Piety — cook, seamstress, weaver, baker, brewer, runaway — passed as a free woman for 16 years.
by Lisa Y. Henderson
$100 REWARD. RUN AWAY, or was stolen from the subscriber on the night of the eighth instant, a bright mulatto woman (slave) and her child, a girl of about four years old. This woman ran away from the subscriber, executor of John Hunt, dec’d, in the summer of 1808, and passed as a free woman by the name of Patsy Young, until about the first of June last, when she apprehended as a runaway. On the 6th of the same month I obtained possession of her in the town of Halifax; since which time, by an order of Franklin county court, she and her child Eliza have been sold, when the subscriber became the purchaser. She spent the greater part of the time she was run away (say about sixteen years,) in the neighbourhood of and in the town of Halifax; one or two summers at Rock-Landing, where I am informed she cooked for the hands employed on the Canal. She has also spent some of her time in Plymouth, her occupation while there not known. At the above places she has many acquaintances. She is a tall spare woman, thin face and lips, long sharp nose, and fore-teeth somewhat decayed. She is an excellent seamstress, can make ladies and gentlemens dresses, is a good cook and weaver, and I am informed is a good cake-baker and beer-brewer, &c. by which occupations she principally gained her living. Some time during last summer she married a free man of color named Chrael Johnson, who had been living in and about Plymouth, and followed boating on the Roanoke. Since his marriage, he leased a farm of Mr. James Cotton of Scotland-Neck, Halifax county, where he was living together with this woman, at the time she was taken up as a runaway slave in June last. I have but little doubt, that Johnson has contrived to seduce or steal her and child out of my possession, and will attempt to get them out of the State and pass a free persons. Should this be the case, I will give sixty-five dollars for his detection and conviction before the proper tribunal, in any part of this State. I will give for the apprehension of the woman and child, on their delivery to me, or so secured in jail or otherwise that I get them, thirty-five dollars; or, I will give twenty-five dollars for the woman alone, and ten dollars for the child alone. The proper name of the woman is PIETY, but she will no doubt change it as she did before.
I forward all owners of boats, captains and owners of vessels, from taking on board their vessels, or carrying away this woman and her child Eliza, under the penalty of the law. NAT. HUNT. August 15.
Raleigh Register and North Carolina Weekly Advertiser, 20 August 1824.
Believe Piety Johnson’s mother was name Silvy. Piety’s brother is my great great grandfather.
Piety has always been one of my favorite women successfully seeking freedom. What other information do you have on her, and is it possible that she helped some of the enslaved men on the Roanoke Canal project escape slavery; In other words, the UGRR?