He was described as a mixed individual with White, Black and Indian blood, who was difficult and hard to get along with. Over the twenty-five or so years that he was in John Coe’s possession, he had caused much concern and discontent. Though residing in Surry County, North Carolina, John’s father, Isaiah Coe had retained ownership of Ransom, who he brought in 1806 from a man named John Wadkins. Isaiah Coe was kept informed and well aware of Ransom’s temperament. So, in 1836, he would relieve his son John of that responsibility and decide Ransom’s fate. The result of his decision was reflected in his Last Will and Testament:
“I give unto my executors hereafter to be named, one Negro man named Ransom. For the express purpose, that is to say, to sell the said Negro to Jesse Ridings.”
Thereby, Ransom was sold for four hundred dollars and taken back to North Carolina. While there, Ransom quickly became dissatisfied with his treatment and the work, he was required to perform. So, not long after his arrival, he made his escape.
As the story goes, it was on a warm and sunny day, as Ezekiel and John were walking along Kettle Creek on the Tennessee and Kentucky state line, Ezekiel spotted a few footprints that he recognized as those of Ransom’s. He refrained from calling John Coe’s attention to what he had just discovered. But once he had returned to his cabin, he found Ransom waiting for him. The then fugitive, Ransom, went on to inform Ezekiel of the abuse he had suffered while in North Carolina and also told of his escape. At that point, Ezekiel pledged Ransom his aid and protection, in spite of the consequences.
In the meantime, Jesse Ridings had tracked Ransom back to Cumberland County, Kentucky and vowed not to leave town without him. Therefore, he used every means available to him to apprehend the fugitive slave, but to no avail. He, as well as others, was not so willing to venture into the hills of where Ezekiel was living, for a fear of the unknown. So Ransom’s concealment was never in jeopardy. Frustrated and puzzled by the whole situation, the slave hunter decided on a different approach. It was on a day, while John and Ezekiel were working and moving about his land, that they heard a voice say:
“Hello John, do you know anything about the slave your father sold me?” He continued and said, “He ran away and we can’t find him. I come to ask if you know whether he is alive and to make you a proposition. I wonder if you will buy him back if he is alive. Therefore the money that was paid for him will not be lost.”
John replied sharply, “I am not responsible and I don’t know where he is or if he’s alive.”
Jesse Ridings said in response, “But I want to know if you will buy him back and take your chances.”
John Coe looked down for a brief moment, then lifting his head he said, “Though it is only taking a chance, since I don’t know whether he is dead or alive, I will give you a portion of what he was sold for.”
While Jesse Ridings considered the offer, John decided to make Ezekiel aware of the proposal he had just made with the slave hunter. He no doubt suspected that Ezekiel knew of Ransom’s whereabouts. Ezekiel listened attentively to what John Coe had to say. He wanted very much to trust him and keep his confidence. But on the other hand, he had been let down by his parents in the past, and he also had to consider Ransom, and the promise he had made to him. It had been a terrible strain on him to keep Ransom hidden in his home for eighteen months. He had been watched, questioned, harassed and even tortured.