Betty and Charles

Painting depicting the capture of a runaway enslaved man
Artist depiction of the capture of a freedom seeker.

NPS/Harpers Ferry Center

Many of those who did run away from Hampton and Northampton must have been enticed by the promise of freedom in nearby Pennsylvania and Baltimore City. Runaway ads for Hampton show that, in the summer of 1814, an enslaved 16-year-old girl by the name of Betty ran away but was caught and jailed in neighboring Harford County by Ridgely manager William Caple. She then ran away a second time, according to Caple, but she “was taken up…near Peach Bottom,” within a few miles north of Pennsylvania’s border, where “she afterward made her escape” again. She then headed towards “the Peach Bottom and York road...and was afterwards seen passing the Brogue tavern toward York.” Caple thought she would head for urban environments as she “was accustomed to live in a town” and he thought to look for her in “York, Columbia, Marietta, or Lancaster.” Within the year, Caple found her in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, during the spring of 1815 and paid out a $50 reward for her capture.

That same year, an enslaved man known as Charles made his break for freedom from bondage at Northampton’s iron forges. According to-then manager William Caple, he was "seen on the old York road, near the Pennsylvania line, where Bob, who went off with him, was taken up." Caple believed that Charles had “crossed the Susquehanna:” he knew that he been heading east and “enquiring the way to McCall’s Ferry” and that Charles believed, as so many runaways did, that crossing the Susquehanna delivered him outside of “the recognized northern boundary of the slave holding empire” and into the company of free blacks, Quakers, and sectarians of German descent. Likely, Charles was headed to McCall's Ferry, where Martic Forge beckoned a skilled iron maker. Charles, unlike Betty, was never discovered, and he remained free.

Baltimore was the place that enticed most runaways in Maryland. Dr. Stephen Whitman’s research on slave runaway advertisements show that, between 1810 and 1820, almost five times as many of the enslaved made their way to freedom in Baltimore than to the same in Pennsylvania.

Last updated: June 6, 2020

Park footer

Contact Info

Mailing Address:

535 Hampton Lane
Towson , MD 21286



Contact Us

Stay Connected