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Letter of Tom Elice (Ellis) to Mary Warner  

This one-page letter, dated 1854, believed to be from a runaway slave from Kentucky, describes his preference for his new country, Canada West.  The significance of the letter lies in the credible first hand account of a fugitive slave who traveled, in much probability, via the Underground Railroad to Chatham, Ontario. 

There are very few first-hand accounts from fugitive slaves at the Archives of Ontario making this letter an important item in the rich collection of materials documenting Black History in Ontario.

Despite the condition, it is remarkable that the letter has survived and it is hard not to be moved by the sentiment. It was written in manuscript ink (possibly iron gall ink) on blue wove paper. Scroll down to see the complete text.

Letter from Tom Elice to Mary Warner dated July 9, 1854
Letter from Tom Elice to Mary Warner dated July 9, 1854
Tom Elice (Ellis) letter
Reference Code: F 4536
Archives of Ontario, I0029559

Transcription of Letter

Please note that the transcription reflects the original spelling and grammar of the letter.

Chatum Canada West July the 9 1854

Dear Mary
I now take this opertunity to informe you that I am well at present and hope theas few lines will finde you [text obscured] and the reste are also well the girls hav joind the Meathedist Church and Al has got marid to Mrs Hopday I hav saw the moste of the folks from our parte of the Cuntry and I think it is one of the best cuntry I eve wos in thare is lots of culord peaple hear and a coming every day more or les O Dear Mary how I should like to see you I would giv all of the world to see you and I would com but I cant be a slave agane tell my master that I should like to see him and mistress and all the reste of the folks but give me my liberty before all the world giv my beste respects to all inquirrings freinds but giv my lov all to your self wright to me to Windsor C. West and let me no how all of the folks are agitting along I remane your truly til Death so may god bles you Dearist this is from your

Tom Elice to
Mary Warner


  • Manuscript Ink

    A water-based home made ink, in contrast to printing ink which often contains oil.

  • Iron Gall Ink

    A specific manuscript ink, produced by the fermentation of ferrous sulphate in solution with tannin, mixed with a binder such as gum Arabic. Notorious in paper conservation for contributing to a chemical breakdown of cellulose fibres penetrated by the ink.

  • Blue Wove Paper

    A type of handmade or machine made paper in which the sheet is formed on a woven screen. (In the case of blue wove paper, the fibres simply were blue.)