A Sunset Escape to Freedom Along the Potomac

Ellick flight to FreedomIt’s been two centuries plus one year since Ellick’s flight to freedom.

Ellick (sometimes spelled Elleck) was one of 11 slaves owned by Hugh Conn, who ran a ferry and owned land at what is now Riverbend Park. Research by local historic preservationist Debbie Robison revealed that in 1809, when Conn’s estate was inventoried three years after his death, Ellick was about 27 years old. He was listed as the most valued of the Conn family slaves.

Following Conn’s death, ownership of Ellick passed to Conn’s children. In 1817, Ellick was convicted of breaking into a store. As punishment, he was whipped and one of his hands was burned. When the jailer released him, apparently there was no one from the Conn household to meet him at the jail, and Ellick fled. About two months later, he was captured by two men who brought him to the Leesburg jail before returning him to the Conn family. Ellick was handcuffed and left on the porch a few hours before sunset as Mrs. Conn refused to take charge of him in her son Jesse’s absence. She sent a servant to Great Falls to get Jesse, and the two men sat down to dinner while they waited. As the sun began to set, another servant interrupted the dinner to inform them that Ellick had escaped again … this time by running over the hill. Advertisements in the August 30, 1817, National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser newspaper offered $30 for his return. The ad read:

$30 reward for runaway, negro Elleck, age about 35 yrs. – Jesse Conn, lvg in Fairfax County, Va

The Conns never saw Ellick again.

Thanks to Ms. Robison’s research, in 2011 the National Park Service (NPS) recognized the Conn’s Ferry site as a National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom site. NPS established the Network to Freedom database to tell the story of resistance against slavery through escape and flight. Evidence suggests that the Conn’s ferry landing sat at the site currently used as a boat ramp at the Fairfax County Park Authority’s Riverbend Park in Great Falls, Va.

Riverbend was the second FCPA site to be placed on the Network to Freedom list. Sully Historic Site in Chantilly, Va., is also listed. Sully has a representative slave quarters on its land, which was owned by Richard Bland Lee, an uncle to General Robert E. Lee. Sully was home to as many as 40 enslaved African Americans. Records show there were four known escape attempts at Sully, and it is known that two of escapees did return to Sully.

As we celebrate Black History Month, the Park Authority acknowledges the significant contributions and the struggle for freedom from enslavement made by many African-Americans at sites that are now part of our park system. We are committed to preserving these sites and stories so that they may be shared and remembered for generations to come.

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About Fairfax County Park Authority

About Fairfax County Park Authority HISTORY: On December 6, 1950, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors created the Fairfax County Park Authority. The Park Authority was authorized to make decisions concerning land acquisition, park development and operations in Fairfax County, Virginia. To date, 13 park bond referenda have been approved between 1959 and 2016. Today, the Park Authority has 427 parks on more than 23,000 acres of land. We offer 325 miles of trails, our most popular amenity. FACILITIES: The Park system is the primary public mechanism in Fairfax County for the preservation of environmentally sensitive land and resources, areas of historic significance and the provision of recreational facilities and services including: • Nine indoor RECenters with swimming pools, fitness rooms, gyms and class spaces. Cub Run features an indoor water park and on-site naturalist • Eight golf courses from par-3 to championship level, four driving ranges including the new state-of-the-art heated, covered range at Burke Lake Golf Center • Five nature and visitor centers. Also nine Off-Leash Dog Activity areas • Three lakefront parks including Lake Fairfax, Lake Accotink and Burke Lake, with campgrounds at Burke Lake and Lake Fairfax. The Water Mine Family Swimmin’ Hole at Lake Fairfax, Our Special Harbor Sprayground at Lee as well as an indoor water park at Cub Run RECenter • Clemyjontri Park, a fully accessible playground in Great Falls featuring two acres of family friendly fun and a carousel, as well as Chessie’s Big Backyard and a carousel at the Family Recreation Area at Lee District Park • An ice skating rink at Mount Vernon RECenter and the Skate Park in Wakefield Park adjacent to Audrey Moore RECenter • Kidwell Farm, a working farm of the 1930s-era at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon, now with historic carousel • Eight distinctive historic properties available for rent • A working grist mill at Colvin Run in Great Falls and a restored 18th century home at Sully Historic Site in Chantilly • A horticulture center at Green Spring Gardens in Annandale • Natural and cultural resources protected by the Natural Resource Management Plan and Cultural Resource Plans, plus an Invasive Management Area program that targets alien plants and utilizes volunteers in restoring native vegetation throughout our community • Picnic shelters, tennis courts, miniature golf courses, disc golf courses, off-leash dog parks, amphitheaters, a marina, kayaking/canoeing center • Provides 263 athletic fields, including 39 synthetic turf fields, and manages athletic field maintenance services at 417 school athletic fields. PARK AUTHORITY BOARD: A 12-member citizen board, appointed by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, sets policies and priorities for the Fairfax County Park Authority. Visit https://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/news2/social-hub/ for Fairfax County Government's Comment Policy.

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