Underground Railroad – The ‘Guests’
The ‘Guests’ from Mount Victory’s Underground Railroad
Excerpt from a true story by the late local historian, Evangeline Bealer
Pioneer Obadiah Williams, born 1821, was married to Sarah Williams and had eight children. They had made their way to the Hardin County area where together, they assisted runaway fugitive slaves. Early in their marriage, they contrived a way to effectively answer the questions of federal agents, bounty hunters, and slave hunters without actually telling a lie. The two ‘conductors’ agreed that any runaway slaves entering their house would be referred to as a ‘guest’ and a guest room was built within the house.
On one occasion, a family of fugitives had spent the night in the ‘guest room’. When morning came, breakfast was prepared and as the guests were eating when Sarah glanced out the window and saw two finely dressed men (slave hunters) on very fine horses approaching the house. With no time to waste, Obadiah walked out the front door to greet the visitors and to care for their horses. He talked to them and answered their questions outside and told them his wife was preparing breakfast. Sarah cleared the kitchen of all evidence of the first breakfast while her guests settled back into guest room. When the house resumed its peaceful order and breakfast was well on its way, Sarah went to the porch and motioned for everyone to come in to breakfast. Obadiah and the federal agents discussed plans for the day. They would search (for the fugitive slaves) the forest and the banks of Rush Creek over to the next pike, (which is now West Mansfield Road).
When the men were well out of sight, Sarah hitched the horses to a special wagon and then loaded her guests into its safety. Sarah made her way north toward the next safe house where a cabin stood. The site is now 361 South Main St., Mt. Victory. After securing the safety of her precious cargo, she returned home. She washed the bedding, cleaned the guest room, and began to prepare the evening meal. That night all was well and the federal agents slept in the same bed that the fugitive guests had slept in the night before.
Many federal agents and slave hunters came to the Williams home. One agent was quoted as saying, ‘Obadiah Williams is the best slave hunter in the territory.’ However, not one fugitive was ever captured at his safe house. I really believe it was Sarah’s cooking that brought them back.
–by Evangeline Bealer, great great granddaughter of Obadiah Williams and town historian –