Ann Maria Weems belonged to a slave trader,Charles Price, from Montgomery County; about 15 miles from Washington D.C in Rockville Maryland. After seeing three of her brothers sold south, and her mother and one of her sisters be purchased for freedom, she understood that one day she wanted to be free as well. Price had been offered $500 for her freedom, but had refused. For two straight years Price refused numerous offers to sell Ann Maria; it was clear that her only way to obtain freedom was through the Underground Railroad which was dangerous for her and the "Conductor".
By the time she was fifteen, Price had became nervous that she planned on running away, and as a result of this he made her sleep beside he and his wife's bed to ensure that she wouldn't slip away during the night. The measures of running away were becoming more and more unlikely. The man, J. Bigelow, a lawyer from Washington D.C., who had helped Anne Marie's family buy their freedom at an earlier time, was set out to help her escape to freedom as well. During the times of the suspicion from Price, Bigelow had been communicating via letters with William Still, a conductor on the Underground Railroad stationed in Philadelphia, about Ann Maria's anticipated dash for freedom.In October of 1855, and unsure of how, Ann Maria escaped from Price and his wife. Upon leaving the Price residence she went on to Washington D.C., and it is believed that she spent a bit of time with her family that resided there before continuing on to Bigelow's residence. Due to a $500.00 reward put out by Price to anyone that could bring her back, Ann Maria's trip was put on hold; she was unable to step foot out of Bigelow's house, let alone the city. During the six week waiting period for things to cool down, Bigelow and Still compiled a plan. The plan was that she would dress up as a boy, named "Joe Wright" - she would dress in boy attire; a driver's uniform, including a jacket, pants, the bow tie, and cap.
Nearing late November, the fuss over Ann Maria's escape had died down a considerable amount, and a man referred to as "Dr. H", who was Bigelow's family physician, had attempted to smuggle her out of the city. The plan had been well thought through; Dr. H. drove his carriage and parked it along the side of the road in front of the White House, climbed into the passenger compartment, and waited for |Mr. Joe Wright" to arrive, escorted by Bigelow. To a lurking eye, they would only assume that Dr. H had just finished doing business within the White House and was now being escorted by his coachman.
Ann Maria, dressed as "Joe Wright", drove the carriage out of Washington without incident; they had driven for a few days, and stopped to rest at the homes of a few of Dr. H's friends. At these places her secret identity remained, for the only person she was to reveal her identity to was Mr. William Still.
On November 25, 1855, they had reached Pennsylvania where Dr. H had dropped her off in the care of Still's wife. Still had returned later that afternoon. Numerous people who had came to the Still residence were amazed by Ann Maria's ingenious disguise. After staying a few days in Phildelphia, she was sent on to Lewis Tappan, of New York. After arriving safely she had found a home and kind friends in the family of Rev. A. N. Freeman.
After leaving New York, Ann Maria and Rev. Freeman went by carriage onward to Canada where she ended up in the Dawn Settlement. Here she was reunited with her aunt and uncle, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley. She had remained in Canada from then on. From there her aunt and uncle had forwarded her to the Elgin Settlement to attend the Buxton Mission School. She had resided in Buxton after her long, yet famous escape from slavery, dressed as a young man.
Bound for the North Star - Dennis B. Fradin