Thomas Garrett, the son of a farmer, was born on 21st August, 1789, in Delaware County. He became involved in the iron trade and after marrying settled in Wilmington, Delaware. A Quaker, who was strongly opposed to slavery and joined the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.
Delaware was a slave state and adjacent to Pennsylvania and New Jersey on one side and Maryland on the other, was a particular target for runaway slaves. Garrett turned his home in Wilmington into the last station on the Underground Railroad before the slaves reached freedom in Pennsylvania. It has been estimated that Garrett helped more than 2,000 runaway slaves escape from the Southern states. The Maryland authorities were so angry with Garrett that they set a reward of $10,000 for his arrest.
In 1848 Garrett was brought before a Federal court. Garrett admitted he had aided fugitive slaves and would continue to do so. This resulted in a heavy fine that forced him into bankruptcy. However, with the help of his anti-slavery friends, Garrett was able to re-establish his business.
During the Civil War Garrett was vulnerable to pro-slavery elements in Delaware and his home had to be protected by African American volunteers.
After the passing of the 15th Amendment which gave the vote to African Americans, Garrett was drawn through the streets of Wilmington by former slaves in an open carriage inscribed with the words "Our Moses".
Thomas Garrett died on 25th January, 1871. He left instructions that he was to be carried to his grave by African Americans and that they should participate in the Quaker service.
Slavery in the United States (£1.29)