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Thomas Garrett

Born: 21-Aug-1789
Birthplace: Upper Darby, PA
Died: 25-Jan-1871
Location of death: Wilmington, DE
Cause of death: Natural Causes
Remains: Buried, Friends Meeting House Burial Ground, Wilmington, DE

Gender: Male
Religion: Quaker
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Activist
Party Affiliation: Republican

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Underground Railroad

Thomas Garrett was raised a Quaker in a Pennsylvania family ardently opposed to slavery, and he was still a boy when a family friend -- a young black girl -- was abducted and sold into slavery in the American South. Dedicating his life to fighting slavery, he worked as a tool-maker and manager of a hardware store in Wilmington, Delaware, while using his home as a way-station to usher escaped slaves toward freedom. Over many years, some 2,700 of these men, women, and children stayed in Garrett's home, one or several at a time, sometimes guided on their way by Harriet Tubman. His home was the last station of the Underground Railroad before travelers reached freedom, crossing the state line to Pennsylvania.

In 1848 Garrett was tried and convicted of the crime of aiding and abetting a family of escaped slaves, and ordered to pay damages of $5,400 to the slaves' owner, which left Garrett and his family impoverished. Addressing the judge, Garrett declared, "Thou has left me without a dollar, [but] I say to thee and to all in this court room, that if anyone knows a fugitive who wants shelter ... send him to Thomas Garrett and he will befriend him." Fronted funds by fellow townsmen, Garrett was able to save his business, and continued his work with the Underground Railroad.

During the American Civil War, after his residence was threatened by pro-slavery thugs, Garrett's home was guarded round the clock by African-American volunteers. At the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment in 1870, granting African-Americans the right to vote, celebrating ex-slaves paraded the 80-year-old Garrett through the town on a carriage inscribed with the words, "Our Moses."

Wife: Margaret Sharpless (m. 1813, d. 1828 childbirth, five children)
Wife: Rachel Mendenhall (m. 1830, one son)
Son: Eli Garrett

    Pennsylvania Abolition Society
    Underground Railroad
    English Ancestry


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