Otho [Otto?] Taylor

Circa 1830

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Otho Taylor's name appears several times in William Still's accounts of the Vigilance Committee. From Journal C of Station No. 2 of the Underground Railroad, Agent William Still, 1852-1857 (call # AmS 232).

Otho Taylor was born and lived in Clear Spring, near Hagerstown, in Washington County, Maryland. Henry Fiery claimed Otho and his brothers, Owen and Benjamin, as his property. Otto was married to an enslaved woman named Eliza and had two children, Elizabeth and Anna. On Easter Sunday, March 23, 1856, Otho fled Clear Spring along with his wife and children (who would have been about three and one years old), Owen and his wife and child, and Benjamin. After an arduous journey that took them through Chambersburg and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, the group arrived in Philadelphia by about April 1. Records of the Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia suggest that Otho Taylor and his family may have remained in Philadelphia until as late as April 7, and at least some of them probably boarded with Henrietta Duterte. Otho and his family probably arrived in St. Catharines, Canada West, by late April—a letter from Harrisburg Underground Railroad conductor Joseph Bustill to William Still makes clear that at least some members of the Taylor family were safe in Canada by late May—where they would have been received by the local agent and missionary, Rev. Hiram Wilson.
Yet Otho remained determined to rescue more of his kin. In early 1857, M. A. H. Wilson wrote to William Still seeking funds to support Otho's return to Clear Spring. By late February 1857, funds had been raised and, remarkably, Otho returned to western Maryland and rescued three people: Susan, Charles, and Simon Syrus (or Cyrus). Their relationship to Otho is not clear. The group arrived in Philadelphia on or about March 11, 1857.
By 1865, Otho, Eliza, and their daughters, now 12 and 10, had settled in Grand Island, just west of Buffalo on the border with Canada. They lived in a log house valued at $15, and Otho worked as a farmer. In 1870, Otho and Eliza still lived in Grand Island, where Otho farmed and Eliza worked as a domestic servant, but their daughters are not mentioned.1 By 1880, Otho, now around 50 years old, apparently lived in Lonaconing, Allegany County, Maryland, where he worked as a "railroad boss." Eliza was not recorded in this census; she may have predeceased him.
Pease, William H. and Jane H. Pease. Bound with Them in Chains: A Biographical History of the Antislavery Movement. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1972.
U.S. Census Bureau. 1865 Buffalo Census 5, New York, Erie County. Available via Ancestry.com (accessed 6/4/13).
U.S. Census Bureau. 1870 United States Federal Census, Grand Island, Erie, New York. Available via Ancestry.com (accessed 6/4/13).
U.S. Census Bureau. 1880 United States Federal Census, Lonaconing, Allegany, Maryland. Available via Ancestry.com (accessed 6/4/13).