The Mayor and Police of Norfolk Searching Capt. Fountain's Schooner.
Men wielding axes chop the deck of a schooner suspected of illegally transporting runaway slaves to freedom in this wood engraving published in William Still's The Underground Rail Road (1872). In November 1855 twenty-one fugitives (the caption incorrectly states twenty-eight) were hidden on this boat, then moored in Norfolk, when the mayor of the city and the local police boarded the vessel and searched it. The captain of the schooner, a man named Fountain, was described in Still's book as "one of the most daring and heroic Captains ever connected with the Underground Rail Road cause." The captain coolly stood by as the search party chopped up sections of the boat in search of the runaways; in an attempt to "further confuse them," Fountain even picked up an axe and offered to help. The posse left empty-handed, but first had to pay the captain "'five dollars' … for being searched, the amount which was lawfully required of every captain sailing from Virginia." The boat, with its human cargo still on board, then headed for Philadelphia.
Citation: The Underground Rail Road. A Record of Facts, Authentic Narratives, Letters, &c., Narrating the Hardships Hair-breadth Escapes and Death Struggles of the Slaves in their efforts for Freedom, as Related by Themselves and Others, or Witnessed by the Author; Together with Sketches of Some of the Largest Stockholders, and Most Liberal Aiders and advisers, of the Road. E 450 .S85 1879. Special Collections, University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Va.