Henry Morehead

100 Waterloo Street, Across from Victoria Professional Center Between Hill Street and South Street.


Henry Morehead and his family escaped slavery through the Underground Railroad and settled in London. In 1863, he was employed as a chimney sweep and lived on Waterloo Street on the block between Hill and South Streets.

His story comes from Benjamin Drew’s 1856 book, The Refugee: Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada.


I came from Louisville, Kentucky, where I was born and bred a slave. The fugitives who come to this country for freedom from bondage, have been kept down in such a manner, that these privileges granted to them seem somewhat strange, and they have to take some time to consider whether they shall send their children to school with the white children or not. This free school is something so unusual to them that they can’t realize it, until they become naturalized to the country. The time is now, when the colored men begin to see that it is the want of education which has kept them in bondage so long.

My owners used to object to my going to school, saying that I could learn rascality enough without it–that “niggers” going to school would teach them rascality. I always felt injured when a slave and when free, at the use of that word. This dampened my feelings for getting learning, somewhat, but I went to a night school, at my own expense of course, to learn to spell and read. My owners found it out, and set policeman to break the school up. This put an end to my schooling–that was all the schooling I ever had. I have looked at it and have come to the conclusion, that it is best that colored people should teach their children to read and to write, in order that they may know the ways of the world.

I left slavery a little more than a year ago. I brought my wife and three children with me, and had not enough to bring us through. My owners did not know that we were coming. I left because they were about selling my wife and children to the South. I would rather have followed them to the grave, than to the Ohio River to see them go down. I knew it was death or victory–so I took them and started for Canada. I was pursued,–my owners watched for me in a free State, but, to their sad disappointment, I took another road. A hundred miles further on, I saw my advertisements again offering $500 for me and my family. I concluded that as money would do almost anything, I ought to take better care,–and I took the underground railroad. I was longer on the road than I should have been without my burden: one child was nine months old, one two years old, and one four. The weather was cold and my feet were frostbitten, as I gave my wife my socks to pull on over her shoes. With all the sufferings of the frost and the fatigues of travel, it was not so bad as the effects of slavery.

I am making out very well here–I have not been in the country long enough to accumulate any wealth, but I am getting along as well as the general run of people. It stands to reason, that a man must be doing something to pay a rent of five dollars a month, and support a family of four besides himself, as provisions are, and have been. To do this does not look much like starving.