One of the most important figures working on the Underground Railroad in Delaware was Thomas Garrett (1789-1871), a prominent Wilmington Quaker who devoted his life to the abolition of slavery and to helping all freedom seekers who sought his aid. His home and business at 227 Shipley Street was an important destination for seeking food, clothing, shelter and guidance to reach free soil in Pennsylvania and beyond. Garrett maintained that he assisted over 2,700 people. Not only did he offer his home to shelter freedom seekers, but he built a very successful network of activists in the city, Black and white, to ensure assistance for everyone. His regional network extended from Tidewater Virginia and Baltimore to Kennett, Philadelphia, New York City and Upstate New York.
Thomas Garrett and fellow stationmaster downstate, John Hunn, were sued in federal district court for assisting the Hawkins family to find freedom in 1845. Although the exorbitant fines levied against them were crippling, the national press coverage, pro and con, served to elevate the antislavery debate while the whisperings among the enslaved reinforced Delaware as a path to freedom. In her controversial anti-slavery novel, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” Harriet Beecher Stowe based her helpful Quaker character on an amalgam of Garrett and Hunn, whose cases she had followed.