|Beautiful Belmont, Part 15 -- Lucinda Taylor's Escape.|
by John Salisbury Cochran.
See previous entry: Beautiful Belmont, Part 14 -- Sam Alexander Escapes.
Next Wednesday evening, as the sun was setting behind the Ohio hills, John Campbell drove a team and wagon onto the ferryboat, which was just leaving Wheeling, [West] Virginia, for Martinsville, Ohio, on the oppsite shore of the Ohio River. The wagon was loaded with bran, which was contained in large two-bushel sacks.
The ferry landing on the Ohio side was at the foot of Washington Street. From this point the road wound up past the spot where the Belmont brewery would later be built, then past the old Woolen factory, doubling around the future residence of Mr. George H. Smith, then over the Joel Wood "goose neck" by the "Elm Spring," on up through the orchard of Theodore Burris, passing over the hill between the cutoff at the tollgate and the Joseph Finny mansion. At the cutoff, a wagon track headed northeast along the right-hand side of the little creek leading from there to Glens Run at the Thomas Mitchell mill. (At a later date a road would be constructed on the left-hand side of that creek, but it did not exist then.)
The land on both sides of the creek was heavily timbered. The "road" forked at the top of the hill, one branch of it going by way of the Van Pelt mansion to the State Road at the old tavern. The main route passed up Glen's Run from the Mitchell mill a short distance, where it again forked, one branch going right to Mt. Pleasant, and the other up Glen's Run past Cope's mill to Colerain. The road up Buckeye Run intercepted the Glen's Run road at the bridge over Glen's Run (at the mouth of Buckeye Run).
As soon as the ferryboat landed on the Ohio side, Campbell drove up this river road, then called the Mt. Pleasant road, without stopping in town. The Virginia side of the ferry landing could be plainly seen from two or three points on this road. Campbell's load did not seem to be heavy, and he hurried along.
On the next trip that the ferry made from the Virginia shore, the covered wagon of Joshua Cope, with Aunt Tilda and Cope in it, were on-board. Aunt Tilda was calm and resolute, and no longer bore the distressed look so noticeable the previous Saturday.
By the time Cope's wagon landed on the Ohio side, Campbell had arrived at the Joel Wood "goose neck," which furnished a clear view of the landing on the [West] Virginia shore. It was growing dark rapidly -- but he could clearly see two men on horseback approaching the opposite shore. He could hear them calling to the ferrymen on the Ohio side, but could not distinguish what they said. Mr. Cope and Aunt Tilda, though, who were just leaving the ferryboat, could hear clearly what was being said.
The men on horseback were Maxwell and a deputy United States marshal by the name of Wickham. The bloodhound was with them. "Bring that boat over here, immediately?" yelled Maxwell at the top of his voice. "This boat does not run after dark, sir; it has made its last trip for today, and besides, our steam gauge is out of order and we are replacing it," was the reply.
"But our business is urgent. It involves a loss of valuable property and we must get over without a moment's delay," said Maxwell. "I can send a skiff over for you," said Fry Manahan, the pilot. "We don't want a skiff, we must have our horses with us; we want that boat. This is a United States marshal who is with me; we are after an escaped slave and we warn you now, the United States will hold you to a strict accountability for your refusal."
With Fry Manahan was Jack Long; Long managed the ferry under lease from Hughey Nichols. Long, who was working on the steam gauge, shouted back: "If the United States marshal thinks he can fix this steam valve sooner than we, I will send him a skiff and have him come and do it. But to accommodate the United States, I will come over with the boat just as soon as the valve is repaired, although it will be an infringement of our rules." Long looked toward Manahan and gave a low chuckle at his diplomacy.
The pounding and repairing on the boat continued for a full half hour, during which time the impatient Maxwell worked himsel into a rage. Maxwell expressed his rage in frequent threats, which he yelled with all his force at the repairers of the boat. When the boat finally moved off from the Ohio shore, it made a very slow and cautious passage across the river. Long and Manahan were apparently under the belief that Aunt Tilda was the escaped slave, and they were attempting to give Joshua Cope time to get some distance into the country.
When the boat reached the ferryboat landing on the Virginia side, the marshal said: "Who controls this boat?" "I do, sir," said Long. "In the name of the United States I place you under arrest," said the marshal. "For what crime, sir?" said Long. "For assisting in the escape of a slave," said the marshal. "Where is the warrant for my arrest?" said Long. "I need none. I have taken you in the act. I saw that covered wagon with that Negro in it, drive off your boat as we came up, and you have purposely delayed to aid her to escape," said the marshal.
"I did not know that old woman was a slave," said Long. "She was with a respected member of our community, who I did not think would be guilty of any such crime, and as to delaying the boat, I will be ready to meet that charge when the time comes."
"Do you pretend to say there was no other female Negro on that wagon but an old one?" said Maxwell. "There were only two persons in that wagon -- Mr. Cope, our local miller, and an old, colored woman," said Long. "I believe the man is lying," said Maxwell, "but why are we not moving?"
"Gentlemen," said Long, "I am under arrest in the state of Virginia. When I am under arrest here, this boat is under arrest. The laws of the United States do not permit this boat to run without two men to man her, an experienced licensed pilot and likewise an engineer. I am going into Wheeling to answer my arrest." Maxwell, turning to the pilot, demanded that they be taken across immediately. "I cannot do so," responded Manahan, "it is against the law, and I shall report any man who breaks it."
Maxwell and Wickham conversed aside for a few moments; when the latter returned, he said: "Very well, sir, if there was no other Negro woman or girl in that wagon except Aunt Tilda, as you state, I will release you from arrest. It is a young Negro woman we are after," said the marshal. "She was not in that wagon and has not crossed here to my knowledge," said Long. "Very well, move the boat," said Maxwell. "Am I released from arrest?" said Long. "You are," replied Wickham. The boat cautiously made its way back to the Ohio shore, for it was now quite dark.
When Campbell had seen the two men at the Virginia landing, he drove briskly up the road to the top of the hill near the present "cut," where it forked leading past the Van Pelt mansion. He was met here by Tom Pointer. "Where are the horses?" asked Campbell. "I don't know," said Tom. "I told my boy Joe to have them here, but I can't find him anywhere." "This may cost us our freedom," said Campbell, "but we have no time to lose, for the men in pursuit have arrived on the opposite side of the river; they were just hailing the ferryman to return for them. They will be up here in a few minutes and they have that dog with them. Here, you drive the wagon up into the Van Pelt barn, and then put the horses in the stable. I'll take Lucinda down to the Clark cabin and hide her in the attic."
Campbell threw the top sacks, which were lying crosswise of the wagon bed, to one side, and Lucinda crawled out from between the bottom sacks, which were placed lengthwise. There was just enough open space between for one person, which she had occupied. Campbell immediately said, "We are being followed, and will have to deceive the nose of that dog some way. Get on my back, Lucinda."
Campbell carried Lucinda down the road a little distance. There they had to cross a fence, and Campbell had Lucinda hold onto the fence until he was on the other side, when she again got on his back. Campbell made his way as rapidly as possible through the woods to the deserted Clark cabin. The ladder was standing on the outside leading to the half story above. Up this Lucinda climbed, with the warning from Campbell to remain quiet until he came again. He then carried the ladder about fifty yards away and threw it in the weeds. Lucinda sat down on a box in the old attic-space and wept.
Joshua Cope had stopped in town after crossing the ferry to transact some business, and had just reached the "goose neck" when he was overtaken by Maxwell and Wickham. The latter thrust a pistol in Cope's face and ordered him to stop. He promptly did so. "I want that girl out of that wagon," said Wickham.
"Take down that pistol," said Cope. "Thee has no need to point a loaded weapon at me. I have no one in here but Aunt Tilda, and I purchased her as Mr. Maxwell there surely knows." "Unfasten those curtains and examine the wagon, Maxwell," said Wickham. Maxwell did so and found nothing but a few empty flour sacks and some groceries in a basket.
"What have you done with her?" demanded Wickham. "Who does Thee refer to?" said Joshua. "You know who we refer to. It is the colored girl, Lucinda," he replied.
"I have not seen her since last seventh day [Saturday], at the markethouse, and know absolutely nothing of her," replied Cope. "Whose wagon was that which crossed the ferry ahead of yours?" said Maxwell. "I saw no wagon," was the calm, collected reply of Cope.
"Where is your daughter, Aunt Tilda?" said Wickham. "I don't know, sah," said Tilda. "Where did you see her last?" "De las' time I seed her was at Massa Goshon's, sah, in Wheelin', befo' I dun start to de markethouse to meet Massa Cope hea," said Tilda.
"She must be lying," said Maxwell. "Here, let me pull her out of there and give her a lashing with the whip. I'll bring it out of her." "Pon my soul, I don' know nothin' 'bout Cinda, deed I don't, sah," cried Tilda, as Maxwell climbed into the wagon. Cope pushed him off, saying: "Thee shall not touch her."
"Do you know that is a United States officer, and that we are in search of an escaped Negro slave?" said Maxwell, glaring angrily at Cope. "I know if that is a United States officer, he has already violated the laws of my state by stopping me in the public highway and, without cause, thrusting a deadly weapon in my face when no one was resisting him, and that you have made an assault on both of us for which you both can and will be arrested before you leave the state, if I have my way," said Cope in a cool, collected manner.
This appeared to depress their enthusiasm somewhat, for Wickham called Maxwell to him and remarked there might be a possibility they were on the wrong scent. Maxwell agreed; otherwise his dog would have given some indication of it, which he had not, even though he had raised his nose to the back end of the wagon. "What had we best do?" said Maxwell.
"I think we had better go out the road a piece and see if we can get a trace of that other wagon, though they say it was loaded with flour sacks." They left Joshua Cope behind and rode over the summit of the hill.
When they arrived opposite the point where Lucinda and Campbell crossed the fence, the bloodhound immediately gave "tongue" and sprang over the fence. "He has struck her trail as sure as the world," said Maxwell. "He is probably on the track of some animal," said Wickham. "Not a bit of it. That dog never fails. He is on the track of the girl. Pull down that fence and let us follow him." They tore down the fence and mounting, followed the dog, holding him in check, so as to be near and not lose sight of him.
By unerring instinct the dog followed the trail until they arrived at the cabin, where Lucinda was waiting for Campbell to return. When her ear caught the sound of the bloodhound, she hoped it might be some dog of the neighborhood, and she dropped on her knees to pray. She was still praying when the pursuers arrived at the house.
The dog stopped at the point where the foot of the ladder had rested. The dog seemed at fault and his master urged him on. He took a circle around the house and came back to the same point. Wickham tried the door, but it was nailed. He crawled in at the window, struck a match and found the house was empty. He sighted up the chimney. They then looked under the house and saw nothing.
Maxwell went to the dog and ordered him to make a wider circle around the cabin. He did so, and was retuning, when Maxwell cried out, "Wider, wider!" and motioned him off with his hand. The dog obeyed, and presently a sound from him over in the direction where Campbell had thrown the ladder, gave evidence he had found something. Maxwell went to him and his foot struck the ladder. The dog had his nose close to one of the rounds.
"Come off there, you fool you, what are you deceiving me so for? Have you no sense any more?" said Maxwell, as he gave the dog a kick. The dog looked in the face of his master pleadingly, ran back to the house, and was sitting where the ladder had stood when Maxwell returned. "I am at my wits end. I never had that dog deceive me that way before," said Maxwell.
"She don't seem to be here. I told you he was on some animal's track, probably a coon's," said Wickham. "I'd like to know what is in that attic; how do they get in there?" said Maxwell. "There are no stairs nor opening from the inside, for I specifically looked for them," replied Wickham.
"Stop," said Maxwell, "see that dog looking up at that attic door and whining. By the powers, I see it all now. That dog has more sense than both of us, only he can't talk. Wait a moment until I bring that ladder." He brought it and when placed in the door, the dog jumped around in gleeful anticipation. "She's up there as sure as the world," said Maxwell.
The stress of the day had been too much. As the tension mounted, Lucinda fainted, and was just recovering when they found her. "Now, by the powers that be, I'll give you the 'cat-o-nine-tails' and a casing of straightjacket when I get you on the boat," said Maxwell, "I'll make you pay for this, and pay for it dearly. I think I'll give you a good whipping now," he said as he began to draw his whip. "Don't beat her here," said Wickham, "we will have a hard enough task to get her home as it is."
Maxwell saw the good judgment in this suggestion and refrained. "We had better take this road down the run for we can't go back through those thickets and briers with this girl," said Maxwell. "I intend to make her walk, however." He began to tie a rope around Lucinda's left wrist -- tying it very tightly. Lucinda bore it in considerable pain. They led their captive and horses down the little point to the Buckeye Run Road, where the men mounted. "You had better let me take that girl up behind me," said Wickham. "We are full three miles from the river, and we can make better time if she doesn't walk."
"She will walk," said Maxwell. "She has brought it all on herself by running away, and I can do nothing with her until I completely crush her. I have had sufficient experience in these matters to know how to treat her. This spirit of liberty must have proper treatment. You go ahead and lead her, and I will follow. If she attempts to escape I will send a ball through her and be done with the whole business."
"If you kill that girl in the state of Ohio you will hang for it, sir," said Wickham as he loosened the rope from his saddle where Maxwell had tied it, and took it in his hand. Maxwell ignored the comment, but demanded that the rope binding Lucinda be tied to the marshal's saddle. "She won't escape, sir, with your pistol and that dog," the marshal replied, "and with the rope wrapped around my wrist."
They had reached the point on the Buckeye Run Road near its junction with the Glen's Run Road -- at its darkest point. Lucinda, despite the rough, stony road and the pain she was suffering, was listening intently to their conversation. She imagined a note of kindness in the voice and manner of Wickham, and began to wonder what he would do if she jerked the rope free and made a dash for freedom among the weeds and bushes in the darkness. She then thought of the dog, and for a moment figured there must be a better option. It then occurred to her that Campbell might be near and come to her aid if she made enough noise. She thought of the fate awaiting her in Mississippi....
The next moment she made a leap over the embankment toward the run, some twenty feet below. Her weight and momentum dragged Wickham from the saddle. In his fall he hung onto both the rope wrapped around his wrist and the bridle rein, which caused the horse to wheel around, stepping on Wickham's right arm and breaking it; then trying to free itself from the rope, which now entangled a hoof, the horse struck Wickham in the head, knocking him unconscious.
Maxwell sent a shot after the girl, who gave a scream. The bloodhound leaped over the bank upon her just as she pulled the rope to her and was regaining her feet. At this instant two tall men sprang from the bushes at the side of the road. One with his face so concealed he could not be recognized, sprang with the agility of a panther over the bank, and with one blow from an axe, drove it into the dog's skull, killing it instantly.
The moon was just rising, and as the other man approached Maxwell, moonlight for a moment filtered through the trees falling directly on his face. "Ha! Campbell, you scoundrel, I know you! Take that for your trouble!" Maxwell said, as he fired directly at Campbell's face. Campbell was too quick for him, however, and sprang to one side. At the same moment Campbell struck Maxwell a fearful blow with a wagon spoke. Maxwell fell senseless to the ground with a broken jaw and bruised head.
Campbell fastened the horses of Maxwell and Wickham near them, took their weapons, and joining Lucinda and her companion, ran down the road a short distance to where Tom Pointer was waiting with two horses. "Here, Sam, get on that horse and get Lucinda up behind you. Tom, take that other horse and get to Cope's mill as fast as you can. Tom and Sam, they didn't recognize you, but they did me -- so I either have to kill them or disappear. I don't want their blood on my hands, so this is the last you'll see of me. Good luck," said Campbell, as he turned to leave.
"God bless you!" cried Lucinda, as Campbell disappeared through the woods toward the Van Pelt mansion. It was the last Belmont county ever saw of John Campbell.
For the table of contents and first entry in this series, see: Beautiful Belmont, Part 01 -- Table of Contents and Brief Introduction.
This entry is adapted from Bonnie Belmont: A Historical Romance of the Days of Slavery and the Civil War, by John Salisbury Cochran, which was published originally in 1907. The book has been reedited extensively for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This special edition of Beautiful Belmont is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. It may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that this Stratton House Inn iteration of the book does NOT include the subject headings assigned each chapter for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
CO-AUTHOR: Wall, C. Edward. (Editor)
DATABASE: Fulltext eBooks: Copyright (c) 2000 The Pierian Press, Inc. All Rights Reserved
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