Eliza Harris Crossed the Ice Floes with a Baby
And Came Back with a Vengeance.
In 1841, Eliza Harris, the fugitive from slavery made famous
in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, returned to Brown County in hopes of liberating other members of her family, including a daughter and her six children — all of whom remained enslaved in the Dover area of Kentucky by a Mr. "Thomas Davis."
It was a risky endeavor. Had she been captured, she would have surely been whipped, tortured, disfigured, and if she was not lynched by Davis, she likely would have been sold down the river and into the southern cotton fields where life expectancy averaged two years.
Many of the details of her Davis Plantation raid remain sketchy, but what is known
is that while waiting for the plan to liberate them to be executed, she stayed with and worked
for the Archibald Hopkins family — ardent abolitionists and prominent members
of the Red Oak Presbyterian Church.
With Eliza's determination and newfound knowledge of the secrets of the Underground Railroad, her family was able to escape and found their way to the Hopkins' farm where "they piled into a wagon driven by an acquaintance of Hopkins … And on they went to the next stop which was Hillsboro."
R.C. Rankin recalled that freedom seeker George Harris, who contrary to Uncle Tom's Cabin did not arrive with Eliza, but "was the last man" who he and his brother David took to Gordon Hopkins's home.
All told, Eliza ignited the liberation of ten enslaved people, including herself,
which must have represented a devastating financial loss for Davis, as well as a loss of ability for his plantation to sustain itself, and his loss of dignity within the slave-holding community.
With her indomitable courage and the unwavering support of the Hopkins family,
Eliza got her freedom, her family back, and her revenge.
Information on this page is based on the research of Déanda Johnson, National Parks Service Historian, as part of the Church application for Network to Freedom Site status. For a copy of the research, including citations, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org