Patty Cannon

Patty Cannon is believed to have come to Maryland from Canada in 1802. She is described as a large woman who could fling a man to the ground by the hair. What did she do to make herself part of Maryland history?

She moved into a house that was on the corner of Dorchester County and Caroline County in Maryland. Across the way was the state of Delaware which was very convenient for Patty Cannon's trade.

Patty Cannon and her husband Joe Johnson ran a slave sale trade. They would steal slaves or free blacks and sell them back down south to the plantation owners. When they brought them back to the house they would hide them in the basement, hidden rooms in the house and in the attic. They would take the slaves in covered wagons to Johnson's Ferry (now Woodland's Ferry). At the ferry they would sometimes meet a schooner which would take them down the Nanticoke River to the Chesapeake Bay and onto Georgia slave markets. This went on for many years with no one willing to turn them in to the police.

When they were caught in May, 1822 it took some coordination. It seems that when Patty Cannon knew the police were coming she would slip across state lines and away from that police force. Upon capture Joe Johnson was sentenced to 39 lashes which was carried out. Patty Cannon was charged with murder which she confessed to and while she was in her cell in Georgetown, Delaware she killed herself. What did Patty Cannon have to do with Maryland history?

When my husband and I were building a house we wanted to sell our trailer to get the money for building materials. When we had sold the trailer a friend called and told us that the bank was looking for someone to housesit the Patty Cannon house. A friend asked if we were interested and would we be scared because of all the ghost stories that were linked to this house.

We moved in December to discover that in the attic there was a straw mattress and chains. When the last owners were there they had decorated the house to give the feeling of the time when Patty Cannon lived there. We searched the house for hidden rooms and at one point crawled underneath the house where supposedly there was a basement. There were signs of what could have been a ladder leading to a hidden room in one of the closets. But our strangest sight was the two mannequins standing in the sliding glass doors. These mannequins were colored with black and wore clothing that had been torn and ripped so that they looked like slaves. When you drove past the house you would look into the sliding glass doors and think that there were two people staring at you. We heard sounds that could not be explained easily and sleeping under the door to the attic was eerie. The students I teach do not believe that I could live in this house and want to know what the sounds were and if there was a basement.

Since we lived there we have moved to a new house which is near what was an old hotel. In the basement of the Waterview Hotel is a bar and behind the bar is an opening that leads out into the Nanticoke River and to an island that no longer exists. Supposedly Patty Cannon used this tunnel to transport slaves to a ship that met them on the island. The Woodland Ferry is also on the Nanticoke River outside of Seaford, Delaware. Try to locate the Nanticoke River and Seaford, Delaware.

Jane Burt

Patricia A. Weeg
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