New Research about Galveston Slave who Escaped to Montreal will be Unveiled for the First Time
at Dress Rehearsal for GHF Underground Railroad Re-enactment Program.
Freedom Days 2007
GHF Underground Railroad Re-enactment Program
Thursday, June 07, 2007
Retired Educator Ella Lewis will bring to life Galveston's Lavinia Bell, a slave who endured gruesome tortures before escaping to freedom.
Tommie Boudreaux, who unearthed the story of Lavinia Bell, will be available for photos and interviews, as will the other volunteers who will be portraying characters from the Underground Railroad in GHF's "Making of the Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom," scheduled for June 14 from 8:30 to 3:30.
For five years, Tommie Boudreaux, retired educator and tireless volunteer leader on the Galveston Historical Foundation's African American Heritage and Education Committees, has been trying to find if even one slave from Galveston ever escaped to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
Boudreaux coordinates Galveston Historical Foundation's educational re-enactments of Underground Railroad characters every year as part of Galveston's Juneteenth festivities. She has very much hoped to add a person from Galveston's history to a line-up of characters that currently includes Harriet Tubman, Box Brown, Frederick Douglass and many other nationally known people who figured large in the Underground Railroad movement.
Now, finally, Boudreaux has disovered Galveston's one recorded instance of a slave escaping to freedom. The slave's name was Lavinia Bell and she was reported in the February 2, 1861 Montreal Gazette to have been hideously tortured by her master before finally stowing aboard a steamer from Texas to Louisiana, where she disembarked and made her way Northward.
The doctor (John Reddy, M.D.) who examined Lavinia Bell in Montreal in 1861 reported the following:
"On visiting the woman, she complained of severe pain in her right side, caused as she said, by a violent wrench which she received at the hands of her owners. On making examination I found her body very much distorted, her spine curved towards the right side, and the ribs forced completely in the same direction, having a very bulged appearance. I also found the following marks of ill treatement on her person. A V-shaped piece has been slit out of each ear; there is a depression on the right parietal bone, where it had been fractured, and is now very tender to the touch; the corresponding spot, on the opposite side, has a large scar uncovered by hair; there is a large deep scar; 3 1/2 inches long; on the left side of the lower jaw; several of her teeth are broken out; the back of her left hand has been branded with a heated flat iron; the little finger of her right hand with a portion of the bone that it connected with, has been cut off; the abdomen bears the mark of a large letter A inches long in one way and 2 1/2 inches in another, also branded in with a hot iron; her ankles are scarred and the soles of her feet are all covered with litttle round marks apparently inflicted by some sharp instrument, which she accounts for by her stating that she was obliged to walk over hackles used for backling flax; her back and person are literally covered over with scars and marks, now healed, evidently produced by the lash. Altogether, she presents a most pitiable appearance."
Members of the press are invited to attend the dress rehearsal for the Underground Railroad re-enactment event on Thursday, June 7 at 4 p.m. Ms. Boudreaux will be available for interviews and will bring with her copies of all the original documents she unearthed as she researched the heartbreaking story of Lavinia Bell.