Mose and Lilybell Middleton had had enough of picking cotton and saw no future in continuing it. They were especially mindful of the lack of a future in the South for their daughter, Hannah Rose. Their plans were to make a secretive effort to move to the North when cotton season was over, but the plans were overheard by the landowner’s young son, James, which inconveniently expedited the move. A poignant consequence was an almost-lifelong breach in the friendship between James and Mose’s younger brother, Actris. With significant help from a black preacher, the Middletons were successful in their northern exodus. Before leaving South Carolina, Hannah Rose, with uncanny prevision, left one of her two possessions to help her later in life make a decision to come back home.
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Gradually their lives began to improve after a lengthy acclimation to their new surroundings. Mose got a job as a janitor in a factory in Philadelphia owned by Catherine Rutledge Bradford, part of an old and influential family from Charleston.
Mose’s hard work and ingenuity were recognized by his superiors and rewarded accordingly. Lilybell’s intelligence and refinement came to the attention of Mrs. Bradford, who took her into her home as hostess and companion.
After several years, Mrs. Bradford’s declining health necessitated a change in the factory’s ownership that didn’t value Mose’s abilities, which put him on top of the list for removal.