Who's Who in Pennsylvania's Underground Railroad

B Surnames

Bacon, Dick
Location: West Taylor Township, Cambria County ; Role: UGRR stationmaster

Documentation: Henry W. Storey, History of Cambria County, 1907, p. 186-192.

Dick Bacon was an African American who lived in a remote cabin "on the mountain above where the Laurel run dam is now located." Fugitives were sometimes delivered to him from Johnstown by William McLain.  Bacon would hide them near or in his cabin until it was safe to forward them to the next station.  According to Storey, he probably received some protection from anti-slavery men who lived and worked at nearby Cambria Furnace.

Ball, Ann(a) Elizabeth
Location: Philadelphia ; Role: UGRR activist

Documentation: Obituary, Brooklyn Eagle, 24 January 1887.  William Henry Egle, Notes and Queries--CXLIII, p. 368, "Death of a Worthy Colored Woman."   Status: not proven--serious doubts about claim.

According to an un-credited obituary in a Philadelphia newspaper, Ann Elizabeth Ball was a Pennsylvania-born slave who was manumitted and moved to Philadelphia, where she eventually aided fugitive slaves.  The obituary states that she was "widely known throughout the state," for her activities and that she personally aided 63 freedom seekers, none of whom were ever captured.  Despite this claim, efforts to locate her in census records or accounts of UGRR activities have been unsuccessful.  Her status as a genuine agent of the Underground Railroad is not clear at this point.

Barker, A. A.  1816 - 1898
Location: Ebensburg, Cambria County ; Role: UGRR stationmaster; abolitionist

Documentation: Henry W. Storey, History of Cambria County, 1907, p. 186-192, 501.

Abraham Andrew Barker was a Maine-born lumberman who moved to Ebensburg, Cambria County about 1856.  A staunch abolitionist from back in Maine, Barker was also a regular stationmaster, sheltering and conducting fugitive slaves both in Maine and later from his Ebensburg home.  A. A. Barker received fugitives from Bedford, via Hollidaysburg and after sheltering them for the night forwarded them to George Atchison in Clearfield County.

Battin, Marshall
Location: Elkland Township, Sullivan County ; Role: UGRR stationmaster, conductor

Documentation: Mary Rhodes Haines, Family History of the Haines Family, 1893, quoted in Adona R. Sick, History of Sullivan County Churches, 1965, reprinted online at http://www.rootsweb.com/~pasulliv/churches/Adona.htm, accessed January 4, 2006.

Jacob Haines, near Muncy, Lycoming County, would send fugitives in a wagon or carriage "over the mountains to John Hill," who would then take them to Marshall Battin in the Elklands, Sullivan County.  In 1850, the only Battin family in Sullivan County is that of Joseph Battin, who has a son, Marshall, age seven.  While Marshall could have been a young operative by the middle 1850's, it is also possible he was named for an older relative who was an operative.  Marshall Battin, according to Haines, would then send fugitives to Joseph Jones of Penn Yan, New York.

Bell, Daniel
Location: Carlisle, Cumberland County ; Role: UGRR organizer and conductor

Documentation: Death notice for Daniel Bell, published in the Harrisburg Star Independent newspapr, 12 December 1914, states: "Bell is best remembered for his efforts in conducting slaves through the "underground railroad route" from the South to Harrisburg." A Harrisburg Telegraph news article published the same day reports similar information.

Bell was born February 1832 in either Baltimore (Death Certificate) or Carlisle (news articles). At some point he became involved in the Underground Railroad operations through the Cumberland Valley, conducting freedom seekers to Harrisburg where, presumably, they were turned over to Dauphin County operatives. It is not known at this time who he worked with or who his Harrisburg contacts were. After the Civil War began, he turned his energies toward the recruitment of local African American men to regiments of the United States Colored Trooops.

The news of his death in December 1914 was reported in Harrisburg newspapers.

Bennett, Edward, a.k.a. "King Bennett"

Location: Harrisburg, Dauphin County ; Role: UGRR stationmaster

Documentation: William Henry Egle, Notes and Queries XII, 1900, p. 63.

African American community leader and a coordinator of Underground Railroad activity in Harrisburg. His neighborhood was nicknamed Judystown, for Judy Richards, a community matriarch. Her daughter Mary Ann married Bennett, who built a successful chimney sweeping business. Judystown was Harrisburg’s first distinct African American community, and as such was probably the first place in the town in which organized Underground Railroad activity took place. It was the spiritual center for Harrisburg’s African American population, housing the Wesley Union A.M.E. church from 1829 until it moved several blocks away in 1839. Bennett, found in the 1850 census, was a church leader, listing his occupation in 1850 as “preacher.” His neighbors in Judystown, in 1850, included George Galbraith, an ordained minister in the A.M.E. church, and David Stevens, a young preacher who would serve as a chaplain to African American regiments during the Civil War. Bennett’s URR involvement has been cited by nineteenth century historians William Henry Egle and George H. Morgan.

Bezan, Jacob
Location: Mercersburg, Franklin County ; Role: UGRR stationmaster, conductor

Documentation: Woman's' Club of Mercersburg, Old Mercersburg, 1912, p. 50.

The first house built on West California Street was of log construction and belonged to an African American resident, Jacob Bezan.  Jacob and his son George worked as a team to hide fugitives in the loft of their home, one meeting the fugitives at the end of their garden, next to a cornfield, while the other kept watch at the house for the constable.  They were fed and then led by night "across the brickyard, over the run, across the turnpike, following the mountains northward" toward the next station.

In 1850, Jacob Bezan (spelled "Bissan" on the census form) was a 60 year-old laborer with $100 in real estate.  He reported he was born in Pennsylvania and could not read and write.  He lived with Martha Bissan, age 55, in a large African American community.

Biggs, Basil  c.1819 - 1906
Location: Gettysburg ; Role: UGRR stationmaster, conductor

Documentation: Peter C. Vermilyea, "The Effect of the Confederate Invasion of Pennsylvania on Gettysburg's African American Community," in Gettysburg Magazine, 24, January 2001.  Debra Sandoe McCauslin, Reconstructing the Past: Puzzle of a Lost Community, 2005, Gettysburg, PA, pages 21-22.

African American community leader and a stationmaster who hid fugitives on the McPherson farm, where he was living and working as a veterinarian in 1858.  He would then take them to Edward Mathews in Quaker Valley, in northern Adams County. Biggs also disinterred and reburied many of the soldiers from the battle.  Biggs' role on the UGRR was cited in his obituary from The Gettysburg Compiler, 13 June 1906.  His obituary also notes that he was raised in a Quaker settlement in Carroll County, Maryland.

Black, Robert
Location: Green Township, Franklin County ; Role: UGRR conductor, activist

Documentation: G. Craig Caba, Episodes of Gettysburg and the Underground Railroad, 1998, p. 100-101.

Robert Black, a merchant in the town of Greenwood, received fugitives from Hiram Wertz, about eight miles away in Quincy.  Black "saw to it that the fugitives were cared for, working along with William Hammett, then superintendent of the Caledonia Furnace."   The Caledonia Iron Works and the nearby African American settlement known as "Africa" provided shelter and aid for fugitive slaves.  From here, fugitives were often taken over the mountains to Pine Grove Furnace, Mount Holly Springs and Boiling Springs.  Another route was directly to Peter Marks at the Cashtown Inn.

In 1850, the Black family consisted of Robert Black, age 41, Merchant, with $4,000 in real estate; Elizabeth, 34; Susan Bayly, 36; John B., 11; Elizabeth J., 9; Susan M., 9; and Margaret A., five months old.  All were born in Pennsylvania. (1850 Census, Green Twp., Franklin County)

Blair, William
Location: Porter Township, Clarion County ; Role: UGRR conductor

Documentation: A. J. Davis, History of Clarion County, Pennsylvania, 1887, p. 122.

William Blair received fugitives from Rev. John Hindman in Dayton, Armstrong County.  The 1850 census shows William Blair as a 53-year-old farmer living with a large family.  Adjoining his farm was that of another Blair family, Samuel, age 30, and next to Samuel Blair lived Alexander and Elizabeth Blair, both in their seventies.  From his farm, William Blair forwarded fugitive slaves to Rev. John McAuley in Rimersburg.

Bradford, Arthur Bullus  1810-1899
Location: Darlington Township, Beaver County ; Role:  UGRR political activist, stationmaster

Documentation: Peggy Jean Townsend and Charles Walker Townsend III, "Milo Adams Townsend and Social Movements of the Nineteenth Century," published by Beaver County History Online, http://www.bchistory.org/beavercounty/booklengthdocuments/AMilobook/3Bradford.html, accessed 8 October 2006.

An abolitionist from an early age, Arthur Bradford and his wife Elizabeth (Wicks) settled in Darlington where he became preacher of Mount Pleasant Presbyterian Church.  He advocated abolition in his sermons and spoke on the subject across the Mid Atlantic region.  Bradford wrote abolition articles for various newspapers, including William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator.  His Darlington home, Buttonwood, was an Underground Railroad station, and the Bradford daughters spent much time making clothes to disguise fugitive slaves that passed through their home. Buttonwood was an integral link on the route from New Brighton/Beaver Falls (see Townsend, Benjamin) to Enon Valley in Lawrence County, and then into Ohio.  Conductors on this route were mostly local free Blacks.  Fugitives probably hid either in outbuildings or possibly in a nearby coal mine.  Some stayed on at the farm and worked for several weeks until moving to the next station.

Brechbill, Philip
Location: South Middleton Township, Cumberland County ; Role:  UGRR activist

Documentation: Richard L. Tritt, "The Underground Railroad at Boiling Springs," in At a Place Called the Boiling Springs, Richard L. Tritt and Randy Watts, editors, 1995, pp. 111-117.

Philip Brechbill actively aided abolitionist Daniel Kaufman of Boiling Springs in hiding fugitive slaves.  He was named as a co-defendant in a lawsuit filed by Maryland slaveholder Mary Oliver against him, Kaufman, and Stephen Weakley, charging that they helped thirteen of her slaves escape in October 1847.  Defended by Thaddeus Stevens, the defendants were spared fines when the jury could not agree on a verdict.

Brown, Henry, a.k.a. Henry "Box" Brown
Location: Philadelphia ; Role:  Freedom Seeker

Documentation: William Still, The Underground Railroad, 1872, p. 70.

The inventive Henry Brown, a slave in Richmond, Virginia, came up with a unique method of escape by having himself crated up and shipped to the offices of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia.  In 1849 Brown had a carpenter friend construct a special crate measuring 2 feet 8 inches deep by 2 feet wide and 3 feet long.  With only a few biscuits and some water for nourishment, Brown endured a 26 hour journey, sometimes spending hours upside down, before being delivered to the Anti-Slavery office.  An instant celebrity, Brown was aided by Lucretia Mott, who gave a reception in his honor, and he stayed for several days at the house of William Still.

John Brown Going to His Hanging, by Horace Pippin, 1942Brown, John
Location: Chambersburg ; Role:  Abolition activist, insurrectionist, martyr

Documentation: National Park Service, John Brown's Raid, 1973, p. 22-23.

John Brown has numerous Pennsylvania connections, although the most significant is his use of the house at 225 East King Street in Chambersburg as a rendezvous point and supply point for his October 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry.  Brown's original plan envisioned the raid as a means to setting up centralized depots for the processing of large numbers of fugitive slaves via the Underground Railroad.  It gradually evolved into the plan to establish a separate nation to which slaves could flee (see W.E.B. DuBois, John Brown, 2001 Modern Library Edition, pages 56 and 116).  In August 1859 he met with Frederick Douglass in an abandoned stone quarry in Chambersburg in an attempt to get Douglass to join in his plan.  Douglass believed the plan could not succeed and refused to join.  Brown was executed for the failed raid in 1859.

Right:  Horace Pippin, "John Brown Going to His Hanging," 1942.  Click here for detail enlargement of the distraught woman in lower right. The woman, the only African American in the painting, represents Pippin's mother, who he said witnessed Brown's execution.

Brown, Robert
Location: Stroud Township, Monroe County ; Role: UGRR stationmaster

Documentation: The history of Monroe County, Pennsylvania, During the Civil War: A Study of a Community in Action from 1840-1873, LeRoy Jennings Koehler, 1950, pp 68-69.

Pennsylvania-born farmer who is said to have hidden fugitives slaves in an empty water tank on his property.

Buchanan, ???
Location: Maryland ; Role:  Slaveholder

Documentation: S.S. Rutherford, "The Underground Railroad," in Publications of the Historical Society of Dauphin County, 1928, p. 5.

Maryland slaveholder who arrived in Harrisburg along with a Mr. Potts, also from Maryland, looking for several fugitive slaves.  The Maryland men stayed at Cloverly's Hotel, where a waiter named James Millwood tipped them that the fugitives were hiding on the farm of William Rutherford.  Harrisburg resident John W. Fitch led the party to Rutherford's farm.

Bushnell, Rev. Wells
Location: New Castle, Lawrence County; Role: UGRR stationmaster, abolitionist

Documentation:  Charles A. Garlick, Life, Including His Escape and Struggle for Liberty, 1902, electronic edition, Documenting the American South, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, "Charles A. Garlick, 1827-." http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/garlick/garlick.html, accessed January 10, 2006; S.W. and P.A. Durant, History of Lawrence County, 1877, pages 148-149

Fugitive slave Charles A. Garlick escaped to Butler County by way of Pittsburgh in 1843, recalling "Then I was sent to ...John Rainbow, at New Castle, where I found refuge at Rev. Bushnell's, who had a brother in Cherry Valley."  From this point he made his way to Brookfield, Trumbull County, Ohio, and the station of Amos Chew.  Rev. Bushnell was pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in New Castle until its congregation split in 1854 over the issue of slavery, with Bushnell going to the anti-slavery Free Church.  Rev. Bushnell also taught Latin to African American students in his church.

Bustill, Joseph Cassey  1822 - 1895
Sarah Humphreys Bustill  1829 - ?

Location: Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Philadelphia

Documentation: William Still, The Underground Railroad, 1879, p. 323.

Coming from a prominent Philadelphia African American family, Joseph Cassey Bustill arrived in Harrisburg about 1856 and immediately began to work with the local Underground Railroad activists to improve the movement of freedom seekers into and out of the town.  His innovations include the regular use of trains to forward fugitives, and the use of the telegraph to send coded messages of activities.  Bustill's correspondence during this period, with William Still, chairman of the Vigilance Committee of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, has been preserved and documents his activity in receiving and forwarding fugitives along the network.

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