John Vickers was a very successful potter in Caln Township, selling his wares throughout the county and beyond. He endeavored to live a moral life, avoiding lying and other sins, but he profoundly believed slavery was wrong and was an active agent of the UGRR. In delivery wagons crammed with straw to cushion his pottery, Vickers hid fugitives to move them farther north.
In 1818 two young freedom seekers came to his home. Warned that slave catchers were hard on their trail, he sent them off through the fields and woods beyond. When the slave hunters arrived at his house, Vickers told them, “It will be of no use to search my house, for I know there are no fugitives in it.” However, he did so in a manner that aroused their suspicion. Slowly he led them through all the rooms of the house and into the basement and then the attic, all the time saying they were wasting their time. Finally they gave up. All this while, the freedom-seekers “were fast lengthening the distance between themselves are their pursuers.”
Vickers's slow pace and constant denials had misled the searchers, but he had never lied.
Once Vickers was visited by the son of a slave owner, a young man who wished to learn from Vickers as a potter. John was a good pottery teacher; but he also gently and subtly introduced him to the idea of Black equality and that any business can thrive without enslaved labor. By the time the young man left, he was “so imbued with the just and noble principle of liberty to all, and a sense of the injustice and degradation of human slavery, that he would never afterward own a slave.”
Over his life Vickers aided many African American to freedom, and he helped one young white man to grow beyond the limits of his Southern social indoctrination.