The Still and Gist family legacies inspire us with a truly American Underground Railroad story of trial and triumph. In each of these men the impossible becomes possible and hope is fulfilled. Learn more by reading Lesley Gist-Etheridge’s book The Gist of Freedom is Faith, and by visiting
Peter was the brother of William Still and the slave of Nathaniel Gist. After 40 years of enslavement, Peter successfully travelled out of slavery using the Underground Railroad. In an effort to locate his family Peter had an interview with abolitionist William Still—an interview which uncovered that they themselves were brothers and led Peter to be reunited with his mother. Peter's book, The Kidnapped and the Ransomed, Recollections of Peter Still and His Wife “Vina,” after Forty Years of Slavery by Kate E. R. Pickard can be found online at http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/pickard/menu.html.
A black abolitionist known as the father of the Underground Railroad, William Still documented all slaves who travelled under his care in his book, The Underground Railroad. A reprinting of the book is available for purchase at www.gistoffreedom.com. William Still’s alliances in the effort to abolish slavery were many and he was instrumental in organizing the multi racial rally against segregated street cars which ultimately led to the abolishment of Jim Crow.
Dr. James Still
Affectionately known as “the Piney Woods Doctor,” Dr. Still overcame the hurdles of racism and poverty and successfully ran a medical practice in which he served and healed people of all races, including those travelling along the Underground Railroad. He would become the largest landowner in his county. His book entitled Early Recollections and Life of Dr. James Still can be found online.
Samuel Gist and the Gist Settlements
A former indentured servant from England, Samuel Gist became wealthy after marrying his master’s widow. During the Revolution however, Samuel fled the country and his property was used by his son-in-law to establish plantations. Against slavery, Samuel threatened to bequeath his daughter only one shilling if the slaves on these plantations were not freed and given the property on which they had labored. This became the country’s largest mass emancipation at the time and after lengthy litigations each of all 900 slaves was given a plot of land. These tracts of land in Ohio became known as the Gist Settlements.
George “Sequoyah” Gist
Son of Nathaniel Gist and a Cherokee woman, “Sequoyah” invented the Cherokee alphabet, allowing the Cherokee language to be written and read. This would become one method for slaves to navigate the underground railroad without notice by white slave owners. The alphabet is still in use today in Cherokee newspapers and the largest antiquity tree, the Sequoia, is named in his honor.
Contact: Lesley Gist