James Walker House, Kennett Square
In the 1850s, a young man, a slave in Maryland, was smuggled onto a train bound for Wilmington by an engineer who was an abolitionist. As the train slowed down nearing the station, the slave jumped off to avoid capture and injured his foot badly. The engineer told a black porter about the accident and sent him to the spot with a wheelbarrow.
Soon after, the slave was taken to the home of James Walker, a black man who lived at 233 South Union Street in Kennett Square. (The house is now demolished.) James Walker called Dr. Isaac D. Johnson, a well-known Kennett doctor.
The slave was hidden for many weeks over the small kitchen in the rear of the house, taken care of by the Walker family, and nursed by Esther Hayes. Dr. Johnson visited him every night. After a while, word came that someone was on the fugitive’s trail and he had to be sent north. His leg had to be amputated, but a charitable organization in Boston fitted him with an artificial leg.
Several years after the Civil War, a well-dressed black man walked into Dr. Johnson’s office, asked the doctor if he knew him, and introduced himself as the slave that the doctor had visited so many times in the dark attic, years before. He said his name was Johnson Hayes Walker, in honor of his three benefactors.