port of harlem magazine
 
woolly mammoth theatre
 
Freedom Seeker Caroline Quarlls (Walker)
 
Nov 17 – Nov 30, 2022
 
Praising the Past

caroline quarlls



lymon hoodnow



Caroline Quarlls is the name that Professor Larry McClellan wants every child, especially those in the Midwestern region of the United States, to know as well as that of easterner Harriet Tubman. “We know so much about her that we must tell her story,” he says.

She was born in 1826 in St. Louis, Missouri USA, in the American heartland. In the early 1800s, blue-eyed, enslaved Caroline often played in the house with her “pure” White and free cousins. Her great grandmother was Native American. “Caroline came into the hands of this aunt on the death of her father,” wrote Underground Railroad conductor Lymon Goodnow in “Caroline Quarlls 1842 Journey on The Underground Railroad” (circa 1880). This aunt was also her mistress, Mrs. Hall. 
“Whatever may be said against the Quakers by those who do not like them, I must say I never saw or heard of one who was not an Anti-slaveryite. The same may be said of the Germans, except of some of them who had become Yankeefied.”
The duplexities in her life must have been challenging. On July 4, 1842, the then 16-year-old had enough of those duplexities and her second-class status and decided to escape slavery.

“She was so White that she went openly by steamboat to Alton, Illinois mingling freely and unsuspectedly with some White girls who were on their way to an academy or school of some kind in Alton,” John Nelson Davidson noted (circa 1897) in “Negro Slavery in Wisconsin and the Underground Railroad.” Just as contemporary African Americans often “detect some Black” in various persons, a Black man in 1842 used similar instincts.  “There she met a Colored man who suspected her to be a fugitive and told her Alton was not safe and led her to a stagecoach headed for Milwaukee,” Davidson continued.
While in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Titball, a Negro barber, sheltered her, then betrayed her.
While in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Titball, a Negro barber, sheltered her, then betrayed her. Quarlls would later tell this story to Goodnow, who would even later confront the barber about his actions.

She met Goodnow in Wisconsin and became the first to travel with him on Wisconsin’s developing Underground Railroad. They journeyed by horse and carriage. “Whatever may be said against the Quakers by those who do not like them, I must say I never saw or heard of one who was not an Anti-slaveryite. The same may be said of the Germans, except of some of them who had become Yankeefied,” wrote Goodnow.

Though her bounty was soon raised to $300 (about $11,000 in 2022 dollars), she and Goodnow managed to stay ahead of the bounty hunters.

From Wisconsin, they traveled south to Metro Chicago, Illinois. The road the duo traveled from Chicago to Detroit, the Detroit to Chicago Road, was built in 1824 after the U.S. government negotiated a right of way with the Native communities. When building the road, the Americans generally followed trails Native Americans had used for centuries. Present-day Interstate 94 generally parallels the Detroit-Chicago Road and the ancient trails.

When traveling from Chicago to Detroit, McClellan guestimates that they probably traveled along what in now Fifth Avenue in Gary. They continued their travels north through Michigan before landing in Metro Detroit. From Detroit, they crossed the Detroit River to freedom in Sandwich (now Windsor), Canada in 1842. (Gateway to Freedom by Ed Dwight is a  bi-national monument in Detroit, MI and Windsor, Canada along the Detroit River where thousands of enslaved Africans crossed to freedom.)

“Only had to pay one person, the man who took them across the Detroit River. After crossing the Detroit River, Caroline began crying, and clutched me by the arm, asking if it was possible that she was being taken back to St. Louis,” Goodnow recalled. Goodnow estimate that he spent more than five weeks with Quarlls and traveled more than five to six hundred miles.

After seeing Quarlls to her freedom, Goodnow was not done. He wrote, "Caroline had $80 when she reached Milwaukee, which she placed in the hands of Titball, the ex-slave barber, before mentioned, who at first befriended her, and then attempted to sell her to the slave-hunters. When I went to him for it, he said he never had but $40 of Caroline's money, and even this he refused to pay. I sued him and got a judgment.”

In Canada, she added writing English to her ability to read English. She wrote as a freeperson to Goodnow and shared with him that she had married Alan [Allen] Watkins, himself an escaped former enslaved person, with whom she had six children. She wrote of being in ill health and her husband’s former wife been sold away from her children in slavery and later killing herself.  Additionally, she worked in service and attended school. She died in Sandwich, Canada in March 1886.
Note:
Professor Larry McClellan wrote To the River:  The Remarkable Journey of Caroline Quarlls, a Freedom Seeker on the Underground Railroad with one of her direct descendants Kimberly Simmons.

Hike The Freedom Trail Tour
Little Calumet River Underground Railroad Project
Beaubien Woods
Chicago
Sat, Nov 19, reservations are a must (Tom Shepherd at 773-370-3305)

See Also: Underground Railroad – This Stop: Metro Shikaakwa (Chicago)
.
 
 
Return to this issue's Main Page
 
 
sign up

follow us on
facebook instagram twitter youtube
Advertisers | Contact Us | Events | Links | Media Kit | Our Company | Payments Pier
 
Press Room | Print Cover Stories Archives | Electronic Issues and Talk Radio Archives | Writer's Guidelines