last.

Chapter XVIII. Hope Realized.

Chapter XIX. At Home In Freedom And Peace.

Aunt Sally, I. Williams

Jazzybee Verlag Jürgen Beck

86450 Altenmünster, Loschberg 9


ISBN: 9783849643829

[email protected]

Aunt Sally


There are very few Anti-Slavery books adapted to the young, yet no field could furnish a more attractive literature for children than this. Robinson Crusoe and the Arabian Nights would seem lifeless and uninteresting by the side of hundreds of true and simple narratives which might be written of slave life in our Southern States. This story of "Aunt Sally" is, probably, no more remarkable than multitudes of others; only it has chanced to come to notice. It is strictly true in all its incidents. It has not been embellished, or wrought up for effect, but is given, as nearly as possible, in the words in which it was related to the writer. "Aunt Sally" is a veritable person, and is now living in Detroit, Michigan, with her son, Rev. Isaac Williams, who is pastor of a Methodist church there.

The portraits in this book have been engraved from daguerreotypes, which are faithful likenesses of "Aunt Sally," her son and his family.

The writer hopes that this little story may be the means of leading those who read it to think and feel deeply upon the truths which it involves, and that many more similar books may be written for our Sabbath Schools, so that the young may grow up imbued with the spirit of liberty, and rejoicing to labor for that oppressed and unhappy race which "Aunt Sally" represents, so, at length, this unfortunate be slaves no longer, but shall find that, to them all, the Cross has been the Way of Freedom.

BROOKLYN, N. Y., May, 1858.

Chapter I. Introductory

 Mother! it is the holiest word  That ever out of heaven was heard!  Her heart beats on, though free or slave,  All warm for those whose life she gave;  And sooner can the verdant cane  Forget its liquid sweets to gain,  And the magnolia's flowers of snow  To open when the soft winds blow,  And the lone stars to shine above,  Than I'll forget her faithful love!

SOME twenty-five years ago, in Fayetteville, North Carolina, a slave boy, named Isaac Williams, was suddenly told that his mother had been sold to a speculator, and was going to Alabama. He loved her with the ardor of a young heart which had nothing else to cling to, and when these terrible words fell on his ear, he sank down, overcome with anguish and dismay. All the past came back to him, sorrowful indeed, but endurable because shared with her. His earliest recollections were of those long days in the rice-fields, when she carried him securely fastened to her back, with his baby brother tucked in her dress in front, because she would not leave them to be neglected in her cabin, nor lay them down, where snakes might crawl over them, by the side of the fence. How weary she must have been, his young mother; for then she was scarcely seventeen; but yet how kind she was; how patient when he was tired and fretful! He thought of the many evenings he had seen her spinning by the light-wood fire, that she might have yarn for knitting socks, wherewith to purchase a jacket or a hat or a pair of shoes for his Sunday wear, or sewing industriously to make or mend some needful garment, when so fatigued with the day's labor that she nodded between the stitches, and at last sat down in heavy slumber over her work. He thought of all the prayers she had offered for him, and of her faithful counsels as he came to maturer years, He remembered her grief when his father was sold from her, and yet the meekness with which she yielded to what she could not prevent, and the quiet cheerfulness and energy with which she toiled to provide a comfortable home for herself and her children when she had hired her time of her master. All these and a thousand recollections more flashed upon his mind as he heard of her fate, and ran to ask his master's permission to go and bid her farewell. It was granted, and first he went to the little home which she had rented, and where she had earned her living by the sale of cakes and beer. He opened the door. All was confusion. The few articles of furniture, which she had labored so hard to obtain, were either removed or lying in disorder about the room. The bright fire was out, the welcoming voice was silent. Upon inquiry, he learned that her purchaser had taken her, with many others, to a "wagon-yard," or, more properly, slave-pen, where they would be kept securely till he was ready to start on his distant journey. Thither he bent his steps. When he reached the place, he found that his old grandmother, who lived several miles farther in the country, had heard also of her daughter's sale, and had come with tears and tremblings to bid her adieu.

Can you imagine a scene like this? Can you think of your mother, who, dear as she is, is no dearer to you than Isaac's was to him, torn by brute force from her home, shut up in a narrow yard like a wild animal in a cage, her every look and tear watched by her purchaser, who walks about, whip in hand, to quell any who may be refractory, and. her last agonized words of affection spoken to you through a crack in the fence which guards the enclosure? Yet all this the poor boy had to suffer, and his heart was as tender as yours.

What would you do? Would you become almost frantic in your grief, and rave wildly at the master, and strive to break down the bars and release your mother from so terrible a captivity? Would you? Then you would be guilty of treason and rebellion in the eyes of the law, and her owner would be justified in imprisoning you--nay, in taking your life if he deemed it expedient. Merciful Father! pity those whom no man pities, and by thine own power elevate those on whom the world and the world's law tramples!

So poor Isaac could only sob as if his heart would break, and wonder why he and she were ever born (was it strange?) and resolve with his whole soul, that if God spared his life, he would one day be free, and seek out his mother, and redeem her, though she were sold to a thousand Alabama. Thus they parted.

The slave-train moved off, and Isaac and his old grandmother returned to their respective masters. How dark seemed the way to him now. He could no longer anticipate, as heretofore, a Sunday visit to his mother, and a treat of cakes and beer. There was no one to speak an affectionate or encouraging word to him. Sometimes he was tempted to he wholly discouraged, but he determined to rise above such a feeling, and to keep unchanged his faith in God and his purpose of freedom. So several years passed away, during which he grew to manhood, when a death occurred in his master's family which rendered a division of the property--that is, to the men and women--necessary, and Isaac fell to a relative in Mississippi. Farewell to North Carolina! True, he was still a slave, but he felt that in some way he was moving toward liberty, and so gladly over the mountains and rivers to his untried home.

He had not been long settled there when, in 1833, he married a young colored woman, on an adjacent plantation. And now that he had a wife and children growing up about him, did he lose sight of his early resolution? By no means. He was always revolving in his mind how he should compass his own freedom and regain his mother. In 1838, his master went to Mobile, and Isaac accompanied him as his waiting-man. There was then living there a cousin of his mother's, an intelligent slave woman, named Mary Ann Williams. To her he applied, hoping she could give him some information. He was disappointed; she knew nothing of her cousin's fate, but promised to remember her and as she could write, to communicate to him everything she might be able to learn. Meanwhile his wife's freedom was purchased by her father, and Isaac, hiring his time of his master, went to Orleans and worked as a carpenter until he had gained his own. But he did not forget his mother; she was always the burden of his thoughts and his prayers. How many plans did he make to ascertain where she was; how many letters did he write to Tuscaloosa and Mobile, and to every place where he thought there could be the least possibility of gaining the desired intelligence! At length, when he had almost despaired of success, he received a letter from Mary Ann Williams, at Mobile, telling him that, by a singular incident, which will be narrated hereafter, she had learned that his mother was living, and owned by a man, whose name she gave, in Dallas county, Alabama. She was alive then! She had not died on the fatiguing journey, nor been beaten to death by a cruel overseer, nor allowed herself to waste away with grief at her ruthless separation from all she loved. He thanked God, and wrote to her master, telling him of his purpose to redeem her, and asking him to name the price at which she would be sold. Long he waited for an answer; she was doubtless valuable to her owner, and he was unwilling to part with her. Again and again he wrote, but to be disappointed.

And now Isaac resolved to leave Mississippi. He wanted to breathe the free air. After various adventures, he at last reached the Northern States with his family, and finally settled in Detroit, Michigan.

Chapter II. Introductory Continued

 IT may gladden the diver's heart to gain,  From the depths of the Indian sea,  A pearl as fair as the dew-drops are  That lie on the summer lea.  And sweet to the hunter passing through  The woodland's leafy door,  May come the song of a timid bird  That never was heard before;  And the breath of a flower by the brooklets side,  That all unseen till then  Has opened its buds to the wooing airs  Of the silent forest glen.  And blest it may be to the lover's thought,  To win from the world so cold,  The bride with her warm and trustful heart,  In his tender arms to fold.  But the love for her who gave me birth  Is richer than ocean mines;  I would rather gaze on my mother's face  Than the purest pearl that shines!  And list to her songs when day is done  Than the notes of the rarest bird,--  More grateful than choicest flowers' perfume,  Would be every soothing word.

 And the lover's delight is weak and faint  To the joy that would fill my breast,  If far from her sad and ceaseless toil,  I could bear her away to rest.  Oh Thou, who dost pity the poor, look down  And grant to my life this glorious crown!

YEARS of anxiety and effort and hope Deferred went by. At length, in 1852, Isaac received from his mother's master the long-desired letter, saying he would sell her to him for the sum of four hundred dollars. But now that the old trouble was over, a new fear tormented the faithful son. Was this woman really his mother? More than twenty years had passed since they were separated, and the only evidence he had of her existence was the testimony of her cousin in Mobile. Slight foundation it seemed upon which to rest so weighty a matter. Might it not be merely a plan of her master's to lure him into the of slavery and punish him for his free spirit; or else to dispose probably of an old and useless servant? His heart sickened at the thought. He must be sure that he was right before he went further, for to be disappointed at last would be more than he could bear. So he wrote a letter to the master, asking him to put various questions to her, relative to incidents in his early life, with which she only was acquainted.

If your mother had been lost for twenty years, and you hoped to regain her through the remembrances or your childhood, how would you recall the birthday festival, and the prayers for you beside your little bed when your head was on her bosom, and the twilight walk through the rose-scented lanes when she told you a story of her girlish days, and that sad morning when, for an outbreak of passion, you fell into disgrace with your father, and she soothed and calmed you, and gently led you back to the path of duty and of love! Isaac was a poor slave boy when he knew a mother's care, but servitude can not crush out the heart's flowers, and he had remembrances which were sweet to him, and which he knew would wake a response in her heart if living she were. How anxiously did he wait for that letter which would be life or death to his hopes! It came at last. His questions were more than answered. Taking up the incidents as he narrated them, she had gone farther and recalled many things which he had forgotten, and sent them to him in her simple words with messages of affection.

That night what fervent thanksgiving did he send up to heaven for the blessed knowledge that he had a mother--he who had been so friendless in the world; that she loved and trusted him, and perhaps was even then supplicating their common Father for her distant son.

He now set about preparing to raise the money for her liberation. In March, 1856, he left Detroit, stopping wherever he had friends, or could make them, and finally reached New York in early autumn, having some two hundred and fifty dollars collected.

After a few weeks in the city and vicinity, he raised the balance of the amount, and then a new difficulty arose. How was the money to be transmitted, and his mother brought North? For experience has shown that it is a less troublesome and delicate thing to deal with Japan, and China, and Algiers, than with our Southern States, when it is desired to give to any of the colored population their birthright of freedom. Various plans were proposed and abandoned. At last he went to the office of Adams's Express Company, to see if it could be accomplished through their means. They declined doing it directly, but referred him to a well-known merchant of New York, as one who would advise and assist him, and for whom they would willingly undertake the matter. This gentleman listened to the story, and going to the Bank of the Republic, which is very popular at the South, deposited the money there, and arranged with the officers to have their correspondent in Selma, Alabama, purchase the woman and see her, with the requisite papers, consigned to the care of the Express company.

The burden of care was now taken from Isaac; the responsibility rested upon others. He had been buoyant and full of courage while active exertion remained, but when that was ended and nothing was left for him but patient waiting, the very intensity of his feelings gave birth to fears, and led him to count the chances for her safe release, and to brood over every possible disaster. She had been lost to him for a score of years, and he could have heard of her death at any time with comparative resignation, but now that she had come back to him in blessed resurrection, and the meeting seemed so near, her loss would be like shipwreck to the storm-tossed mariner, when just in sight of the green fields, and the peaceful spire, and the cottage of love for which his heart had yearned through all the dreary voyage. Disturbed and anxious, he went that evening to his lodgings, and retiring to rest, was soon lost in uneasy slumber.

And he dreamed. Some of his life-scenes passed before him like the moving pictures of a panorama, so real that the present was forgotten in the past they restored. He saw himself a boy, sitting on the dirt-floor of his mother's little cabin at Fayetteville, after a hard day's work, and pouring his sorrows into her sympathizing ear. He had just began to realize who it is to be a slave. He had been accustomed to play with the master's children, and had had many little privileges about the house, but now that he was old enough to labor, he was kept in the field from dawn till dusk, under the eye of an overseer who had no leniency for his youth nor compassion for his fatigue. The poor mother could not point her boy to a brighter lot, so she only said, with a sigh, as she drew the "hoe-cake" from the ashes for their evening meal, "Well, Isaac, you must try and do your duty by mas'r and the Lord Jesus 'll stand by ye. Near as I can find out, He had heaps o' trouble all His days."

The cabin faded away, and, almost a man in years and size, he stood by the "slave-pen," bidding her farewell before she went to Alabama. With unutterable grief he turned to depart, but her faith would not let her go without one word of comfort, so she called after him, "Keep a good heart, Isaac, and the Lord help ye! Put your trust in Him and He'll never leave nor forsake ye. Perhaps we shall see each other before we die!" This great anguish passed over, and he was in Louisiana, toiling for his freedom. Hundreds of dollars had been paid to his master, but obstacles were constantly thrown in his way, and he was sometimes on the point of rebellion and despair. But he thought of his mother, and seemed to hear her saying, as of old, "Be patient; keep on, and the good Lord 'll bring it all right one o' dese mornins." And then he was a free man in Detroit, and the pastor of a Methodist church; longing earnestly that his mother might share the advantages of his position, and feeling inspired every day to labor by the remembrance of her christian virtues. And then he was in the actual present, and the money had been sent for her redemption, and he was trembling lest after all, the scheme might fail, In his dream he cried to heaven, "O merciful Father! shalt all her faith and trust in Thee be for nought? Wilt thou not reward the love and service of sixty years?" And then he thought an angel bent over him and whispered, "Fear not, thy fidelity and hers have been chronicled. Wait a little while and thou shalt clasp thy mother in thine arms."

He awoke. The sun was shining brightly into the room, and having faith now that he was soon to meet her, he rose and prepared to leave New York for a little while, in order to raise the money necessary to defray their expenses till they should reach Detroit.

Chapter III.Sunshine And Clouds Of Childhood.

 A CHILD should be a merry thing,  A butterfly upon the wing;  A bee upon a crimson clover,  With honey-dew half silvered over;  A crystal brook that 'neath the moon,  Glides onward through the nights of June;  A heart's-ease by a garden wall,  The loveliest of the lovely all;  A lark in heavenly circles singing,  Till the wide air with music's ringing;  A sunbeam dancing in and out,  Reflecting golden joy about;  Now sparkling like a rainbow braid,  Now lapsing when it likes to shade;  A soft and perfume-scented breeze,  Full of the tenderest harmonies;  Now showering roses from the tree,  Now opening roses yet to be.

 Ah me! how few are born to this!  How few have felt love's sacred kiss  Upon their foreheads when they came  All radiant from the Eternal Flame!  The birds of song are cold and mute,  The honey-dew is gone for them,

 Joy brings them but a broken lute,  And Life's tree but a flowerless stem.  Thank God! there is a brighter world,  Where every hope shall be unfurled  In sweet fruition to the air;  And all who yearn for love shall there  Upon the dear Redeemer's breast,  Find perfect love and perfect rest!

HAVING thus far followed the son, let us leave him among his Northern friends, and return to trace the history of the mother.

About the year 1796, (a slave's precise age is a matter of conjecture,) in a small cabin on a plantation not many miles from Fayetteville, North Carolina, a little colored girl was born. There were no great rejoicings when she came into the world. Her parents had been all their lives in servitude, and knew no higher pleasures than it afforded, but they felt, despite their ignorance, that their days passed wearily, and it was no joy to them to rear children for the same fate. No dainty wardrobe was ready for her use; no tiny caps nor embroidered dress, nor soft flannel blanket, but with her midnight earnings the mother had purchased two frocks of cheap print, to which her mistress had added one of her own children's cast-off dresses; and in this coarse apparel the little Sally, for so she was called, rolled about and stretched her chubby limbs as complacently as if she had been enveloped in a princess' lace and linen.

In a few weeks the mother returned to her labor in the field, and Sally was placed with old "Aunt Katy," who had charge of all the children on the plantation. At night, when the tasks were done, her mother took her to her own dwelling, returning her in the morning to the nurse. So she passed through babyhood and grow into a stout little girl, running about the cabin and over the grounds, as unconscious of her relations to life as the dog with which she played, or the bird that sang in the old sycamore above the door. No pains were taken to develop anything but her animal nature--no one taught her to lisp the name of God, or to trace His hand in every object which surrounded her, or to regard His holy law in her daily life. Why should they? She was only a piece of property! Her mother, although possessed of more than ordinary intelligence and energy, was not then a religious woman. In spite of her hard labor, she managed to keep her cabin in better

order, and her children more comfortably clad than most of the other servants; indeed, so full of life and spirit was she, that when the toilsome week was over, none enjoyed more highly the Saturday-evening dance or the Sunday holiday. She was a good mother, as far as she knew, and trained her children to habits of industry and activity. Speaking of those days, Aunt Sally said: "I tell you how my mother done me--she whipped me when I didn't work to please her, but 't was the gloriousest thing!"