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.
My Pinterest page for Love’s Escape https://www.pinterest.com/carriefpagels/loves-escape-novella-in-barbours-captive-brides-co/
My Youtube playlist https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gIIM1mHfJ0U&list=RDgIIM1mHfJ0U
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!
Christian Book Distributors https://www.christianbook.com/captive-brides-collection-challenges-discover-faith/jennifer-allee/9781683223368/pd/223368?event=ESRCG
Barnes & Noble https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-captive-brides-collection-jennifer-allee/1126718494?ean=9781683223368#/