Escape to Iowa.



"The war gave George Johnson's father, Joe, an opportunity of "pullin' a good one on his ol' master."  A slave wagoner in northern Missouri, Joe Johnson had crossed the border to the Free State of Iowa many times, but always returned because of his family.  With the beginning of the war, he worried that this proximity to freedom would lead to his sale south.  So one day, Johnson packed up his entire family and followed a familiar route- this time to freedom."

            -Excerpted from Remembering Slavery, African Americans Talk about their Personal Experiences of Slavery and Freedom, Berlin, Favreau, Miller



            "You see my dad used to haul grit to the mills all the time, most genally he had to cross the Iowa line,-that was a free state, but no one was worryin' 'bout him getting' away, cause they trusted him, an' course there was all his family he'd be leavin'.


             Well, then when they was forming sides for the civil war father got wind of it that they was going to send as many of the slaves as they could further south.  I reckin 'twas cause they thought 'twould be too easy for most of 'em to get away, if they staid too near the boarder of the free state line.  Well, my father and another one of the slaves on the place, each one of 'em had a horse of his own.  So, early one morning they dumped all of us in the wagon.  There was my father and mother, and brothers and sisters, an' the other man an 'his wife an' family.  Well they covered us up just like they would if we was a load of grit to keep it from getting' wet when it rained.  Well, when we got to the state line it was good day light.  At the line there was a bunch of rebels standin' 'roun' an' all of 'em knowed father.  Father said he got so nervous as he was drivin' through.  One of the rebels said, " 'nother load of grit, hey, Joe?"

            "Yes suh," sed he and on he went.


            Well, when the ol' master discovered they had run off he come over in Iowa, after us but father had gone an' tole the union men what he'd done, and when the ol' master showed up, they told him he'd better get back cross that line.  We landed in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.  That's where I was brought up."


George  Johnson

Oral interviews, Library of Congress,  George Johnson interviewed Minnesota., n.d., American Slave, supp. ser. 1, vol. 8 pp.1215-17