This is stop number 6 on your walking tour.
Look up at the impressive home on this corner lot. This house was built by T. Elwood Marshall in 19??. T. Elwood and his brother Israel were papermakers from Delaware who built a manufacturing plant in Kennett Square in 1898, to produce a revolutionary hardened paper product known as vulcanized fibre. The National Vulcanized Fibre Company was a major employer in the Kennett area, and one of the products they made was suitcases.
The following is a story which includes the use of the Underground Railroad lingo. The letters written by Thomas Garrett to William Still in Philadelphia often included terms such as cargo, packages, etc. This story was written by Marlene Drewes, a former President of KURC.
Secrets and Shrewd Planning Move “Cargo” to Kennett
Thomas Garrett was considered the primary conductor of freedom seekers who made it to northern Delaware. Often with the help of Harriet Tubman and other free African Americans, Garrett moved “cargo” along the underground railroad to the first station across the Pennsylvania line, Isaac and Dinah Mendenhall’s home, Oakdale, on the “Kennett Pike.”
Kennett, as the entire area surrounding Kennett Square was once called, had a very large Quaker and African American population who were significant in helping those on their way to freedom.
Garrett’s courage and determination are well known. Lesser known is how his crafty plans outwitted slave-hunters. One example of the daily need to be secretive and shrewd happened on October 27, 1855 when an unusually dangerous situation arose. A mother and five children, and a couple with their three children, arrived at Garrett’s house about 10 o’clock in the morning in two stolen horse-drawn carriages. Fearing that slave catchers would quickly get word of the eleven freedom seekers, Garrett immediately sent his “cargo” to the Longwood meetinghouse by separate transport, and from there to Eusebius Barnard’s house in Pocopson Township. A few minutes after their departure Garrett strode outside, pretended to notice the horses and carriages, and asked neighbors who their owners were as the horses looked tired and hungry. Since nobody seemed to know, Garrett suggested the horses be taken to the stable and cared for. He also suggested someone might have stolen them during the night and driven them to Wilmington for a ride. If the owners called, they should be told where to find them and the matter explained. News spread over the town and by the afternoon the slave-hunters came. They were told the story and suspected that the freedom seekers were holed up in the town. They watched every suspected dwelling, especially Thomas Garrett’s. After two days of watching and waiting, they gave up their efforts and returned home. By then the freedom seekers were leaving West Vincent Township on their way to the next “station,” towards Canada.
Garrett and his wife were able to assist over 2700 “fugitives” to freedom over his lifetime with good planning, wily thinking, and a wide network of support.
Time to move on! Proceed just half a block up Lincoln Street to our next stop.