This is my 6th post from the Belle of Washington’s tour of the Albemarle’s history.
I want to conclude my look at runaway slave advertisements from Albemarle Sound with another love story. This one comes from Chowan County, where the Belle of Washington will dock tonight.
I actually mentioned this incident in my book The Waterman’s Song, but I re-discovered it recently in UNC-G’s database of runaway salve advertisements.
In April of 1808, a Chowan County slaveholder named Phillip McGuire placed a runaway slave advertisement in the Edenton Gazette and North Carolina General Advertiser.
His slave Dinah had left him.
She was, McGuire wrote, “about 25 years of age, 4 feet 10 or 11 inches, high, of a yellowish complexion, thick bushy hair, pretty thick lips, and slim spare made. She is the wife of negro Hews, the property of Col. John Bond, of this County….”
Hews was a river pilot. He probably guided seagoing vessels principally on the Chowan River, but he may have also sailed back and forth between Murfreesboro, Winton and other Chowan River ports and Ocracoke Inlet as well.
In the runaway slave advertisement, McGuire wrote that Hews “is well known in Edenton as a river pilot; and [is the slave] who, as he informed me, would keep his wife out eternally.”
The word eternally is a very unusual word to find in a runaway slave advertisement. For that reason, I suspect that McGuire was quoting Hews. Evidently the slave pilot had told the planter: he would keep his wife out eternally.
Hews’ intent was clear. He would come and take his wife away from McGuire and they would disappear together, for good. I have to think he meant to take her to sea.
McGuire felt that Hews was a dangerous man, and one to be taken seriously. He made that clear when he explained why he mentioned Hews’ threat in the runaway slave ad.
“This circumstance is mentioned to remind those who may take her, that Hews will, at the risqué [sic] of his life, rescue her, should it come his knowledge,”McGuire wrote.
Come armed, he was saying. Be prepared for a fight. Be forewarned.
McGuire offered a $20 reward and “all reasonable expences” [sic] to any person who will deliver her to me, or secure her in any gaol within this State, so that I get her again.”
At the end of the runaway slave ad, McGuire stated that he had heard that Dinah was hiding in or near Edenton. He also believed that Hews was coming for her.
He wrote: “I have been informed that said wench is lurking in and about Edenton, for the purpose … of better effecting her escape, together with her husband, who has threatened to march off, and take her with him.”
We don’t know how this story ended. So I feel a little ridiculous, but I find myself praying for something to happen that already happened, or did not happen, more than two centuries ago.
Yet I can’t help myself: here on the Belle of Washington, I close my eyes and cast up my prayers and I imagine Hews and Dinah coming out of Edenton Bay and heading to sea.