Aunt Sarah's Story "North to Freedom"

    "Young Marse John and me waz born, dey say, de same day.  We growed up togeddar, and he was mighty nice to me.  He teach me de ABC's on de sly.  W'en Ol' Miss find out, she thrass us bot.  Bimby Ol' Marse die.  Mo'gage on de plantation.  I heah dey goin' sell de ol' silber, furntiture, me and dat kin' ob stuff. 
    "Nex' mornin'.  Marse John he say to me, 'dey going sell you ijnto Georgia.  Yo better go 'way and stay a while'.  No I say, who milk de cow?  'Cow milk herself,' he say.  I keep quiet, didn't say much".
    "Dat ebenin, I tied bread in de corner of an ol' dress, and steal up de hill back of de ol' garden.  I wade de creek, fo comin' up hill, to get 'cross it.  Fum way up dat hill I could see 'em huntin' me.  De bloodhounds wodde'n find me, cause I use to feed dem hot mush.  Dey liked me.  Nights I steal down an' get mo' bread."
    "In about ten days I see dey given up huntin' for me.  Den I started up de turnpike, hidin' daytimes and walkin' nights.  I axed nobody wha I was a goin'.  Feared ob dem.  When Ol' Marse alive he tell us de names ob de diffe'nt stahs.  Many is de time I question him about de No'th Stah.  He allus wink his eye, and say dat he nebber look in de'stroonomy long 'nough to know."
    "But 'fo I run away, Little Marse John tell me which is de no'th stah.  So I foller it.  Wen it was cloudy, I go de same way de wil' geese- no'th to Freedom.  When I see persons' comin' down de pike, I hide in de co'ner of de fences or undah a haystack."
    "I come from clair south of Baltimo' through Harrisub and Wha'em.  W'en I come through de Injun Res'vation, things me, heah I am in a new world.  Injuns was cookin dogs.  I was skeert an' run.  I was 'bout 13, and mah clo'es was most gone.  Pieces of quilts was tied 'round mah feet."
    "Down by de Two Mile a gal paddle me across de ribber.  Purty soon I see men shootin' a elk.  At last' I come to Olean.  Listen chile, dis am de straight truf.  Where de Exchange Bank am now, I fin' a blacksmith shop."
    "I was t'riffic hongry and axed de man for somfin' to eat."
    "Dey nebber se a Negro befo', and dey call me a 'black bar'.  Dr. Mead who live 'cross de street, whear de Greeks am now, take me home, an' feed and clo'es me.  Night-time come and his wife say slepp in de barn, in I went."
    "Dey was a hoss, a cow an' a pig.  Sez I to mah-sef, 'Sarah you won't sleep heah'.  An I di'nt.  W'en she go upstairs, I slip into kitchen, and 'dere I stay."

Aunt Sarah sat quietly and in silence for some time.  Her lips quivered and she said...."Now mah frien's is mos' all gone to de better lan, and I want to go too.  Yo 'run 'long home now, chlde, an' I tell you mo annoder time."

Source: Aunt Sarah Johnson's account of her flight from the Merryman Plantation to Olean in 1833 was taken in an interview by Olean High School students for publication in the 1901 Congress yearbook.  It has been reprinted in the 1980 edition of Sandpumpings.  Aunt Sarah Johnson's record North is one of the rich pieces of Olean History to survive. 

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