Today, I’d like you to help me welcome Claire Sanders who writes inspirational Historical stories for Barbour Publishing.
“Equally Yoked” by Claire Sanders
I hope you enjoy my story, “Equally Yoked”. The title, of course, is a reference to the verse in II Corinthians, but I did not mean for my story to be based on that verse. Rather, I was going for the same image of two oxen pulling a wagon.
The main character of my story, Susanna Griffith, has always been a passive observer of her husband’s work in the Underground Railroad. But when she’s put in a position where she has to help a runaway slave, she is empowered by the experience. She asks her husband to let her continue in the work, despite the danger. In this way, she wishes to be equally yoked to her husband.
Susanna’s husband, Nathan Griffith, is a Quaker. I first learned about the Quakers’ staunch support of abolitionist causes when I read a wonderful book about the Underground Railroad. Beyond the River by Ann Hagedorn tells the story of how abolitionists in southern Ohio worked to help runaway slaves. You may have noticed that Nathan and his father attend the trial of John B. Mahan. This part of my story is historically correct.
John B. Mahan lived in Sardinia, Ohio. He trained as a Methodist minister and farmed land in that area. In September, 1838, Mahan was arrested by the sheriff of Mason County, Kentucky on the grounds that Mahan had traveled to Kentucky to help slaves escape. He was arrested in Ohio, taken in handcuffs to Mason County, and jailed for nine weeks. His arrest and the trial that followed were headline news. If he was convicted of the charges, all the abolitionists with whom he was associated would be in danger of being tried for similar charges.
He wrote many letters during his incarceration. Here is an excerpt from a letter to his wife which shows the kind of man John B. Mahan was:
Every day I look through the grates of my prison towards the Ohio. I desire to be with you; but I am admonished by my Master to be patient; God knows what is best for me and often times in my prison amidst the clanking of chains, I feel happy and am constrained to say it is enough, Lord. I think I feel reconciled to whatever may be the issue of my case. My hope and my trust is in the Lord.
Mahan’s defense rested on the indisputable fact that he hadn’t been in Kentucky during the time the slaves escaped. Although almost everyone expected a guilty verdict from the Kentucky jury, John B. Mahan was found not guilty of the charges. However, Mahan’s arrest and trial had long-lasting effects. During his months in jail, Mahan had suffered from a severe chest cold and cough (he was later diagnosed with tuberculosis). He never completely regained his health and he died in December, 1844 at the age of forty-three. He is buried in Sardinia. His tombstone reads “a victim of the slave power”.
I loved writing “Equally Yoked”, not only for the story but also to give my respect to the Quakers. Their beliefs helped found our nation and they continue to be tireless warriors against social injustice. I hope you’ll look for my next story based on Quakers. “New Garden Inspiration” will appear in the collection titled The Quakers of New Garden, published by Barbour Books. This new story is set in Indiana in 1861. Leah, a Quaker, agrees to a marriage of convenience to a non-Quaker. One day after her wedding, her husband reports for duty with the Indiana First Cavalry, leaving Leah to care for his two children. When her husband is wounded in battle, she must travel to Washington D.C. to care for him.
The Quakers of New Garden will be available on April 1, 2012. Look for more information about my books at my website: http://www.clairesandersbooks.com