Enslaved with her four children on the Archibald Gaines farm in Boone County, Kentucky, Margaret and her husband, who was enslaved on a nearby farm, broke away one January night in 1856. Crossing the frozen Ohio River on foot, Margaret and her children went on to the home of a black man.
But they were seen, and soon the owners and officers surrounded the house. A battle began. Determined not to surrender her children to the horrors of slavery, Margaret saw that the owners would win. She took a knife and cut the throat of her young daughter and tried to do the same with her other children, but was stopped. The runaways were arrested and jailed.
After a long trial that lasted several weeks, the U.S. Commissioner ruled that the runaways must be returned to slavery. Margaret was sold South. On the way, by ship, an accident occurred aboard and one of Margaret's children drowned. Margaret survived the event and lived in slavery for another two years, when she died of a horrible fever in 1858.