1863 Safehouse Operator On Underground Railroad Writes “You May Direct (slaves?) to Canton”

Slavery

This is an August 25, 1863 letter from abolitionist John Van Fleet whose home was used as a safe house on the Underground Railroad in Ohio. Two years before the end of slavery and the end of the Civil War, Van Fleet writes this cryptic letter to Mr. Harkness where he states that “I have been talking with some…they seem to express an anxious feeling to see you there.” “I have been sorry at times that I entered into a compromise of our matters.” “Come over at your earliest convenience and I will meet you any place designated.” “PS} You may Direct to Canton as I will be there considerable of the time for a while to come. Direct slaves? While “You may direct to…” was a common phrase to designate where to direct written correspondence, one cannot help but wonder if, since Van Fleet was an Underground Railroad safe house operator, this phrase has a critically important double meaning–especially with his ambiguous reference to “our matters.” It is signed “J.P. Van Fleet” After the PS, he signs “JPVF”