The People: Thomas Garrett

Portrait of Thomas Garrett
Photo of Thomas Garrett

Thomas Garrett, a birthright Quaker, was born August 21, 1789 in Upper Darby, PA. He was an iron merchant by trade. After moving to Wilmington, DE, he married his first wife, Mary Sharpless and the couple had five children. After Mary’s death, he married Rachael Mendenhall and they had one son.

Thomas Garrett is best known for his tireless efforts in behalf of the abolition of slavery. His first endeavor started at age twenty-four, by rescuing a kidnapped, free Black woman who was to be sold into slavery in the South. After this episode in his life, he was determined that his life’s work must be to help and defend enslaved African Americans.

From this time forward, Garrett never failed to assist any freedom seeker and his efforts on their behalf were well known. He is credited with helping well over 2,500 fugitive slaves in their journey to freedom.

Despite being threatened, assaulted, arrested, harassed, and carrying a $10,000.00 bounty for his capture, Garrett courageously assisted all asking for his help. Garrett’s arrest, conviction and judgment in the Hawkins case only seemed to double his efforts to help all oppressed persons.

Thomas Garrett, beloved by those who knew him and those he helped, died in Wilmington, DE at age 82 and was buried in the Wilmington Friends Meeting.

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