Thomas Garrett (1789 - 1871)

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Birthplace: Upper Darby, Delaware, Pennsylvania, United States
Death: Died in Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware, United States
Managed by: Carol Vernice Eads
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About Thomas Garrett

Parents: Thomas & Sarah (Price) Garrett.

Thomas & Margaret (Sharpless) Garrett were married in 1813 and to this union 5 children were born. Margaret died in 1828. In 1830 Thomas married Rachel Mendenhall, and they had 1 child (Eli). Thomas and Rachel were married 38 years.

To view a more pictures, go to the Media section.

Thomas & Rachel (Mendenhall) Garrett were very active in the Underground Railroad movement from their home in Wilmington, Deleware, and he was originally a member of the Darby Monthly Meeting of the Religious Society of Friends; in 1822, he moved to Wilmington, Delaware and transferred his membership to the Wilmington Monthly Meeting. . As a young boy growing up, Thomas had eperienced his parents hiding many runaway slaves in their home, helping them escape the bonds of slavery. As a young man, Thomas himself resuced a young black woman employeed by his family from those who kidnapped her with intentions of selling her into slavery. This made a lasting impression, so that Thomas and Rachel continued this effort, sending many who sought freedom from slavery, to Isaac and Dinah Mendenhall's home on the route northward. Isaac was a brother to Rachel, and lived just over the line in Pennsylvania, about 20 miles away from the Garrett home.

Stations usually were at least 20 miles apart. Conductors used covered wagons or carts with false bottoms to carry the slaves from one station to the next. Runaway slaves hid during the day and traveled at night. Some of the people who were involved, notified runaways of their stations by lighting candles and putting them in the windows.

Thomas was known as a Social Reformer who served as one of the "Station Masters" on the Underground Railroad during the mid-1800's. He is credited with helping more than 2,700 slaves escape to freedom in a forty year career as a Station Master. Along with Harriet Tubman, he was responsible for the escape of hundreds of slaves to freedom. He used his wife’s family fortune (she was from a banking family) to fund the freedom of more than fourteen hundred fugitives, whom he typically delivered into the hands of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee. Garrett was a persistent, reliable resource for the Underground Railroad -- Harriet Tubman herself frequently appeared at his door for assistance. While maintaining an inconsistently successful hardware business, Garrett acted as a key Station Master on the eastern line of the Underground Railroad, and his activities brought him in contact with Philadelphia Station Master William Still. The correspondence between the two men, preserved and published by Still, provides scholars with an intimate perspective of their struggle and those of countless Agents and Conductors on the Eastern Line of the Underground Railroad.

In 1848, Thomas Garrett and fellow abolitionist John Hunn were tried and convicted in the New Castle Delaware Courthouse by U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney, for aiding in the escape of the Hawkins family, who had been slaves in Maryland. Both men were given large fines, with Thomas' totalling $5,400, a major amount of money in the mid-1800's. In his closing address, Thomas Garrett regaled those in the courtroom with a redoubled commitment to help runaway slaves. Eyewitness accounts detail the particular contrition of a slave-holding juror from southern Delaware who rose to shake Garrett's hand and apologize at the close of the impassioned speech. He said to Judge Taney: "Thou has left me without a dollar,....I say to thee and to all in this court room, that if anyone knows a fugitive who wants shelter....send him to Thomas Garrett and he will befriend him." Following the Civil War, he continued his work for minority groups in America. In 1870, when black Americans were given the right to vote by the establishment of the 15th Amendment, Garrett was carried on the shoulders of his supporters through the streets of Wilmington as they hailed him "Our Moses"- (biography by: Russ Pickett).

Thomas Garrett wrote a letter to Sarah Bradford about the activities of Harriet Tubman on the Underground Railroad (June, 1866) http://www.fold3.com/page/1342_underground_railroad/

When Garrett died less than a year later, his funeral, attended by many of the black residents of the city, featured a procession of Garrett's coffin - borne from shoulder to shoulder up Quaker Hill.

Thomas Garrett even was the inspiration for the character Simeon Halliday in Harriet Beecher Stowe's influential novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin" and has been called Delaware's greatest humanitarian.

(Sources: http://www.whispersofangels.com/biographies.html, http://trilogy.brynmawr.edu/speccoll/quakersandslavery/commentary/people/garrett.php, http://www.shockfamily.net/underground/conductor.html, and http://housedivided.dickinson.edu/ugrr/profiles.html The Thomas Garrett Trial - http://www.fold3.com/page/1342_underground_railroad/

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Thomas Garrett's Timeline

1789
August 21, 1789
Upper Darby, Delaware, Pennsylvania, United States
1871
January 25, 1871
Age 81
Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware, United States
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Wilmington, New Castle, Delaware, United States