Moses Viney: Escaped from Maryland to Schenectady, New York

Moses Viney was born into slavery in Maryland on March 10, 1817, and found his freedom in Schenectady, New York.

In 1840, Viney at age 23, he escaped together with two other slaves from the plantation through the Underground Railroad Network. He had planned and prepared for his escape, saving money and befriending the bloodhounds of his owner, so that when they were sent to hunt him, he ordered them to go home, and they did. They went north along the Choptank river, took a stagecoach in Delaware to Smyrna, and from there a steamboat to Philadelphia.

From Philadelphia, Moses Viney travel to New York City, where he was directed to Troy in Upstate New York. He settled in nearby Schenectady. After working at a farm in Glenville, started to work for Eliphalet Nott (1773-1866), the longtime (over 60 years) president of Union College in Schenectady in 1842 as his coachmen and messenger.

Viney became Nott’s close companion and friend. One of his tasks was to wake up students who had partied too long and too hard to ensure they wouldn’t oversleep and miss classes – including future US president Chester Arthur and NY Governor and US Secretary of State William H. Seward’s son.

1850, when slave hunters were in Schenectady, Eliphalet Nott helped Viney to escape to Canada and sent his own grandson to Maryland to negotiate with Moses Viney’s former owner. He eventually bought Moses free for $250 instead of the demanded $1900 and brought him back home to Schenectady.

Eliphalet Nott died in 1866, leaving Viney $1000 in his will. After Nott’s death and the war, Moses traveled to his old home in Maryland to visit his family as well as his former owner, who used to be his childhood friend.

Viney continued to work for Nott’s widow, Urania for another 20 years, until her death in 1886. Only then did he use the money Nott had left him to buy a horse and carriage and started his own business. He retired at age 84, died on January 10, 1909, aged 92, and is buried at Vale Cemetery in Schenectady.

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