Saturday, October 7, 2017

Getting Creative on The Underground Railroad – Transportation Options in 1850



By Carrie Fancett Pagels

In my latest story, “Love’s Escape”, a brand new release in The Captive Brides Collection from Barbour, my heroine escapes in a coffin on the first part of the journey. Truth is stranger than fiction. Shirley Plantation Historian, Julian Charity, shared with me a few years back that slaves had been smuggled out in coffins. I kept thinking about that fact. Can you imagine being so desperate for freedom that you’d willingly climb into a coffin or the bottom of a coffin in order to escape slavery? Imagine being in the bottom of a casket, in the back of a hearse carriage or a dray and rumbling along over rutted dirt roads or cobbled streets! Yikes! And no chiropractors back then, either.


One man mailed himself in a box to get away from captivity.  Henry “Box” Brown (https://www.good.is/articles/slave-mail-package) escaped Virginia by being cramped in a box all the way to Philadelphia. I’m not so mean to my heroine!

In my heroine’s journey, in 1850, I had to find a way to get her north by any and all transportation means available. I already knew that my hero’s best friend, David Bryant, was a ship captain. I had to research what types of ships would have been traveling the east coast at that time. With steam ships beginning to take off, schooners were on the wain, and there were even “hybrid ships” then – with sails and with steam engines! To get my two enslaved women on board, they were passing as free women. With both of them being of one-eighth African descent, this was fairly easy to imagine. But I had them wear mourning veils to also give them something to “hide” behind. It couldn’t have been easy for people to make that trip to freedom, knowing that someone could pursue you at any time.


From a port city, I had to get my characters inland and north to freedom. Railroads weren’t yet fully established on the east coast. There were more strictly business lines to transport goods, though. Our travelers couldn’t be too picky, though. If a freight train was needed to get them to a specific point, they’d have to take them. And the trains of the 1850s were quite like we think of today, and one had to be concerned about possible boiler explosions.


Since I couldn’t locate a deep enough network of trains carrying all the way east, I turned to the good old Erie Canal, established in 1817.  By 1850, the Erie Canal was an amazing bustling place as far as boat traffic. But it was slow traveling. Think bucolic settings, cows in the fields, crops growing, and you get the idea. So, traveling this was could be riskier because of the slow transport time. And you’d be spending a number of nights possibly staying in an inn along the canal at night (and those costs could add up.)


If you were one of the fortunate to make it to the end of the Erie Canal, in Buffalo, and you’ve decided to go on into Canada, you’d need to take one of the ships that traveled the Great Lakes. You might take a “ferry” that is simply carrying people across to the other side of the lake, into Ontario. There was a temporary railway suspension bridge connecting near the Niagara Falls into Canada which wasn’t completed until five years after my story.


Carrie Fancett Pagels, Ph.D., is the award-winning author of fifteen Christian historical romances, including ECPA bestsellers. Twenty-five years as a psychologist didn't "cure" her overactive imagination! A self-professed “history geek,” she resides with her family in the Historic Triangle of Virginia but grew up as a “Yooper,” in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula. Carrie loves to read, bake, bead, and travel – but not all at the same time! You can connect with her at www.CarrieFancettPagels.com.





Danny Gokey’s song “Rise” is Lettie’s theme song https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TJS42sKrM8c
One reason I picked this song is because Letitia begins her escape in a coffin and part of her spiritual journey is very much like this song. Danny always has a new song just for me!





Purchase links:








86 comments:

  1. Interesting, and I can see how you have to follow the historical timeline of travel very carefully to keep it authentic. I admit, when I read I assume the author has it right. Maybe I should be more discerning, but usually I fall in love with the plot and the characters and don't think about the other details. I'm glad when the authors do!!!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Some readers don't care. I'm one of those who do and I've read more than a few historical romances that were so far off the mark I couldn't enjoy the story. So I really do try. Thanks, Connie!

      Delete
  2. great post, I totally agree with Connie. thank you for being so diligent.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Carrie, you always have the most interesting information. I love your books!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Melissa! I imagine you are putting together files for you manuscripts, too, if you're doing some historical children's stories. I'd love to write a few of those some day. Thanks for coming by, my friend!

      Delete
  4. I enjoyed this article, love history, enjoy research and appreciate your diligence!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am an avid amateur photographer and reader. Thank you for this chance to win one of your books. I would have a hard time choosing between My Heart Belongs on Mackinac Island and Captive Brides!

      Delete
    2. Hi Jeanne! Thanks for coming by! I admire those who can get there photos to come out great instead of by accident like mine do!

      Delete
  5. History and historical fiction are my favorite books to read. I also appreciate your hard work and diligence. I can hardly wait to read your stories.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Shamekka! I love historical romance and history, too! And I enjoy the research often a little too much! Blessings!

      Delete
  6. I am an avid reader of Carrie’s books. I so loved Maude’s story. This Captive Brides sounds right up my Alley! Thanks for the post!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Paula! I miss Maude. I've got her mom and uncle and her grandparents in part of this upcoming book "The Sugar Plum Ladies" that I'm writing now!

      Delete
  7. I can't imagine hiding in a coffin but when people are desperate, they will do just about anything. Your detail to history is fascinating and much appreciated!

    I'm so happy we had some time to get caught up yesterday while enjoying that delicious lunch you brought over to share. I'll be finishing it off today, I do believe. TY, my friend!!!
    {{hugs}}

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yeah, like I said just the thought creeped me out, Anne! Glad we finally got to catch up, it has been too long, my friend! Hugs back!

      Delete
    2. I am an AVID reader and love the books that you write. I appreciate your research into historical background for your stories. Whereas I endured required history classes, I loved reading historical fiction and learned much along the way.

      Delete
  8. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  9. I am an avid reader and love your books!

    ReplyDelete
  10. I'm such an avid reader! I love books on the Underground Railroad! I cannot imagine the lengths people went through! I really want to read this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love those, too,Patti, but I usually end up crying a lot while reading those Underground Railroad stories. This one is pretty hopeful.

      Delete
  11. I really enjoy your writings. Avid reader I am.

    ReplyDelete
  12. It's amazing what people would do in an effort to obtain freedom. The many stories I've heard concerning the Underground Railroad fascinate me. The people who traveled it, the station keepers along the route, and the secret symbol she they used to pass along information, all amazing! I'm an AVID reader of historical fiction and enjoy Civil War era in particular. The Captive Brides collection is in the mail headed my direction. Can't wait to read it! Also looking forward to reading your other release in the 7 Brides for 7 Mail Order Husbands collection. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Holly, yes the 7 Brides for 7 Mail Order husbands stories are set immediately after the Civil War was over. No more need to travel the Underground Railroad! Blessings!

      Delete
  13. How interesting! I can't imagine having to flee for freedom in any of those ways. I have read books and bios about some the different ways they to come up with to escape, The people helping escape sure did have great ideas to help escape undetected.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You really had to get creative to get by people motivated by greed to bring you in. I wonder how those bounty hunters felt when they finally met their Maker.

      Delete
    2. I never thought of the bounty hunters. Now that you mention them I wonder. I sure don't think I'd have been able to come up some of those ideas.

      Delete
  14. I've always been an avid reader, I wish new mom life afforded me the opportunity to read more often.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Rachel I didn’t read for 10 years while raising our daughter and working as a psychologist. No fiction anyways. Started again when our son was born 13 years later

      Delete
  15. Since you're AVID about history I'd love to read one of your books! :) Kathleen Bruner

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I’d love for you to read my books Kathleen!

      Delete
  16. I love to read. I would love your books.
    Avid

    ReplyDelete
  17. I'm an "Avid" Reader! I am loving The Captive Brides. These are really wonderful stories!! If I win I'm going to pick Seven Brides for Seven Mail-Order Husbands for my friend because I already have one.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brenda! I'm glad you are enjoying The Captive Brides and thanks for being on the Promo Team! Blessings!

      Delete
  18. I'm an avid reader and would love to read your books soon! Can't wait to try them 😊

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I am one, too, Amy! Would love for you to read one or even all fifteen of my books!

      Delete
  19. I am an AVID reader, but have never read one of your books. I would love to win a copy of this one! Thanks for the chance. πŸ˜‰

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Uh oh Van! You need to remedy that! I have a big 99 cent sale going on some of my Kindle books this week!

      Delete
  20. Carrie, great job on the research! "Rise" sounds like a wonderful pick for Lettie's song. I'm looking forward to reading her story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi sweet Kay! Great to see you here, my friend! I hope you'll enjoy her story!

      Delete
  21. WOW! This sounds so interesting. I had no idea that slaves escaped in the bottom of coffins much less for that long of a journey. I can’t wait to read this book. I’m an avid reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lettie only stays in the coffin for about 30 miles from Charles City to Richmond. Great having a fellow Yooper visit. Blessings!

      Delete
  22. I'm an AVID reader of Christian fiction, and I love historical fiction--it helps me learn so much about history, and these books sound sooo good!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. And isn't HHH a great blog, Rosalyn? I love this blog and my friend Debbie Lynne Costello who gave me her spot!

      Delete
  23. I'm an AVID reader of Carrie's! I enjoyed reading your post, so interesting ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Deanna! Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it, Pal!

      Delete
  24. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  25. How interesting! Scary for them being on the run like that. Appreciate all the research you do for your stories. Look forward to reading this one. Thanks for the giveaway opportunity for us AVID readers. :)

    ReplyDelete

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Karen! Thanks for coming by and reading the article! Have a blessed day!

      Delete
  26. I am an avid reader. I would love to read the captive brides collection. Quite a few years ago now, I did a college research paper on the underground railroad. People were also placed in barrels and shipped far away to somewhere like Pennsylvania. As I read these true stories and how the people were barely hydrated and conscious tore at me. How many of us would be willing to do that or even assist these people escaping to freedom.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Wow, Deanna, that must have been pretty distressing to read those stories. Thanks so much for coming by. I think you'd love Letitia's story in "Love's Escape" with that background of yours!

      Delete
  27. Hey Carrie! Your PAL Chappy here! Would love to win a copy of this collection. Hugs!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Chappy! Big hugs to you, pal! You didn't win this time, but best wishes on one of the other giveaways my friend!

      Delete
  28. This was so interesting!! Thank you for your research. Historical fiction is my very favorite genre. Pal Kathleen

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Kathleen, thanks! We both love Historical fiction, pal! We need more with Half-Irish and Quarter-Irish heroines! Hugs!

      Delete
  29. As an avid reader, I just love historical fiction. It makes me happy when the author tries to make it everything flow as it should. Thai was a fun article to read. Thank you for your efforts and for your talent!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Terressa! An author who really impressed me with the ability to make a story flow while filling it with historical gems is Susan F. Craft, who I hope will be writing more again, soon!

      Delete
  30. I've loved historical fiction for quite awhile now and your books are perfect for an AVID reader like me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sally! I like being perfect for something lol! I'm a perfectly Tired Old Mommy, does that count? Blessings!

      Delete
  31. Thanks for spending so much time in research, Carrie. That's one of the reasons I enjoy your books so very much! I am an AVID reader and a PAL as well :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Betti! I hope you're seeing some beautiful color in Minnesota! Thanks, Pal, for your consistent support! Hugs!

      Delete
  32. This is such a fun post. Great info to learn about!! I enjoy your books and the historical details. I love your stories! And I am a PAL. :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Sydney! Thanks for being a Pals member and a supporter of Christian fiction, including mine via Singing Librarian Books!

      Delete
  33. Your research is amazing!!!! Thanx. I enjoy your detail. Love being an Avid reader.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been really blessed, Jennifer, by God bringing me help, too! Thanks for your kind words!

      Delete
  34. As an avid reader of historical fiction, I love it when an author does their research. It brings the story to life!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I just listened to Elizabeth Camden's new audiobook about cultured pearls and military spies and it was chock a block full of historical facts which did bring the story to life!

      Delete
  35. I love the information you give us. I love learning while enjoying a great story. Blessings, Carrie.
    PALS

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That's what I like, Leila -- learning while enjoying my reading! Blessings back!

      Delete
  36. I love reading your historical romances. You do your research well and share the stories of times past in a captive way. Pals-AVID
    Blessings to each of you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Wendy. Great to see you here my friend! Thanks so much! Blessings!

      Delete
  37. Hi Carrie! I love that you do the research to make the story authentic. I get rather fussy when other authors don't do it.
    I loved this collection, especially your novella.
    I'm an AVID reader and a PAL.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Pal! Thanks! Yes, same here, I get upset if something is just off. I'm so glad you enjoyed the collection! Blessings!

      Delete
  38. Hi Carrie!
    Oh my, I cannot imagine hiding inside a coffin to get away like that & in your story!

    I appreciate the amount of research you, & other authors do for your novels, it shows in your stories.
    That's why I love Christian historical books.

    Blessings, Tina

    ...I am a Pal & Avid reader...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Tina, thanks for being such a fantastic supporter of my writing ministry and for being our Colonial Quills reader/reviewer! Blessings!

      Delete
  39. Carrie, thank you for all the hard work and research you do to make your stories authentic. It makes them seem more real. I don't always know the history of a story but bothers me when I know the author has her facts wrong.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Susan! I hope you'll enjoy the book when that arrives. Congrats on winning on another venue! Thanks for your kid words.

      Delete
  40. I hope it's not too late to add my comment! Not sure if I need to ad avid here too???? My hometown was a major stop on the underground railroad as it was founded as a shaker settlement. I find the stories fascinating. I can't imagine being that desperate.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is really cool, Katherine that your hometown was a major stop! And a Shaker settlement! Thanks for coming by! I did draw a winner, but that for visiting!

      Delete
  41. This is a great post. I love all the details about travel in 1850. I'm with Connie in that I just assume the writer has everything researched and correct. I love the fact that you, Carrie, are on my list of authors I can really trust. That makes it easier to let myself just get lost in the story.

    I am one of your Pals and I love your books. Thanks for the chance to win a copy of this novella.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Debbie! Thanks for coming by! I'm glad you can trust me! BTW, as I mentioned in Pals group one of my Sugarplum ladies in the catering crew will be named Debora! Blessings!

      Delete
  42. Carrie,
    I am always blown away by the historical accuracy in your books! I can't wait to read this one. Thank you for the opportunity! You are such a dear.
    Blessings,Sarah

    ReplyDelete