Tubman Plaque, Cayuga County Courthouse, Auburn, New York
ADVERTISER--JOURNAL, THURSDAY, JUNE 11, 1914
TRIBUTE PAID HARRIET TUBMAN
Emma Paddock Telford Says City Is Honored in Perpetuating Story
of a Great Life.
Mayor Brister has received an eloquent tribute to the memory of
Harriet Tubman from Mrs. Emma Paddock Telford, a former resident
of this city. It relates to the memorial tablet to be unveiled
on Friday evening at the Auditorium. The letter follows:
“The City of Auburn, is accepting the unusual and artistic
memorial commemorating the life work of one of the most noted of
American women, honored in perpetuating the story of a great
life, and the tremendous epoch in our national history with
which she was so closely associated. She came to us first in the
middle ‘50’s, a runaway slave herself, but already the ‘Moses’
or leader of her people whom she was taking by the ‘underground’
railway to Canada.
“Auburn was one of the prominent stations on that route, for
here we have many strong anti-slavery folk, as well as Quaker
abolitionists whom Lyman Abbott has recently described as making
up inability, eloquence and dogmatism what they lacked in
numbers.’ Many of these people were personal friends of Gerritt
Smith, Wendell Phillips, Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, Governor
Andrews of Massachusetts, William Lloyd Garrison, the Emersons,
Alcotts, Whitneys, Beechers, Harriet Beecher Stowe and Mrs.
Horace Mann, all of whom admired and respected Harriet and the
work she was doing for her people. It was during this time that
many Auburn homes were opened for the fugitive slaves, as older
residents will recall. Here the fleeing blacks were fed, often
made comfortable over night, then reinforced as to actual
necessities, before starting on again to the Canadian
frontier—their longed-for ‘land of freedom.’
“Quick to recognize the friendly spirit of this place, and
encouraged by the kindness of Gov. William H. Seward, his family
and friends who not only found places and work for many of the
refugees here, but paid car fare for fugitives to Suspension
Bridge and Canada, Harriet decided by way of celebrating the
Dred Scott decision in 1857 to bring her aged parents here for
refuge. A little place on South Street was provided on easy
terms for Harriet and here they were left, while she went on
they were left, until she went on her first trip to Boston to
see about raising more money for her work.
Services in Civil War.
“Here she met Captain John Brown who communicated his plans to
her and asked her to aid him by obtaining recruits and money
among her own people. This she did, and he always spoke of her
with greatest respect, declaring that ‘General Tubman’ was a
better officer than most whom he had seen, and could command an
army as successfully as she had led her small parties of
fugitives. This was soon proved. With the breaking out of the
Civil War, Harriet was called by Governor Andrews of
Massachusetts to act as spy, scout and nurse, the only woman who
filled such a role. During the four years of the war, she drew
for herself but twenty days’ rations, meanwhile nursing
thousands of our soldiers, white as well as black, on
battlefields and in hospitals.
“When the war was over, Harriet returned unobstrusively to her
little home here, where her doors were kept open to the most
friendless and helpless of her race. The aged, forsaken by kith
and kin, the babe deserted, the demented, the blind, the
epileptic, the paralyzed, all found not shelter alone, but
welcome. Harriet Tubman’s Charity.
“At no one time did this little home shelter less than six or
eight wrecks of humanity, entirely dependent upon Harriet for
their support. An Auburn woman in whose home Harriet was always
welcomed told me this little incident the other day. Going over
to Harriet’s one morning, she said, I found her in great cheer.
“ ‘How do you think de Lawd has answered my pray’, de yere
mawnin,” She said.
“ ‘De meal ches’ was empty las’ night, so I prayed all night,
“Lawd, sen’ me dy bleassin’. Thou knows what dy servan’ needs,
sn’ me a blessin.” And den I started out to get de blessin’
acomin’, and what you think it was? A pore blin’ woman, bad off
with consumption an’ her six children, one of ‘em jus’ a baby.’
“And what did you do? I queried aghast at the magnitude of the
“Oh, I did just what de Lawd meant me to do. I scummaged roun’
‘mong de good people on Souf Stret, a’ got ‘em somethin’ to eat
an’ some clothes for dem children who was mos’ as naked as when
dey was bawn.’
“While Harriet never begged for herself, the cause of the needy
at once sent her out with a basket on her arm to the kitchen of
her friends, and this without a shadow of hesitancy. She always
took thankfully, but never effusively, whatever was given her.
“I tell de Lawd what I needs,’ she used to say, ‘an’ he
Pension Granted by Congress.
“From here and there as her story was known there came small
sums of money to be used in the furtherance of ‘her last
work’—the establishment of a permanent home for the friendless
aged of her race. For years, considered ineligible for a pension
at the hands of a paternal Government on account of her sex, it
was not until a few years ago that through the efforts of Sereno
Payne, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee of the House,
she was granted by special act of Congress a pension of $20 a
month in recognition of her ‘valuable services as nurse and
scout during the War of the Rebellion.’
“To help out this pittance, a small amount of money was raised
through the sale of a little book which contained the story of
her life written by Sarah H. Bradford and published through the
liberality of Auburn friends. As needs arose, Harriet met them
by indefatigable efforts on her own part and the kindness of
people who knew her and her wonderful work.
“Because of lack of funds, however, the permanent incorporation
of what Harriet wished to call the ‘John Brown Home,’ could not
be achieved until 1903 when she deeded the 25 acres comprising
her home to the A. M. E. Zion Church. In 1908 the home was
formally opened under the name ‘Harriet Tubman Home,’ and the
first inmates were received and made comfortable. Five years
longer Harriet remained with us, guiding and counseling in the
management of the Home that had received her name. Then she
gently fell asleep, her last words being ‘Give my love to all
the Churches. I go away to prepare a place for you that where I
am you may be also.’
“Her worn body, bowed and spent in nearly a century’s faithful
intelligent, devoted service for others, not only of her own
race but of our soldier boys, to which the late General
McDougall bore witness, sleeps today on our green hillside. But
the wonderful spirit that animated it, brave, invincible, like
that of her old friend, John Brown, still ‘goes marching on,’
deathless in its influence and one of the ‘immortals.’
Note. Several phrases in this article were written in broken
English dialect. This was a common writing style of writers
doing enslavement. Severe punishment was the penalty for
enslaved persons caught trying to learn how to read and write.
Article retyped because of blurred text. Not necessarily for
research but perhaps as a window into the past and everyday life
of Harriet Tubman in Auburn.
THE ADVERTISER—JOURNAL, FRIDAY,
JUNE 12, 1914
MEMORIAL TO HARRIET TUBMAN TO BE
BOOKER T. WASHINGTON TO
Exercises in Honor of
Heroine of Civil War Times to Be Held in Auditorium
Tonight—Mayor Brister to Accept Tablet on Behalf of City—Doctor
Washington to Arrive This Afternoon.
Booker T. Washington, who will deliver an address at the
unveiling of the Harriet Tubman Davis memorial in this
Auditorium this evening, will arrive in this city at 5:25
o’clock this afternoon. He so wired C.G. Adams, secretary of the
Business Men’s Association last evening, from Chicago. Doctor
Washington will come here directly from the latter place and as
he will have to make close connections to catch the afternoon
train at Rochester, Mr. Adams asked the Central officials to
hold the train on the Auburn branch for him in case he met with
delay. This will be done, Mr. Adams was promised.
Doctor Washington will be met by a committee and taken at
once to The Birches, where he will be the guest of Mr. and Mrs.
E. Clarence Aiken, during his stay in the city. They will give a
luncheon in his honor Saturday at 1 o’clock.