Dec. 21, 1937
TOM RANDALL, Ex-slave.
Reference: Personal interview with Tom Randall,
at his home, Oella, Md.
"I was born in Ellicott City, Howard County, Maryland, in 1856, in a
shack on a small street now known as New Cut Road--the name then, I do
not know. My mother's name was Julia Bacon. Why my name was Randall I do
not know, but possibly a man by the name of Randall was my father. I
have never known nor seen my father. Mother was the cook at the Howard
House; she was permitted to keep me with her. When I could remember
things, I remember eating out of the skillets, pots and pans, after she
had fried chicken, game or baked in them, always leaving something for
me. When I grew larger and older I can recall how I used to carry wood
in the kitchen, empty the rinds of potatoes, the leaves of cabbages and
the leaves and tops of other plants.
"There was a colored man by the name of Joe Nick, called Old Nick by a
great many white people of me city. Joe was owned by Rueben Rogers, a
lawyer and farmer of Howard County. The farm was situated about 2-1/2
miles on a road that is the extension of Main Street, the leading street
of Ellicott City. They never called me anything but Tomy or Randy, other
people told me that Thomas Randall, a merchant of Ellicott City, was my
"Mother was owned by a man by the name of O'Brien, a saloon or tavern
keeper of the town. He conducted a saloon in Ellicott City for a long
time until he became manager, or operator, of the Howard House of
Ellicott City, a larger hotel and tavern in the city. Mother was a fine
cook, especially of fowl and game. The Howard House was the gathering
place of the formers, lawyers and business men of Howard and Frederick
Counties and people of Baltimore who had business in the courts of
Howard County and people of western Maryland on their way to Baltimore.
"Joe could read and write and was a good mechanic and wheelright. These
accomplishments made him very valuable to Rogers' farm, as wagons,
buggies, carriages, plows and other vehicles and tools had to be made
"When I was about eight or nine years old Joe ran away, everybody saying
to join the Union Army. Joe Nick drove a pair of horses, hitched to a
covered wagon, to Ellicott City. The horses were found, but no Nick,
Rogers offered a reward of $100.00 for the return of Nick. This offer
drew to Ellicott City a number of people who had bloodhounds that were
trained to hunt Negroes--some coming from Anne Arundel, Baltimore,
Howard and counties of southern Maryland, each owner priding his pack as
being the best pack in the town. They all stopped at the Howard House,
naturally drinking, treating their friends and each other, they all
discussed among themselves the reward and their packs of hounds, each
one saying that his pack was the best. This boasting was backed by cash.
Some cash, plus the reward on their hounds. In the meantime Old Joe was
thinking, not boasting, but was riding the rail.
"Old Joe left Ellicott City on a freight train, going west, which he
hopped when it was stalled on the Baltimore and Ohio railroad a short
distance from the railroad station at Ellicott City. Old Joe could not
leave on the passenger trains, as no Negro would be allowed on the
trains unless he had a pass signed by his master or a free Negro, and
had his papers.
"At dawn the hunters left the Howard House with the packs, accompanied
by many friends and people who joined up for the sport of the chase.
They went to Rogers' farm where the dogs were taken in packs to Nick's
quarters so they could get the odor and scent of Nick. They had a
twofold purpose, one to get the natural scent, the other was, if Old
Nick had run away, he might come back at night to get some personal
belongings, in that way the direction he had taken would be indicated by
the scent and the hounds would soon track him down. The hounds were
unleashed, each hunter going in a different direction without result.
Then they circled the farm, some going 5 miles beyond the farm without
result. After they had hunted all day they returned to the Howard House
where they regaled themselves in pleasures of the hotel for the evening.
"In June of 1865 Old Nick returned to Ellicott City dressed in a uniform
of blue, showing that he had joined the Federal Army. Mr. Rueben Rogers
upon seeing him had him arrested, charging him with being a fugitive
slave. He was confined in the jail there and held until the U.S. Marshal
of Baltimore released him, arresting Rogers and bringing him to
Baltimore City where he was reprimanded by the Federal Judge. This story
is well known by the older people of Howard County and traditionally
known by the younger generation of Ellicott City, and is called 'Old
Nick: Rogers' lemon.'"
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