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Wooster Digital History Project

Thomas Smith

The Eastern Route began at the farm of Thomas Smith, one mile north of Fredericksburg. He was assisted in his endeavors by Dr. James Martin who, as a trained physician, provided medical services for any escaping slaves in need of them. In a letter to Wilbur Siebert, Dr. Martin recounts an incident where he was called to treat two escaping African American girls. The two had been tracked by hunting dogs and one of the girls had a breast that had nearly been torn off. This is just one poignant example of the dangers faced by escaping slaves. Eric Foner in his book Gateway to Freedom, says, “Slave patrols and armed private groups dedicated to apprehending slaves could be found throughout the South…The authorities regularly searched ships, railroad cars, and highways for fugitives…Most slaves had little knowledge of geography or how to locate sympathetic persons outside their immediate neighborhoods.” It took immense courage for these men and women to embark on such a journey.