In April 1848, the Chesapeake Bay's stormy weather doomed a maritime dash to freedom by 77 slaves from Washington D.C.
Anti-slavery activist William L. Chapin had arranged for the schooner Pearl to spirit the 77 to New York and liberty. But when Captain Daniel Drayton was forced to seek shelter in Point Lookout Creek and Cornfield Harbor, the fugitive slaves had no choice but to surrender.
Liberty for Some
Two of the Pearl's unlucky passengers, sisters Mary and Emily Edmonson, were taken to the D. C. jail and sold to a slave trader, with their siblings, for $4,500. But the renowned preacher Henry Ward Beecher raised enough money to gain their liberty, and entrusted them to his sister Harriet Beecher Stowe. She sent them to an Ohio preparatory school — and recounted the Pearl story in her classic novel Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Tuberculosis killed Mary, but Emily later returned to D. C., and helped develop the curriculum of the Normal School, later the University of the District of Columbia.