Garrett, Thomas

Life Span
to
Full name
Thomas Garrett
Place of Birth
Birth Date Certainty
Exact
Death Date Certainty
Exact
Gender
Male
Race
White
Sectional choice
North
Origins
Free State
No. of Spouses
2
No. of Children
6
Family
Thomas Garrett (father), and Sarah Price Garrett (mother), Mary Sharpless Garrett (first wife, 1813), Rachel Mendinhall Garrett (second wife, 1830)
Occupation
Businessman
Relation to Slavery
White non-slaveholder
Church or Religious Denomination
Quakers (Society of Friends)
Other Affiliations
Abolitionists (Anti-Slavery Society)
Household Size in 1860
6
Occupation in 1860
Iron Merchant
Residence in 1860
Wealth in 1860
20000
Marital status in 1860
Married

Thomas Garrett (American National Biography)

Scholarship
Garrett's parents were members of the Society of Friends (Quakers), and he remained a member throughout his life...His work as an abolitionist and Underground Railroad organizer and operator would result in his national reputation.

While most northern Quakers were moderate in their antislavery views, emphasizing primarily their own rejection of slavery, Garrett went much further, becoming a follower of Boston abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison, who offended some Quakers with his strong language and confrontational style. Like Garrison, Garrett advocated nonviolent resistance to slavery. Working with abolitionists in the Philadelphia area, Garrett organized a network of sympathizers who provided funds, transportation, and sometimes hospitality to slaves who had fled from their masters. During his lengthy involvement with the Underground Railroad, he kept records of 2,700 slaves he had helped escape. His work, along with that of Levi Coffin in Cincinnati, contributed to the perception that a well-organized escape route for slaves extended throughout the nation.

Even though Delaware was a slave state, except for several newspaper attacks Garrett experienced remarkably little opposition to his Underground Railroad activity, especially in the years just prior to the Civil War. In 1856 Garrett wrote a friend: "There is about as much anti-slavery feeling here as in Boston, and quite as freely expressed."
Larry Gara, "Garrett, Thomas," American National Biography Online, February 2000, http://www.anb.org/articles/15/15-00255.html.

Thomas Garrett (New International Encyclopaedia)

Reference
An American merchant, distinguished as a philanthropist and reformer. He was born in Upper Darby, Pa., of Quaker parentage; learned the trade of a cutler and scythe-maker, and in 1820 removed to Wilmington, Del., where he became an iron and hardware merchant. Here, also, he avowed his anti-slavery opinions without reserve, and became widely known as the friend of the slaves and of negroes generally. His name was familiar to the slaves of Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia; and during a period of forty years there was a constant procession of fugitives seeking his protection and aid. It is said that not less than 3000 of them were indebted to him for their freedom. He was compelled to resort to many ingenious devices in his work, but he made no secret of the fact that he was engaged in it, and such was his reputation for success that few slaveholders thought it worth while to pursue their runaways any farther after learning that they had fallen into his hands. In 1848 he was prosecuted by James Bayard (q.v. ) before Judge Taney (q.v.); was finally convicted on what appears to have been insufficient evidence of having abducted two slave children; and was fined so heavily as to render him penniless. His business would have been utterly broken up at this time if his fellow-citizens of Wilmington had not volunteered to furnish him all the capital he needed. At the time of his death he was universally beloved by the whites as well as the blacks.
Daniel Coit Gilman, Harry Thurston Peck, and Frank Moore Colby, eds., "Garrett, Thomas," The New International Encyclopaedia (New York: Dodd, Mead and Company, 1903), 8: 123-124.

Thomas Garrett (New York Times)

Obituary
Thomas Garrett, one of the original abolitionists years ago, celebrated for the zeal and success with which he assisted fugitive slaves to make their way to Canada, died at his residence in Wilmington, Del., on Tuesday night. He was a member of the Society of Friends, and at an early age conceived an intense hatred for the institution of human slavery. When he grew to manhood he gave practical expression to his sympathy for the bondmen of the South by aiding them, whenever it was in his power, to escape from the reach of their masters, who were aided in the attempt to recover their human property by the whole power of the United States Government. He regarded the Fugitive Slave law as in no way binding upon him, and suffered many persecution in consequence of his disregard of its requirements. His house was surrounded by a mob, on several occasions, when a trembling fugitive was under his roof, and his business as a hardware merchant was at one time almost broken up and his worldly prospects nearly ruined. He never flinched, however, for a moment to carry out his avowed principles, and in latter times he was cheered by returning prosperity, and his last years were serene and attended by the esteem of his fellow citizens. Mr. Garrett was for many years an officer of the American Anti-Slavery Society, and always advocated woman’s rights and other radical movements. He was eighty-two years of age at the time of his death.
"Obituary," New York Times, January 26, 1871, p. 5: 1.

Thomas Garrett (Dictionary of American Biography)

Reference
Garrett, Thomas, philanthropist, of Quaker parentage, b. Darby, Del. Co., Pa., 21 Aug. 1783; d. Wilmington, Del., ab. 20 Jan 1871. Bred а scythe and edge-tool maker, he acquired a competency, and in 1820 settled in Wilmington. He became an abolitionist ab. 1807, through the kidnapping of a colored woman from his father's family; and thenceforward assisted all fugitives who applied to him on their way to freedom. May, 1848, in a suit brought against him by the owners of some slaves whom he had aided to escape, he was convicted; and the damages awarded swept away every dollar of his property. Commencing business anew in his 65th year, he amassed a competence. He lived to be honored in the community by which he had formerly been execrated, and to see his hopes for universal freedom realized.
Francis S. Drake, Dictionary of American Biography.... (Boston: James R. Osgood and Company, 1872), 354.
Date Title
Thomas Garrett to James Miller McKim, December 29, 1854
Thomas Garrett to William Still, November 21, 1855
Thomas Garrett to William Still, December 19, 1855
Thomas Garrett to William Still, December 26, 1855
Thomas Garrett to William Still, March 23, 1856
Thomas Garrett to William Still, March 23, 1856
Thomas Garrett to James Miller McKim and William Still, May 11, 1856
Thomas Garrett to William Still, July 19, 1856
Thomas Garrett to William Still, September 26, 1856
Thomas Garrett to James Miller McKim and William Still, November 4, 1856
Thomas Garrett to William Still, November 6, 1856
Thomas Garrett to Samuel Rhoads, March 13, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, March 27, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, April 1, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, June 9, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, September 6, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, October 31, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, November 5, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, November 14, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, November 25, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, November 25, 1857
Thomas Garrett to William Still, February 5, 1858
Thomas Garrett to William Still, August 21, 1858
Thomas Garrett to William Still, August 25, 1858
Thomas Garrett to William Still and James Miller McKim, September 6, 1858
Thomas Garrett to William Still and James Miller McKim, November 21, 1858
Thomas Garrett to William Still, August 25, 1859
Thomas Garrett to William Still, December 1, 1860
Thomas Garrett to William Still, January 23, 1864
Chicago Style Entry Link
Still, William. The Underground Rail Road. Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872.
view record
Bentley, Judith. Dear Friend: Thomas Garrett & William Still, Collaborators on the Underground Railroad. New York: Cobblehill Books, 1997. view record
Kashatus, William C. "Two Stationmasters on the Underground Railroad: A Tale of Black and White." Pennsylvania Heritage 27, no. 4 (2001): 4-11. view record
McGowan, James A. Station Master on the Underground Railroad: The Life and Letters of Thomas Garrett. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2005. view record
Newton, James E. "The Underground Railroad in Delaware." Negro History Bulletin 40, no. 3 (1977): 702-703. view record
Thompson, Priscilla. "Harriet Tubman, Thomas Garrett, and the Underground Railroad." Delaware History 22, no. 1 (1986): 1-21. view record
How to Cite This Page: "Garrett, Thomas," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College, http://hd.housedivided.dickinson.edu/node/5712.