On the cold Christmas night in 1856, Robert Brown made a daring escape out of slavery by way of the Underground Railroad. He arrived on New Year’s Night of 1857, in Philadelphia traveling from Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Brown, who also went by the alias of Thomas Jones was welcomed by the Underground Railroad Vigilance Committee when he arrived. He told an emotional story about his life and carried locks of hair from his wife and four children.
Five days before making the decision to escape, Brown’s family had been sold to a slave trader in Richmond, Virginia, allegedly because his wife had resisted the advances of their owner, Colonel John Franic. Brown decided to attempt an escape after he and some of his friends failed to someone in the Martinsburg area to purchase the family.
After emerging wet and freezing from the river, Brown road about 40 miles. He finally had to leave his faltering horse behind and continue on foot. Cold and hungry, it took Brown a couple of days to reach Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, where friends secured his safe passage to Philadelphia.