Sarah's Web

Enter The 19th Century World Of Sarah And Her Friends

Excerpt From Chapter One


   Before the sun peeked over the horizon, while the morning star still shimmered in the western sky, they attacked. The earth shook under the pounding hooves as two riders whipped their horses furiously, pushing them to the limit. Out of the dim eastern horizon they raced across the field, swiftly closing in on Sam and Eliza. Slowly, the Negroes turned to the sound and squinted into the first gray light of dawn. Graybeard jammed his boot into Eliza’s side, the blunt force slamming her to ground. She groaned pitifully. Then, holding her side, she curled into a ball. Finally, after catching her breath, she screamed for her husband. Sam started for his fallen wife, but never made it. Tall Man pistol-whipped him, opening a bloody gash on the black man’s forehead. Crumpling into a heap, Sam lay dazed, eyes halfclosed. The brutal, hardhearted bounty hunters had the devil in their eyes. While gazing down at their terrible work those ice-cold eyes turned mean—real mean. Unhurried, they swung down from their snorting horses.

   “Joel, hold that boy!” Graybeard yelled. “I’ll grab his woman.”

   Sam groaned under Tall Man’s knee. The slave hunter had pinned him against the ground, shoving his gun against the Negro’s head just below the spot where blood trickled from the open wound. The dripping red disappeared into the earth.

   Eliza screamed in a choked terrible voice as Graybeard yanked her to her feet. Then, dragging her without mercy to where Sam lay gasping for air, the big, ugly-faced man with the pointy gray beard shoved her down. Instinctively she rolled next to her husband. Reaching over she pressed her hand to his wound; the bleeding stopped.

   Giving out a nasty laugh, Tall Man glared from greed-filled eyes and bragged with a hate-filled voice. “We’ve made our wages today. Can’t wait to git my hands on all that bounty money.”

   “Sir,” Sam gasped, struggling to raise his head. “You have the wrong folks.”

   “Shut up, boy!” Graybeard sneered. “We have you and that means money for us.”

   “But, we’re free Negroes, not slaves. My name is Sam Smith and this is Eliza Smith.”

   The slave hunter’s big frame blocked out the first rays of the morning sun and he stared back with dark eyes, cold as steel. “Don’t give me that, boy! Slaves don’t have last names,” the man lied. “Now, you shut your face or I’ll whip you good.”

   Holding up her work-hardened hands, the humble black woman clasped them together, pleading, “My name is Eliza! That’s Sam!” 

   “Look here, you ol’ slave mammy,” the tall man growled through his ugly, brown, tobacco stained teeth. “I as soon whip you as look at you. Sure ain’t gonna listen to yer lies.”

   Shaken by a terrible fear, Sam felt his throat tighten. Swallowing hard he gasped out, “I’m a free man! I’ve papers in my pocket to prove it. Sir, let me show you. Please! You have the wrong folks. We aren’t runaways. We’re free!”

   In a wave of hot anger Graybeard yelled hatefully, “Not now you’re not!”


Wit and Wisdom of Granny Evans

"... ya might telled me who this old fellar be whose a callin’ me old! I be about sixty, but I ain’t a sayin’ which side a sixty.”

“Let me telled ya sompun about that there girl. She may be a little wisp, but she thinks more like a grown-up. She won’t  let this go—not her. When the Good Lord made her, he loaded her up with grit—way more than most folks. Naw, this

here people-stealin’ ain’t about to move her away from the Lord. She’ll jist be addin’ this here to her prayers mornin’ and night, and be prayin’ all the harder.”


     As Tenne took the cup to his mouth, he smelled dead weeds. Smells worst than a wet dog, but I gotta drink it. This good lady be tryin’ to help me. He sipped, cringed, and made a terrible face. Something shook his body from within.

“Sorry, Granny, but it be bad tastin.’ Don’t knows if I can git the rest down.” Through clenched teeth he gave a weak promise. “I’ll try. I shore will.” It did not sound convincing. He took another big swallow. “Ugh!” he sputtered the brew. “Oh, my, I cain’t stands no mo.’ No mo’! It’s worst than the bellyache.”

     “Ha, ha, ha, I knowed it. Shore sign it be a workin.’ Suppose to be terrible tastin.’ It be a workin’ all right. Tenne, healin’ be on the way. So, jist hold on. I brung ya a pan.”

     “Granny, I a feelin’ like heavin’ up.” He sat upright.

     “This here pan be for the heavin.’ Go ahead and heave ho, it be part of the treatment.”


From The Glossary

Blue NortherA weather front with bitterly cold winds racing out of the north accompanied by thick, bluish-gray clouds.


BuckraA white man; on a slave plantation,the master.


Calaboose—A jailhouse.


Coffin, Levi—Known as the unofficial president of the Underground Railroad. He lived in Newport, Wayne County, Indiana. He moved to Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1847 where he continued to help runaway slaves.


Corn-Crackers—People from the State of Kentucky.


DialectThe dialect of Granny and the slaves is written so it can be understood. We realize it is modified from what the folks sounded like originally, but the book would become harder to read with a precise rendering of dialect. If it is too difficult the reader loses interest, so the softer dialect is preferred in the Sarah books.


Jump the Broom—Since some slave masters would not allow marriage, many slaves jumped over a broom as a sign of their marriage commitment to each other. The broom itself was a sign of the beginning of homemaking for the newlyweds.


Pie Safe—A cabinet, it usually had two punched tin panel doors. Sometimes the punched holes made a design in the tin. There were various designs, such as eagles or stars.


Up to the hub—When a person’s wagon sunk into mud up to the hub of the wheel, they were in big trouble. It would take much effort to get it out.


Sarah's Promise


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What Do You Think?  Answers Below:

What's a hatchel?

In the Sarah books Sarah lives in Wapakoneta, Ohio. Who is the most famous person from Wapakoneta?

What famous lady sharpshooter was born southwest of Wapakoneta in Darke County?

What's an apothecary?

What was an orphan train?

Answers to the questions

Hatchel - It's a tool for combing wool or separating flax fibers. Granny tended sheep for years and knows how to use it.

Neil Armstrong - In 1969 he will be the first man to walk on the moon. Of course, that is over 100 hundred years in the future for me, but in the past for you.

Annie Oakley - She was born in 1860. Phoebe Ann Moses was her real name, but she became known as Annie Oakley when she began shooting her gun in competition. Her father died when she was very young, and when she could hold his gun she began shooting in the woods, bringing game back to her house for supper.

Apothecary - A 19th Century drugstore where medicines are compounded and dispensed. It refers to the druggist, also. Apothecaries sell other items in addition to the medicines, much like your 21st century drugstores. My mama, Rachel, bought her perfume at the apothecary.

Orphan Train - The first orphan train left New York City, September 1854. The children taken west from 1854 to 1930 ranged from true orphans to many that were turned out into the streets of New York because their parents could no longer afford them. You will read in the book that I am fearful of being put on an orphan train.

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