Locations and Events
This section lists key locations and events associated with the Underground Railroad movement, categorised in four sections:
(2) Canada (British North America)
(4) Other Countries.
These are followed by the Sources and Further Reading references.
For context setting of these locations on an Underground Railroad map, please refer to the Routes page. Please note however that the locations listed here may not necessarily be on a defined route as shown on the map.
Page currently being developed – frequently updated.
Links to detailed articles of underground railroad activity in specific states to be added soon.
|(1) USA SECTION|
|Farmington||The majority of Farmington residents were abolitionists and were active in aiding escaped slaves. Several homes in the town were “safe houses” on the Underground Railroad. The town became known as “Grand Central Station” among escaped slaves and their “guides”.
Farmington played an important role in the famous Amistad trial. In 1841, 38 Mende Africans and Cinqué, the leader of the revolt on the Amistad slave ship, were housed and educated in Farmington after the U.S. government refused to provide for their return to Africa following the trial. The Mende were educated in English and Christianity while funds were raised by residents for their return to Africa.
|Odessa||Odessa, Delaware served as an important stop for fugitive slaves in pursuit of freedom. Harriet Tubman, the famous runaway slave from Maryland who became one of the most productive conductors on the Underground Railroad, is known to have used “stations” in Camden, Dover, Blackbird, Middletown, Odessa, and New Castle in Delaware. Because of its central location, Odessa played a pivotal role in the entire network through Delaware.|
|Wilmington||The city of Wilmington, with prominent abolitionist Thomas Garrett, myriad seaman, stevedores, and willing conductors as residents, served as the final stop to freedom for fugitive slaves before Philadelphia and New Jersey. After the second Fugitive Slave Law 1850, requiring free citizens and lawmen alike to aid in the capture of escaped slaves in the free states, the city could not be seen any longer as the last stop before freedom, but an important resting point before the second leg of a very long journey to Canada.|
|District of Columbia|
|Washington DC||In Washington, DC, one of the most organized Underground Railroad stations was located close to the U.S. Capitol. It was run by free blacks from Washington, DC and Baltimore who rescued slaves from plantations in Maryland and Virginia.|
|Franklin County||On Prospect Bluff, overlooking the Apalachicola River, was a settlement that included a trading post that Andrew Jackson and other Americans called Negro Fort, built by the British in 1814, during the War of 1812, in a remote part of Spanish Florida. It is part of the Prospect Bluff Historic Sites, in the Apalachicola National Forest, Franklin County, Florida.
The fort was called Negro Fort only after the British left in 1815; its later residents were primarily blacks (free Negroes or fugitive slaves), together with some Choctaws. There were a significant number of maroons already in the area before the fort was built and beginning in 1804 there was for several years a store (trading post). The blacks, having worked on plantations, knew how to plant and care for crops, and also to care for domesticated animals, mostly cattle.
The Negro Fort offered a safe refuge to anyone who wished to flee from the United States, whether escaped slaves, who were safe once they reached Spanish Florida, or Native Americans. Escaped slaves came from as far as Virginia.The Apalachicola, as was true of other rivers of north Florida, was a base for raiders who attacked Georgia plantations, stealing anything portable and helping the slaves escape.
|Manatee County||Angola was a prosperous community of up to 750 maroons (escaped slaves that existed in Florida from 1812 until Florida became a U.S. territory in 1821, at which point it was destroyed. The location was along the Manatee River in Bradenton, Florida, near Manatee Mineral Springs Park. The exact location is expansive, ranging from where the Braden River meets the Manatee River down to Sarasota Bay; archaeological research focuses on the Manatee Mineral Spring—a source of fresh water and later the location of the Village of Manatee two decades after the destruction of the maroon community. Archaeological evidence has been found and the archaeology report by Uzi Baram is on file with the Florida Division of Historical Resources of the Florida Department of State.
Spanish Florida was a haven for escaped slaves and for Native Americans deprived of their traditional lands during colonial times and in the first decades of U.S. independence. The underground railroad ran south during this period. Escaped slaves were welcomed into Florida by Spain, who granted freedom to slaves that converted to Catholicism. Under heavy U.S. pressure, Spain rescinded this welcome, but the change had little practical effect. Occupied with the Napoleonic War and with many colonies in revolt or close to revolt, Spain had neither the resources nor the inclination to capture and return escaped slaves. At one point, Spain invited the slaveowners to recapture them themselves.
There autonomous black communities developed in Spanish Florida, though not simultaneously. Fort Mose was the first and smallest autonomous black community but it was abandoned in 1763 when the British took over Florida. Fort Mose was heavily influenced by neighboring St. Augustine. The second community was at Prospect Bluff on the Apalachicola River but it was destroyed by forces under the command of General Andrew Jackson in 1816. Angola, farthest from the border of Georgia, was the last of the black settlements to survive. According to historian Canter Brown, Jr., “Most maroon settlements were tiny because people needed to escape detection. Angola’s 600 to 750 people was an incredible size back then, and shows that these were capable people.” He described it as “one of the most significant historical sites in Florida and perhaps the U.S.”
None of these were settled as a group, as white colonies were; refugees gradually accumulated over many years until a community of several hundred existed. Some refugees from the Negro Fort calamity came to Angola, as did refugees from Lake Miccosukee Village and the Battle of Suwanee.
|St. John’s County||Fort Mose Historic State Park (originally known as Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose) is a U.S. National Historic Landmark, located two miles north of St. Augustine, St. John’s County, Florida, on the edge of a salt marsh on the western side of the waterway separating the mainland from the coastal barrier islands. The original site of the 18th-century fort was uncovered in a 1986 archeological dig. The 24-acre site is now protected as a Florida State Park, administered through the Anastasia State Recreation Area. Fort Mose is the “premier site on the Florida Black Heritage Trail.” In 1738, the Spanish governor of Florida, Manuel de Montiano, had Fort Mose built and established as a free black settlement, the first to be legally sanctioned in what would become the territory of the United States.
A haven for refugee slaves from the British colonies to the north, The National Park Service highlights Fort Mose as a precursor site of the Underground Railroad.
|Alton||An important Underground Railroad location. Within a seven-block radius in Upper Alton alone, there are five documentable Underground Railroad stations; most are private homes. The Ursuline Sisters, the AME churches, and some of the American Baptist churches are among the groups involved in assisting escaping slaves. More details here:|
|Cairo||In Illinois, the Underground Railroad contained liberty lines; two known lines began in Southern Illinois. One point was at Cairo in Alexander County and the other at Chester in Randolph County.
|Chester||In Illinois, the Underground Railroad contained liberty lines; two known lines began in Southern Illinois. One point was at Cairo in Alexander County and the other at Chester in Randolph County.
|Chicago||As the terminus of most Underground Railroad routes originating in Illinois towns bordering the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers, Chicago was a hub of antislavery activity. Workers provided lodging or transportation and were sometimes personally involved in rescue efforts. Participants included physician C. V. Dyer, wealthy merchant John Jones, women’s rights advocate Mary Richardson Jones, pharmacist Philo Carpenter, early black homeowners Joseph and Anna Hudlun, educator Eliza Porter, members of the Liberty Association vigilance committee, detective Allan Pinkerton, businessman Henry O. Wagoner, attorneys L. C. Paine Freer and Calvin DeWolf, and pastors and members of Quinn Chapel AME, Olivet Baptist, First Presbyterian, and First Baptist Congregational churches.Prior to the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, enslaved African Americans who began their perilous journeys in Missouri, Kentucky, and Tennessee found Chicago to be a relatively safe destination. Although the Illinois Black Codes denied them full citizenship rights, they opened businesses or hired out their services performing tasks for which they had been uncompensated while in bondage.
After passage of the Fugitive Slave Act slavecatchers abducted black people even if they had certificates of freedom. Black and white abolitionists converged on the Chicago Common Council to protest Senator Stephen A. Douglas’ support of this bill. Subsequently many black Chicagoans emigrated to Canada where they could be protected under British law.
|Freeport||The Oscar Taylor House is a historic house in the city of Freeport, Illinois. The house was built in 1857 and served as a “station” on the Underground Railroad during the American Civil War. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.|
|Galesburg||Galesburg and Knox College, located in West Central Illinois, were founded in 1837 by anti-slavery advocates who came to Knox County from upstate New York. The town and College, from their inception, were perceived as most likely the leading down-state center of abolitionism and Underground Railroad activity in Illinois.|
|Quincy||The Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois, was a major stop on the Underground Railroad as slaves attempted to make their way from Missouri to a free state.
Quincy’s role in the Underground Railroad … is highlighted in the events that took place at the home of Dr. Richard Eells and his wife, Jane, during the mid-19th century.
|Sparta||Sparta had connections to the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. The Burlingame House still stands in the small rural community of Eden just outside of Sparta.|
|Fountain City||Fountain City is the location of The Coffin House, home of Quaker abolitionist and Underground Railroad conductor Levi Coffin and his wife Catherine, and a National Historic Landmark. The two-story, eight room, brick home was constructed circa 1838–39 in the Federal style. The Coffin home became known as the “Grand Central Station” of the Underground Railroad because of its location where three of the escape routes to the North converged and the number of fugitive slaves who passed through it.Its original owners, Catharine and Levi Coffin, were Quaker abolitionists who provided fugitive slaves with supplies and a safe place to stay. During the twenty years (1826 to 1847) that The Coffins lived in Indiana it is believed that they helped as many as 2,000 slaves escape to freedom in the Northern United States and in Canada. (The Coffins continued their role as local leaders in the Underground Railroad after their move to Ohio in 1847 and provided aid to approximately 1,300 more slaves to assist in their escape to the North.) In 1966 the Coffin’s Indiana home became the first property in the state to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Levi Coffin House Association operates the property under an agreement with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the historic home’s present-day owner.|
|Indianapolis||Indianapolis is the location of The Bethel A.M.E. Church whose congregation has a long history of supporting the city’s African American community. It is especially noted for its activities on behalf of the antislavery movement and its support of the Underground Railroad.|
|Lancaster||From the 1830s to the 1860s Lancaster, about 10 miles (16 km) northwest of Madison in Jefferson County, Indiana, was known for its anti-slavery sentiment. Some members of the local community established the Neil’s Creek Anti-Slavery Society in 1839 and the Neil’s Creek Abolitionist Baptist Church in 1846. Neil’s Creek was located about 3 miles (4.8 km) west of Lancaster, a major stop for fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad route as they traveled north from Madison on the Ohio River to Indianapolis, Indiana. Several abolitionist families in the area, including some members of the school’s board of trustees, were active participants in the Underground Railroad. The community’s abolitionist church and anti-slavery sentiments also made Lancaster a good place to establish an integrated school.
Lancaster is also the location of the Eleutherian College, which was founded as Eleutherian Institute in 1848 by a group of local anti-slavery Baptists. The school admitted students without regard to ethnicity or gender, including freed and fugitive slaves.
|General||Click here for an interactive map of Underground Railroad stations on the John Brown’s 1859 Freedom Trail across Iowa.|
|Keosauqua||The Pearson House was a station on the Underground Railroad. A hide-away under the floor was reached through a trap door.|
|Lewis||Hitchcock House had a secret room in the basement was used to hide runaway slaves on the Underground Railroad.|
|Salem||The Lewelling House was where runaway slaves were once hidden under the floor, in the crawl space that runs under the kitchen, dining room and small room off the dining room.|
|Tabor||The Todd House was the home to abolitionist and Congregationalist minister, John Todd. It was built in 1853 around the time when Todd moved to Tabor as a co-founder of Tabor College and the town of Tabor. John Brown visited the home around the time of his raids, and the house served as a stop on the Underground Railroad prior to the Civil War|
|West Des Moines||During the antebellum period, the Jordan House was a designated stopover on the Underground Railroad. Freedom seeking slaves hid in the fields, barns and outbuildings on the property. Jordan, a staunch abolitionist, was regarded as the “chief conductor” for Polk County. Radical abolitionist John Brown stayed at least twice at Jordan House, once when he was leading a group of 12 slaves to freedom.|
|Osawatomie||The John Brown Museum, also known as the John Brown Museum State Historic Site and John Brown Cabin, is located in Osawatomie, Kansas. The site is operated by the Kansas Historical Society, and includes the log cabin of Reverend Samuel Adair and his wife, Florella, who was the half-sister of the abolitionist John Brown. Brown lived in the cabin during the twenty months he spent in Kansas and conducted many of his abolitionist activities from there.|
|Portland||The Abyssinian Meeting House is a historic church building at 73–75 Newbury Street, in the Munjoy Hill neighborhood of Portland, Maine. Built 1828-1831 by free African-Americans, it is Maine’s oldest African-American church building, and the third oldest in the nation. Throughout the years, the Abyssinian was a place for worship and revivals, abolition and temperance meetings, speakers and concerts, the Female Benevolent Society, the Portland Union Anti-Slavery Society and negro conventions, and the black school in Portland from the mid-1840s through the mid-1850s. The building is the only Underground Railroad site in Maine recognized by the National Park Service. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.|
|Cambridge||Location of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park. A 480-acre (190 ha) National Park Service unit in the U.S. state of Maryland. It commemorates the life of former slave Harriet Tubman, who became an activist in the Underground Railroad prior to the American Civil War. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument was created by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013. The portion of the monument administered by the National Park Service was later designated a National Historical Park in 2014, and the remainder is managed by the Fish and Wildlife Service as part of Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge.
The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park includes sites near Cambridge, Maryland, Windy Hill and Preston, in Dorchester County, Talbot, and Caroline counties, that were significant in Tubman’s life. The Park currently includes 480 acres of land known as the Jacob Jackson Home site. The NHP was established by the Carl Levin and Howard P. “Buck” McKeon National Defense Authorization Act FY2015 (Public Law 113-291, December 19, 2014). The legislation authorized the acquisition of an additional 4,207.54 acres in Dorchester, Caroline, and Talbot counties. The Jackson site was donated to the federal government by The Conservation Fund for establishment of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument which later became known as the National Historical Park in accordance with PL 113-291. PL 113-291 also established the Harriet Tubman National Historical Park in Auburn, New York.Prior to establishment of the National Historical Parks in Maryland and New York, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument was created in Dorchester County, Maryland by President Barack Obama under the Antiquities Act on March 25, 2013. Public Law 113-291 (Section 3035) was subsequently passed and signed into law on December 19, 2014, and required the Secretary of the Interior to “administer the historical park and the portion of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument administered by the National Park Service (in Maryland) as a single unit of the National Park System, which shall be known as the Harriet Tubman Underground National Historical Park.” The historical park in New York was established on January 10, 2017, and is a sister park to this one in Maryland.
|General||The Underground Railroad in Massachusetts – by Wilbur H. Siebert
– The New England Quarterly Vol. 9, No. 3 (Sep., 1936), pp. 447-467 (Abridged vesion)
– American Antiquarian Society, New Series XLV, Part i, 25-100 (Full version with maps)
|Boston||The Boston area played a major role in the abolitionist movement of the 19th century as well as on the Underground Railroad. There are spots in the area cloaked in laudable lore, ones both already well-known and those not so much.
Lewis and Harriet Hayden House
African Meeting House
Julia Ward and Samuel Gridley Howe House
The Liberator Office
Harriet Tubman Park
Williams Ingersoll Bowditch House
William Lloyd Garrison House
|Brookline||Brookline in The Anti Slavery Movement
– Brookline Historical Publication Society
|Concord||The Underground Railroad in Concord and at The Wayside
– National Parks Service History, eLibrary
|New Bedford||New Bedford became a popular stop on the Underground Railroad. Its successful whaling industry created job opportunities for people of all backgrounds, both at sea and in the shoreside businesses that supported whaling.
Additionally, the large Quaker population and population of free people of color meant protection, while the coastal trading system provided opportunities to hide aboard vessels leaving southern ports. By the 1840s, New Bedford was home to 300-700 escaped slaves.
Henry ‘Box’ Brown
Nathan & Mary Johnson House
The Pearl Incident
– Northampton Museum and Education Center
|(2) CANADA (BRITISH NORTH AMERICA) SECTION|
|Amherstburg, Ontario||Amherstburg had a vital role in transporting slaves to freedom across the Detroit River. Abolitionist Levi Coffin, during a tour of Upper Canada in 1844, described Amherstburg as the principal terminal settlement in Canada of the Underground Railroad.|
|Elgin County, Ontario|
|North Buxton, Ontario|
|Puce, Lakeshore, Ontario|
|St. Catherines, Ontario|
|(3) BRITAIN SECTION|
|Bristol||Bristol and the Transatlantic Slave Trade:
Bristol Slave Trade (The Triangular Trade):
|Liverpool||Liverpool and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/slavery/europe/liverpool.aspx|
|London||London and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: https://www.rmg.co.uk/discover/behind-the-scenes/blog/london-and-slave-trade-international-slavery-remembrance-day|
|(4) OTHER COUNTRIES SECTION|
|Africa||Africa and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/abolition/africa_article_01.shtml|
|Europe||Europe and the Transatlantic Slave Trade: https://www.liverpoolmuseums.org.uk/ism/resources/slave_trade_ports.aspx|
|SOURCES AND FURTHER READING|
|http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Underground_Railroad (Notable Locations Section)
Hudson J. Blaine, ‘Encyclopedia of The Underground Railroad’. Published by McFarland & Company Inc, 2006.