Who's Who in Pennsylvania's Underground Railroad

P Surnames

Palm, Mag  a.k.a. "Maggie Bluecoat" 
Location: Gettysburg, Adams County ; Role:  Supposed UGRR conductor (possibly just family/local lore)

Documentation: Margaret S. Creighton, The Colors of Courage, New York, 2005, p. 54, 220.

The legend of Maggie Bluecoat is from Elsie Singmaster's 1924 story A Boy at Gettysburg, and is based upon family stories of Mag Palm's brush with kidnappers in 1858.  Although she did fight off two kidnappers, and remained a courageous woman during the 1863 invasion, there is no evidence that Mag Palm actually shepherded fugitive slaves along the farm roads of Gettysburg, with a loaded musket at the ready.

Payne, Mortimer 
Location: Sugar Grove, Warren County, Pennsylvania ; Role:  UGRR stationmaster

Documentation: Diary entry of Mortimer Payne, 10 January 1854. Reproduced on "Safe Harbor--Mortimer Payne Diary," Safe Harbor (http://www.wqln.org/safeharbor/index.htm), http://www.wqln.org/safeharbor/Archives/DiariesJournals/MortimerPayne.htm, accessed January 6, 2006.

Sugar Grove resident Mortimer Payne noted in his diary the visit from a fugitive slave destined for Canada.  Payne aided the slave on his journey.

Pearson, Hon. John James  1800 - 1888
Location: Harrisburg;  Role:  abolitionist politician and judge

Documentation: Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, Second Session of the 24th Congress, 1836, Washington.  Anna Bustill Smith, "The Bustill Family," The Journal of Negro History, Vol. 10, No. 4 (October 1925), p. 641.

Born in Darby, Pennsylvania of Quaker heritage, John J. Pearson was a lawyer, politician and judge.  As a U.S. Congressman in 1836-1837, Pearson voted consistently in support of the anti-slavery petitions introduced by John Quincy Adams.  As president judge of Dauphin and Lebanon Counties, a post he assumed in 1849, Pearson favored fugitive slave rights over slaveholder rights.  In a significant case that occurred as the Fugitive Slave Law was taking effect in 1850, Pearson freed three men accused of being runaways, but they were immediately seized as they left the courthouse by deputies of the newly appointed Federal Slave Commissioner in Harrisburg, Richard McAllister.  A daughter of UGRR activist Joseph Bustill wrote that a Harrisburg judge "used to keep her father informed as to the hunted ones."  Although she never named Pearson, some historians strongly suspect he was the sympathetic judge.

Peck, John C.  1802-1875
Location: Carlisle, Pittsburgh; Role:  UGRR Stationmaster; abolitionist

Documentation: "Another Old Land Mark Gone," The Christian Recorder, 4 November 1875.

Virginia-born John Peck settled in Carlisle as a young man to practice barbering, where he remained for nearly two decades before moving to Pittsburgh.  Very active in the A.M.E. church, Peck also became devoted the cause of abolition, supporting The Colored American and The Liberator newspapers and subscribing and writing letters to the Frederick Douglass Paper.  William Lloyd Garrison described him as "my old friend John Peck."  In Pittsburgh, Peck worked closely with Martin R. Delany and John B. Vashon, and was instrumental, with Rev. Charles Avery, in setting up the Allegheny Institute (later Avery College), serving as vice president of the board of trustees.

Phillips, James
Location: Harrisburg ; Role:  Redeemed Fugitive Slave

Documentation: James Phillips to Mary Phillips, June 20, 1852, in John W. Blassingame, Slave Testimony (Baton Rouge, LA, 1977) 95-96.  Frederick Douglass Paper, June 24, 1852.

James Phillips was a well-known Harrisburg teamster who had lived in town for many years and was married with two small children.  He was accused in June 1852 of being a fugitive slave, escaping in 1833 from Virginia. U.S. Commissioner Richard McAllister frustrated every attempt made by attorneys Mordecai McKinney and Charles C. Rawn to defend Phillips, and sent Phillips back to Virginia the next morning with the men claiming him as their property.  Phillips was promptly sold to a Richmond slave dealer and faced shipment to the deep south when Rawn was dispatched by several citizens of Harrisburg to buy his freedom for $800.

Post, Isaac
Post, David
Location: Montrose, Susquehanna County ; Role:  Abolitionist; UGRR stationmaster

Documentation: Rhamanthus M. Stocker, Centennial History of Susquehanna County, Philadelphia, 1887, 320-321; Edward H. Magill, When Men Were Sold, Reminiscences of the Underground Railroad in Bucks County and Its Managers, in A Collection of Papers Read Before the Bucks County Historical Society 2(1909): 493-520.

Early settler Isaac Post and his brother David were sympathetic to fugitive slaves, allowing them to live and work on their land in the town of Montrose.  By the 1840's, Isaac Post was sheltering fugitives in his own office when the local tavern had no room.  His death in 1855 was noted by the Provincial Freeman newspaper, Canada:  "Isaac Post, of Montrose, Pa., fell asleep in Christ on the 22nd of March last, in his 71st year. He had been identified with the Anti-Slavery and Free Mission causes from the first, and he remained so to the last." (13 October 1855) 

Most fugitives were conducted to Montrose from Wilkes-Barre by Rev. William C. Gildersleeve.  Fugitives entering Montrose were sometimes intercepted by Benjamin R. Lyon, who sent them to the Post family.  Historian Magill mentions the Post home and Caleb Carmalt, in Friendsville, as Susquehanna County stations.

Potts, ???
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. Buchanan, 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.

Pratt, Mrs.
Location: Sugar Grove Township, Warren County ; Role: UGRR sympathizer and supporter

Documentation: Gregory Wilson/Warren County Historical Society, "Underground Railroad Sites in Warren County, PA," 2005, http://www.paundergroundrailroad.com/sites.htm, accessed January 6, 2006.

In an incident reported in the Warren Ledger and reprinted on the Sugar Grove Convention pages, several slaves were hidden on Seth McDonald's property in Farmington Township 1851.  They were armed and hidden in his barn, and fed by friends.  "Mrs. Pratt" (probably Julia Pratt, wife of Humphrey Pratt of Sugar Grove Township) cooked a meal for them before they departed for the next stop, which was with William Gray at Beaver Dam, Erie County.  Humphrey Pratt, age 40, and Julia Pratt, age 33, were New York-born farmers in Sugar Grove Township, according to the 1850 census.

Purvis, Robert 1810-1898
Location: Philadelphia ; Role:  Abolitionist, UGRR activist and agent

Documentation: William Still, The Underground Railroad, 1872.

Well educated and relatively wealthy, Robert Purvis turned early to the anti-slavery cause.  His house at Ninth and Lombard Streets was used to shelter fugitive slaves, and Purvis himself devoted himself to the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, serving on its executive committee and later as its president.  He married Harriet Forten, daughter of abolitionist James Forten.  In 1837 he helped form the Vigilant Association of Philadelphia, which existed to help fugitives escape slavery.  Though the association faded away in the 1840's, it was revived following the passage of the Federal Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 and was headed by J. Miller McKim.  Purvis served as chairman of the renewed association, and William Still a primary agent.


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