Sunday, 9 March 2014



As yesterday was International Women’s Day, I have decided to feature one of the most courageous and inspiring women I have studied, Eliza Parker. She refused to let anyone stand in her way in her obtainment of Freedom!

Original Caption: The Tragedy at Christiana
William Still, The Underground Railroad (Philadelphia: Porter& Coats, 1872), 351

Eliza Parker and her husband William were both slaves from the state of Maryland. Wanting a better life, the Parkers decided to escape the bonds of slavery by soliciting the assistance of a neighbor. It was their intention to have the man drive them to freedom while they were hidden in the wagon beneath a tarp. However, after hiding in the back of the wagon for the entire evening, the runaways were in for a devastating shock. The man for whom they had entrusted their lives and freedom with had betrayed them.  Instead of assisting them in their flight to freedom, he had simply driven around in circles the entire night awaiting slave catchers to return the escaped slaves to their master. Eliza, enraged, removed her headscarf, strangled the man to death, threw him from the wagon, and grabbed the reigns in order to drive the fugitives to freedom. The Parkers settled in a community in Christiana, Pennsylvania and although the couple was now free, they risked their freedom in order to assist others on their journey to freedom. The Parker’s never took a greater risk than during the events that led to the Christiana Resistance.  

Eliza and William Parker’s home, Christiana, Pennsylvania

On September 11, 1851, Joshua Kite, a fugitive finding refuge in the Parker home, was spotted by his master, Edward Gorsuch and a posse he had accompanying him, including his on a U.S. Marshall. Running back to the Parker’s home to warn the others, the posse followed behind and a skirmish ensured leaving Gorsuch dead, his son severely wounded and the rest making a speedy retreat. It is said Eliza, dodging bullets ran up the stairs of their home to sound the alarm to other fugitive slaves that danger was near. William Parker, realizing the ramifications of such an event fled to Canada, while Eliza and several others were captured and put on trial for treason against the United States under the recently enacted Fugitive Slave Act. Thankfully, Eliza and the other captives were defended by the noted Abolitionist lawyer Thaddeus Stevens and were acquitted. With the assistance of anti-slavery societies, both William and Eliza were reunited in Toronto. The couple relocated and settled in the Buxton Settlement. Descendants of the Parker Family still reside in North Buxton, Ontario.

For more information concerning the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, please visit

1 comment:

  1. This is a beautiful story and it speaks to the bravery of women throughout time. I really enjoy reading about the strong connection which Eliza has with Buxton through her difficult journey to Canada. Hearing all these histories makes me think about Toronto in a different way as if another layer of meaning has been superimposed over the diverse community that is Toronto and the surroundings.