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Quaker Abolitionists


Hannah and John Cox of Longwood

Chris Densmore, Curator, Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore College

The home of Hannah and John Cox still stands, though shuttered, on the Baltimore Pike just west of the Longwood Cemetery. It was a refuge for both the escaping slave and provided hospitality for all the major abolitionists of the time. When they celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary in 1873, both Bayard Taylor and John G. Whittier sent poems. Taylor recalled that “John was ever firm and kind, and motherly was Hannah.” Whittier wrote:

Thank you....
For your works of love and duty that knew no selfish ends,
For your hearts and doors set open for the bondman and his friends;
For your steady faith and courage in that dark and evil time
When the Golden Rule was treason, and to feed the hungry, crime.

When Hannah died in 1876, people recalled that in addition to her reform work, this farmer’s wife was well read. “To converse with her was always a pleasure, for besides her knowledge, her uniformly cheerful disposition rendered her a fascinating companion.” In 1880, husband John followed her. An article in the Philadelphia Press stated that the Cox home sheltered as many as twenty freedom seekers at a time, and that the couple was known “from Canada to the rice fields of the south.”
Interesting people indeed. Hannah Cox was reported to have kept a detailed daily diary for many years. What wonderful stories that diary might hold but unfortunately though Mary Dugan and others have looked for that diary for many years, the diary has not been found. Let us hope that the diary is someday found. Anyone with information about that diary’s whereabouts should get in touch with me or the Kennett Underground Railroad Center.

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