Phoebe Myers was a free African American citizen of Queen Anne's County. A spinner by trade, the brown complexioned woman, who stood 5' 6" tall, was illiterate. She had never been "bound out." She lived with her young daughter, Ellenora, and may have been "married" to a still-enslaved man. In 1850, blacks outnumbered whites in Queen Anne's County, and, among blacks themselves, slaves outnumbered the free by less than one thousand. Allegedly, Phoebe Meyers assisted two enslaved families in a failed escape effort. The two
slave families, the Johnsons and the Tildens, were the human chattel property of Richard Bennett Carmichael, a politician from the Corsica District in Queen Anne's County. Authorities caught them in the act. As a result, Lucy, William, and Maria Johnson, along with Robert, Charles, and Hester Tilden, and Hester's infant child, were returned to Carmichael, and Meyers was arrested. On December 5, 1855 Phoebe Myers was found guilty on seven indictments of harboring runaway slaves. At fifty-two years old, Meyers received a sentence of six years and six
months on the first charge and six years for each of the other charges - a total of 42 yrs., 6 mos. in all. She began her sentence at the Maryland Penitentiary in Baltimore on December 20, 1855, and was not due to be released from prison until 1898. In response to a petition from prominent members of the community, including Richard Carmichael, Governor Thomas Watkins Ligon granted Ms. Myers a pardon on May 6, 1856.
Though she was known to be religious, she was not known to be affiliated with any formalized anti-slavery effort. We do not know that she was in coordination with any members of, say, the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee.
Are we to presume then that this was her first and only effort to assist folk on the run? In other words, was she or was she not a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad? Her story was not famous, she left no memoirs, her cause received no great publicity. She has existed in ignominy in death as in life.