Marooned On Newtown Creek

The young man in this article about a hermit living on Newtown Creek, was living like a maroon.

newspaper article "Young Depperman Lived In A Cave"
from The Standard Union, 20 September 1893

During slavery, many enslaved people would escape captivity – sometimes for a few days, sometimes for years, sometimes forever. The accounts of enslaved people relate many times that a person escaped, dug a whole in the earth, and made a home in nature.

While August Depperman was not escaping slavery, he was obviously trying to escape the House of Refuge, which who could blame him?

In August 1896 Depperman shows up in the record again, again looking for a place to lay his head.

newspaper article "Caught in a cellar"

In the WPA Georgia Slave Narratives, a woman named Julia Brown relates:

“Sometimes the slaves would run away. Their masters wuz mean to them that caused them to run away. Sometimes they would live in caves. … My grandmother run away from her master. She stayed in the woods and she washed her clothes in the branches. She used sand for soap. … I reckon they got along all right in the caves. They had babies in there and raised ’em too.”

ANOTHER SAYS, “Connected with nearly every home were those persons who lived ‘in the woods’ in preference to doing the labor necessary to remain at their home. Each usually had a scythe and a bulldog for protection.”

A woman named Leah Garrett describes a very robust maroon, when a husband and wife escape a promised beating for the wife from the enslaver:

“[The husband] carried her to a cave and hauled pine straw and put in there for her to sleep on. He fixed that cave up just like a house for her, put a stove in there and run the pipe out through the ground into a swamp. Everybody always wondered how he fixed that pipe, course they didn’t cook on it until night when nobody could see the smoke. He ceiled the house with pine logs, made beds and tables out of pine poles, and they lived in this cave seven years. During this time they had three children. Nobody was with her when these children was born but her husband.

“The seven years she lived in the cave, different folks helped keep them in food. Her husband would take it to a certain place and she would go and get it. People had passed over this cave ever so many times, but nobody knew these folks was living there.”

illustration of Black people living in the forest, tending a baby and crops
David Edward Cronin: “Great Dismal Swamp: Fugitive Slaves,” 1888

an audio version of this article can be
heard on Internet Archive here