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Title: Burdett Personel, Francis to , 1773
CollectionIrish Immigrants in the Land of Canaan. Letters and memoirs from colonial and revolutionary America (1675-1815) [K.A. Miller et al.]
SenderBurdett Personel, Francis
Sender Gendermale
Sender Occupationconvict
Sender Religionunknown
Recipient Genderunknown
Doc. No.
Partial Date
Doc. Type
Word Count1261
TranscriptAn Authentic and Particular Account of the Life of Francis Burdett Personel, Written by Himself. Who was executed at New-York, September 10th, 1773; in the Twenty-sixth Year of his Age, for the Murder of Mr. Robert White (New York, 1773)
... I lived in Baltimore county, in Maryland, for eighteen months, as a servant, and served but so much of four years due for my passage. Being now in want of clothes, as those I brought from home were wore out, and those I had of my master but indifferent, though far better than what other servants got for common. At length, I took a thought to run away, and accordingly did in a foolish manner; one morning, after breakfast, my master came home, and shewing me what was to be done; I worked a little after his departure, then took my ax with me, went about a mile through the woods, and seated myself on the top of a hill till night, it being then the spring of the year, though the trees were not yet green. I travelled that night but slowly, my shoes being bad and the roads very deep, as it had rained. I got within a mile of Baltimore by day-light, and then, for fear of being discovered, went and laid me down in the woods; but, having only a shirt, jacket, and a pair of trowsers upon me, and it raining very much, I could not sleep, being cold, wet and hungry. I now repented of my running away, and would have returned home, had I not recollected that I had heard my master say, he would treat a runaway that returned, worse than one that used his endeavour to get off; therefore, I would not go home, nor tell that I was a runaway, but wished to be taken up; and, with an expectation of being taken, came on the high road at midday, and went into Baltimore Town. As nobody questioned me, I enquired for a certain tavern, where I had heard my master say he used to put up at; coming there, I mentioned my master’s name, and said, that he desired me to get a dinner there; the landlord asked me if my master had given me a note. I said, no: Then said he, I cannot let you have dinner. I wished to be taken up, yet would not inform him I was a runaway.
I then walked through the town, and came to a road that leads to Annapolis, reached the river by sun-set, where I waited till two Gentlemen came who wanted to get over; they asked me to whom I belong? I said to Squire Carroll of Annapolis, which was false; but he living in Annapolis, and I wanting to get there if possible: They examined me no farther, knowing that whom I called my master had several farms, and his servants continually going from one to another: travelled with this lie in my mouth till I came to Annapolis; it was evening when I came to town, and I had neither money, friends, nor clothes, I walked about hoping somebody noticed me. Going to a Gentleman’s house, I laid me down under the stoop, hoping that some one from within would examine me, but there came none.
The next morning I walked out of town very feeble and hungry not having eat for a I <he> I long time. I then wandered I know not where, steering partly by the sun, travelled by day on the high road, caring not much whether I was then taken up or no, but was resolved to keep going whilst I was able. I met several people, and saluted them, and so passed on: At length, I saw a Gentleman on horseback coming towards me, which daunted me, fearing he was in pursuit of me, I saluted him, passed on, and sometimes after met his brother, who questioned me; I told him I was just free, and my master was such a villain, that he would not give me my freedom dues, and that I came to Annapolis, in search of a friend, to acquaint him how my master served me. But unhappily, I told him, my friend had left town before I came, and having no money I left town, with an intent to get work in the country; he replied his brother wanted a workman but could get none this while past, therefore, desired me to call at his brother’s house, told me his name, and gave proper directions, and desired me to tarry there till his brother came home, where I went, and spoke to the Gentlewoman, who ordered me a dinner, which was very welcome to me just then: When the Gentleman came home, I engaged with him for four months under the name of James Alkins, having been with him a week or two, pleasing him, being handy at any sort of plantation work, he let me have necessary apparel; with him I lived till after harvest, but he not letting me have my earnings, lest I should leave him before my time was expired, and I fearing my master would hear of me, borrowed a coat, hat, and other necessaries suitable, under a pretence of visiting a friend, and went off, being provided with a pass I had written myself, and signed a Magistrate’s name to it, changing my name to Patt Percy; having now some money, I delayed not till I got into Virginia; and, being well dressed, could write a passible hand, and understood some figures, I set up for a Schoolmaster, accordingly I got a school, where I taught for some time, was very well regarded by my neighbours, some gave me credit for one thing and some for another. I lived very happy, as I thought, just then, and could go out on a evening after school and serve the devil with delight. I continued this practice for some time, till I went to hear the Baptists called by some New Lights. I went more out of curiosity than any thing else, having heard much of them: The first sermon I heard pricked my heart. I went to hear them often, wrestled against sin in a measure, and would not commit such as appeared base in the world, and as few others as possible.
<I> I had a desire to leave off all sin; but depended on the broken staff of my own strength, therefore could not do it: I obtained the name of being a religious young man by some, who knew not what it was; and I myself was deceived, thinking I was converted when only convicted, and wanted to join the church, but was not accepted, upon which the young men derided me: yet I continued to hear preaching, and, to appearance, had I staid there, would have been brought to the knowledge of God through Christ: But two men, who suspected me to be a runaway, saying they would take me up, occasioned my leaving this place, being unwilling to return to Maryland to my master. I went to a widow, whom I was bound in oath to be married unto, borrowed a mare, bridle, and saddle of her, under a pretence to go to town for some things; from whence I went, calling myself Francis Personel, alias Burdett Personel, and never returned. About an hundred miles therefrom I sold the mare, bridle and saddle, and travelled to Pittsburg, nigh which I tarried for some time.