Documentation: History of Bedford, Somerset and Fulton Counties, 1884, p. 293.
Benjamin Walker came from York County and settled in St. Clair Township as a young man, where he entered into farming and shoemaking. He secreted slaves on his property, sometimes for weeks, until they could be safely moved to the next station. The county history notes: "he would fill bags with straw, load his sleigh or wagon with them, and, concealing the negroes beneath, the bags, take the load across the mountains, as if going to market. He delivered the fugitives into the hands of other friends, who assisted them further on their way toward freedom. For many years a standing reward of five hundred dollars was offered for the apprehension of Mr. Walker, and his life was often in danger." Walker piloted the fugitives to Geistown, Cambria County.
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. | Obituary of Sydenham Walton, The Jeffersonian, June 6, 1872. | William Doolittle, "Ownership of Historic Church Debated in Court," Pocono Record, 28 February 2003. | Little Bethel Historical Association, "History of the Little Bethel Church," http://www.little-bethel.org/history.html, accessed 2 September 2006.
Pennsylvania-born physician and Hickite Quaker who is said to have hidden fugitives in a secret room in his Main Street home. His involvement with Underground Railroad activities was included in his obituary. Dr. Sydenham Walton was a founding trustee for the Little Bethel A.M.E. church, in Stroudsburg. Other trustees included John Stokes and Richard Staples. The church, founded in 1855, is said to have sheltered freedom seekers.
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 physician and Hickite Quaker who is supposed to have hidden a fugitive slave under his wife's mattress in her bedroom. Jennings does not indicate if this is the elder Dr. William D. Walton or the younger Dr. William Walton.
Documentation: Capt. C. T. Adams and E. White, History of Indiana County, 1880.
Ben Warren conducted fugitives through this area and around Georgeville. He received support from some local residents, such as Thompson Hays, who shot a bloodhound that slave catchers were using to track Warren's party.
Documentation: Frederick Douglass, The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, p. 350; local lore.
Frederick Douglass names Henry Watson as the Chambersburg barber who led him to the August 1859 meeting at the quarry with John Brown at which the raid on Harpers Ferry was to be discussed. Watson, one of the leading African American citizens of Chambersburg, is also, according to local lore, said to have been the chief stationmaster for the local Underground Railroad network. He supposedly helped raider Osborne Perry Anderson escape.
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.
Stephen Weakley actively aided his brother-in-law, abolitionist Daniel Kaufman of Boiling Springs, in hiding fugitive slaves. In October 1847 he supposedly allowed his barn to be used to shelter a larger group of thirteen fugitive slaves that had previously been at Kaufman's barn. According to testimony, the fugitives were later transported away from Weakley's barn in a wagon driven by Thomas Weakley.
Documentation: G. Craig Caba and Adam Ross, Gettysburg: 1836 Battle Over Slavery, 2004, n.p.; G. Craig Caba, Episodes of Gettysburg and the Underground Railroad, 1998, p. 105-106.
One of the founders of the Adams County Anti-Slavery Society. His son J. Howard Wert, as a college student, participated in UGRR activities. Wert's farm, Wolf's Walk, was located along Baltimore Pike, adjoined that of James McAllister, and was used as a haven for fugitive slaves as late as June 1863.
Documentation: G. Craig Caba and Adam Ross, Gettysburg: 1836 Battle Over Slavery, 2004, n.p.; G. Craig Caba, Episodes of Gettysburg and the Underground Railroad, 1998, p. 73-77.
While enrolled in Gettysburg College, J. Howard Wert participated in UGRR activities as a member of the college's Beta Delta fraternity. Some members of the fraternity happened upon a fugitive in the middle 1850's, hid him and forwarded him to Quaker activists at York Springs. They continued to help fugitives, widening their circle to other trusted fraternity members, probably until the war began. Their hiding place was an artificial cave on Culp's Hill. A custodian at the college, John "Jack" Hopkins, often notified them of newly-arrived fugitives.
Documentation: G. Craig Caba, Episodes of Gettysburg and the Underground Railroad, 1998, p. 98-104.
Hiram Wertz was recruited into the UGRR network at age 15 by an itinerant schoolteacher, Matthew Dobbin, who was staying with his family in rural Quincy. Wertz received fugitives from Jacob Shockey, whose farm was along the mountains at Rouzerville. He sheltered and fed them in his father's barn before leading them under cover of darkness about eight miles to the settlement known as Africa, near Thaddeus Stevens' Caledonia Iron Furnace, and turning them over to Robert Black.
Documentation: Richard P. McCormick, "William Whipper: Moral Reformer," Pennsylvania History 43 (January 1976), pp. 23-47.
Born as a slave in Little Britain Township, Lancaster County, William Whipper received a second-hand education and gained his freedom before his full 28 years of term-slavery were over. He moved to Philadelphia and began to gain prominence in the early Negro improvement movement. An active opponent to African colonization, Whipper wrote addresses and essays in support of moral reform and passive resistance to injustices. He organized the American Moral Reform Society and edited its publication, the National Reformer. In 1835 he moved to Columbia, Lancaster County, and associated himself with successful African American lumber merchant Stephen Smith. There, Whipper and Smith processed hundreds of freedom seekers, sometimes using the assets of the lumber business in the operation. Whipper used his Front Street home, in some instances, to hide fugitives. Whipper was an early subscriber to William Lloyd Garrison's Liberator newspaper.
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.
A Quaker carpenter originally from Bucks County, Timothy B. White actively aided the active New Brighton (see Townsend, Benjamin) Underground Railroad network. His home in New Brighton was used as a station to shelter slaves. In 1847, Timothy White was one of several New Brighton citizens to welcome William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass and others to the town for a speaking engagement. White was one of several New Brighton citizens that submitted a formal protest of the 1850 Fugitive Slave law to their congressmen.
Documentation: G. Craig Caba and Adam Ross, Gettysburg: 1836 Battle Over Slavery, 2004, n.p.; G. Craig Caba, Episodes of Gettysburg and the Underground Railroad, 1998, p. 92-97; William Still, The Underground Rail Road, 1872.
Quaker miller living near York Springs (earlier known as York Sulphur Springs and Petersburg), whose UGRR involvement began in 1819 when he worked with his brother-in-law, William Wright, to aid a fugitive slave. The Quaker Wierman, Wright and Greist families were all locally powerful and socially prominent, which may account for their success in managing this portion of the UGRR network. They received fugitives from Gettysburg operatives J. Howard Wert, Jack Hopkins, and James McAllister.
Documentation: The National Era, 26 July, 2 August, 11, 18 October 1855; Frederick Douglass Paper, 27 July, 3, 10 August, 28 September, 12, 19 October, 16 November 1855; Provincial Freeman, 22 August 1855.
While serving as Secretary of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society, Williamson was involved with the freeing of slave Jane Johnson and her two sons from John H. Wheeler, the U.S. envoy to Nicaragua, who was taking the slaves to serve his wife in that country. Williamson, along with William Still, William Custis, James Martin, J. S. Ballard, Isaiah Moore and James S. Braddock, found the slaveholder and slaves on the ferry, ready to depart for New York. Williamson confronted Wheeler while the others helped the woman and her family to flee. Still hid them in his home.
All of the men involved in the rescue were charged, but only Williamson was imprisoned for contempt, when he refused to comply with a habeas corpus writ from the judge. Jailed in Philadelphia for 3 months, Williamson was portrayed by anti-slavery advocates as a victim of the court's surrender to southern slave interests. The widely publicized trial was attended by Lucretia Mott and James Miller McKim, who assisted Jane Johnson in escaping the clutches of Federal authorities after she testified in Williamson's defense.
Documentation: "Obituary," Brooklyn Eagle (New York), 13 February 1899, p. 12; Letter, Martin R. Delany to Frederick Douglass, 18 November 1848, published in The North Star, 1 December 1848.
An African American school teacher, John Wolf actively supported the abolitionist cause and worked quietly for the Harrisburg UGRR network. It is not known exactly what his role with the network was, although his obituary notes that while in Harrisburg he aided fugitive slaves toward Canada. Martin R. Delany wrote of John Wolf and his wife that they always kept "the welcome knocker to the Anti-Slavery pilgrim on the door." It appears that Wolf worked closely with William W. Rutherford in organizing local abolitionist activities. In 1847, when William Lloyd Garrison and Frederick Douglass visited Harrisburg on a speaking tour, Douglass stayed with the John Wolf family. See the 1850 census record.
Documentation: William J. Switala, Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania, 2001, pp. 82-86.
An African American minister who established one of the first black churches in western Pennsylvania, Pittsburgh's Bethel A.M.E., Woodson became a spiritual leader who endorsed the role of his church in aiding runaway slaves. He worked with John B. Vashon in establishing the Pittsburgh African Education Society in 1832.
Documentation: R. C. Smedley, History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania, 1883, reprinted 2005, pp 28-29. Correspondence, Chris Densmore to George Nagle, 28 June 2007.
Quaker William Wright is generally credited with organizing much of Lancaster County's Underground Railroad network. He may have been active as early as 1804. A successful ferry operator, Wright worked with local African American agents, particularly ferryman Robert Loney, and neighboring white agents, to move fugitives to the next safe haven. He frequently sent fugitives to Daniel Gibbons, near Lancaster.
Documentation: G. Craig Caba and Adam Ross, Gettysburg: 1836 Battle Over Slavery, 2004, n.p.; G. Craig Caba, Episodes of Gettysburg and the Underground Railroad, 1998, p. 92-97. James W.C. Pennington, The Fugitive Blacksmith, 1849; William Still, The Underground Rail Road, 1872. Debra Sandoe McCauslin, Reconstructing the Past: Puzzle of a Lost Community, 2005, Gettysburg, PA, page 11. R. C. Smedley, History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the Neighboring Counties of Pennsylvania, 1883, reprinted 2005, p 37.
Quaker farmer living near York Springs (earlier known as York Sulphur Springs and Petersburg), whose UGRR involvement began in 1819 when he worked with his brother-in-law, Joel Wierman, to aid a fugitive slave. Congregationalist Minister and anti-slavery lecturer Rev. J.W.C. Pennington was aided by the Wright family during his escape from Maryland in 1828. A female toll-gate keeper directed him to Wright's home. The Wrights were instrumental in organizing the York Springs Anti-Slavery Society in 1840. Wright would often receive fugitives from Cyrus Griest, in Menallen Township.
William Still credits Wright with aiding nearly one thousand fugitive slaves. Phoebe (Phebe) Wierman Wright was the sister of Hannah Wierman Gibbons, wife of Daniel Gibbons of Lancaster County, to whom this family also sometimes forwarded fugitives. (Thanks, Chris Densmore, for clearing up some confusion on my part that had crept into the listings.)
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