Ann Redfield is destined to follow her brother Jesse through life – two years behind him– all the way. Jesse is a conductor on the Underground Railroad, and Ann follows him there as well.
Quakers filled with a conviction as hard as Pennsylvania limestone that slavery is an abomination to be resisted with any means available, the Redfield brother and sister lie, sneak, masquerade and defy their way past would-be enforcers of the hated Fugitive Slave Law.
Their activities inevitably lead to complicated relationships when Jesse returns from a run with a deadly fever, accompanied by a fugitive, Josiah, who is also sick and close to death. Ann nurses both back to health. But precious time is lost, and Josiah, too weak for winter travel, stays on at Redfield Farm. Ann becomes his teacher, friend and confidant. When grave disappointment disrupts her life, Ann turns to Josiah for comfort, and comfort leads to intimacy. The result, both poignant and inspiring, leads to a life long devotion to one another and their cause.
My rating: 5 out of 5. It will go in our homeschool library for the older years.
Smile: My copy is autographed. I see my daughter inheriting a complete set of Judith Redline Coopey books someday. :-)
I’ve always thought spinning and weaving would be interesting. I have a copy of a diary of a young Quaker woman from Bedford County around the time of the Civil War. I was struck by the endless list of tasks, all of them hard work, that women faced every day.
Do you find yourself to be more like Ann or more like Jesse?
Interesting question. I think Ann is much nicer than I am and more dedicated. Jesse is an interesting choice, since he was a self-starter and a mover in the Underground Railroad, I would like to think I was more like him, but I think they’re both unique characters, unlike me, but sharing my values.
I notice a lot of good cooking mentioned through the book (foodies always pick up on these things). What are your favorite comfort foods? Are there any foods that are particularly Quaker that you have liked or would like to try?
I guess there’s nothing like roast beef, mashed potatoes and gravy. I don’t know much about Quaker cooking, but I do have a Quaker cookbook. My daughter is the foodie in the family. She makes her living teaching cooking, whether classes offered by various cooking schools, or individual small groups. If I asked her, she would come up with a whole menu based on traditional Quaker foods. Since my family had lost touch with our Quaker roots, I can’t say whether any of our traditional foods had Quaker origins.
Have you visited any of the known sites of the Underground Railroad. What were they like?
Better yet, I’ve visited places in the immediate area where the story takes place and seen hiding places in attics and between two partitions in a room. I’ve also seen an entrance to a church from the river bank and up through from the basement. Every time I see one of these, I marvel at the dedication it took for people to go to such lengths to modify their homes or public buildings so they could help people escape. I plan to visit museums in Marietta, Ohio and Maysville, Kentucky this summer.
What did the Fugitive Slave Act entail? Were there other events in Pennsylvania that contributed to the Civil War?
The Fugitive Slave Law said slaves were property, and as such, they had to be returned to their owners if caught. Anyone found hiding a fugitive slave was liable to incarceration or a heavy fine. It wasn’t enforced as fully in the north where local officials often sided with the fugitives and did what they could to prevent the slave owners or slave catchers from taking them back. But the people who took part in the Underground Railroad did so at the risk of jail, fines, injury or even death.
Tell us some about your research process for "Redfield Farm."
I love research. Once I decided on the topic, I gathered all the books I could find on the Underground Railroad. When I read articles I make a note of sources the author used and looked them up for further reading. I own about thirty books on the Underground Railroad, and I’ve read maybe twenty more. Sometimes a whole book will be valuable and I’ll want to own it so I can refer to it again and again as I write. Some of the best are: Levi Coffin’s memoir which has a very long title, but if you enter his name into your search engine, you’ll come up with his book; The Underground Railroad From Slavery to Freedom by Wilbur Henry Siebert, Let My People Go by Henrietta Buckmaster and Bound For Canaan by Fergus M. Bordewich.
What are your upcoming projects?
I may very well write another book on the Underground Railroad. It won’t be for a while because I have two more books for the Juniata Iron Trilogy, but after that, I may return to a book I started some time ago about a white Southerner, born and raised in a slave-holding society, whose hatred of slavery led him to oppose it throughout his life, even to the point of stealing his uncle’s slaves and shepherding them to Canada. It’s a great story and it keeps calling to me, so….