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Martha Schofield Pioneer Negro Educator: Historical and Philosophical Review of Reconstruction Period of South Carolina

213 pages
Library of Alexandria
A woman apparently thirty years of age, of mulatto skin, fell limp into a chair in the kitchen of Mrs. Oliver Schofield of Darby, Bucks County, Pennsylvania about the year 1857, with blood hounds and the voices of angry men following close upon her heels through the tangled swamps from which she had just emerged. “Who can thee be? Who can thee be?—and what does thee want here?” inquired excited Mrs. Schofield as she dropped the dish rag and rushed to the prostrate form in the chair, eager to render aid and comfort to the suffering and afflicted woman as well as to ascertain the cause of her abrupt, unannounced entrance into her home. Out of breath from the long run made necessary to escape the dogs and the traps laid by experienced officers of the law who had been so diligently upon her trail for more than a week, that she had had time to stop and rest and take nourishment for only a few minutes at a time, Laura Duncan was unable at first to give any coherent account of herself. She managed, however, to make it known to the kind Quaker lady that she was an escaped slave and was endeavoring with all speed possible to reach the Canadian border and enter the world of freedom, which she had been informed existed under the British flag in the Dominion of Canada for all who might enter that country. As causes moving her to take this drastic step in defiance of the law of her own land and the possibility of involving the liberty and happiness of all who might be kind enough to assist her in the accomplishment of the task, she recited such evils as brought tears to the eyes of her enforced host. She exhibited a lash-scared back, a broken bone or two and a deep cut on the head that had since been healed without serious results only by the aid of a skillful surgeon. But the physical suffering attested by these outward signs of the practice of brutality on the woman were but a fraction of the pain and torture which Miss Schofield knew was gnashing at her heart over the parting of herself and husband and children more than a month before, when at a public sale little Gabe, her ten year old son, and Jennie, the only daughter, and her husband, “Jim,” were each sold to different masters in as many different States and carried away where she would never see or hear of any of them again. “Martha” said Mrs. Schofield addressing her daughter, whose face was covered in an immaculate white apron that adorned her whole front, to hide the freely flowing tears that rushed from her eyes like water from the fountains, “do thee find thy father at once and tell him to come to the house as quickly as possible.” Then laying her arms around the body of the inconsolable wife and mother she spoke words of consolation and cheer, assuring her that God in his own way and wisdom would destroy the power of the government of human beings by the lash, would break the chains that bind the hand and foot and visit a just retribution on all those responsible for the sale of babies from the breasts of mothers. She begged and pleaded earnestly that Laura abandon the attempt to escape and entreated her to surrender to the officers and return to her master, but the slave, chafing under the influence of a life of injustice and brutality, expressed a firmer determination than ever before, to continue on in her course and begged pitiably of her host that her presence in the home be not divulged. She threatened suicide if captured.