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a book about Harrisburg...

by George F. Nagle


Table of Contents

Study Areas:



Free Persons of Color

Underground Railroad

The Violent Decade

US Colored Troops

Civil War


Chapter Eight
Backlash, Violence and Fear:
The Violent Decade (continued)


Exciting Times

Even as Joseph Bustill was stepping onto the railroad station platform in January 1856 and looking around at his new home, three brothers in Clear Springs, Maryland were planning a daring escape that would land them and their families in his hands. Not that these men knew anything about Joseph Bustill, or about Harrisburg, or about the new methods or escape routes that were being put in place. They only knew that they had to escape the severe poverty in which their owners kept them, their wives and children.

The oldest brother, Owen Taylor, seems to have been the leader and the one who planned the escape, initially set for New Years Day. Circumstances, perhaps severe weather, caused the Taylor brothers to postpone the escape until later, and they finally settled on Easter Sunday for their attempt, which in 1856 fell unusually early, on 23 March. Taking advantage of the holiday from work, Owen Taylor and his wife Mary Ann quietly led their child Edward to the livery stable on the estate, where they hitched two horses to his master’s carriage in preparation for a dash north into Pennsylvania.

Rendezvousing with Owen in the stable that evening was his brother Otho and his wife and the couple’s two small children, and another brother, Benjamin, who was unmarried. Once everyone was situated, this large group of five adults and three children nonchalantly drove the carriage down the farm lane onto the open road and headed straight to Hagerstown, about eight miles to the east, keeping a brisk but not overly rapid pace. They intended to present the appearance of a large family in a fine carriage being driven by a servant to their evening destination on Easter night. The urge to light out at top speed must have been strong, but they knew enough to trust in the anonymity of being just one more carriage on the busy road to Hagerstown.

Once through that town they turned north and drove their carriage at top speed across the Mason-Dixon Line the entire twenty-four miles to Chambersburg, the first place they dared to stop and rest. They drove steadily through the darkness, arriving in Chambersburg in the early morning hours. Their mode of travel then changed, and whether this was an improvisation, or part of a larger plan, may never be known.

Chambersburg was a valuable station on the Underground Railroad, receiving large numbers of freedom seekers who crossed from Maryland into Franklin County and then found their way into the well-established African American communities in Greencastle or Mercersburg. But the surrounding countryside was also friendly ground for slave catchers, who patrolled its ridges and valleys, always on watch for weary fugitives. Those who made it through the open country safely to Chambersburg were cared for by local African American activists, many of whom lived in the town’s South Ward.

From here, fugitive slaves were taken, usually by foot, to Shippensburg and then on to Harrisburg, by way of Carlisle. This was the route that George Cole, a free African American resident of Chambersburg, was following in 1847 as he guided thirteen freedom seekers along the iron forge trail, eventually ending up at Daniel Kauffman’s barn near Boiling Springs. On this Easter night, 1856, though, the Taylor party took a more direct and expeditious route to Harrisburg. Leaving the carriage and horses at a local tavern, the Taylors boarded railroad cars, and in a few hours rode directly into the heart of Harrisburg on the Cumberland Valley Railroad.113

Certainly, there was good reason for them to depart Chambersburg in haste. The owner of Owen Taylor’s wife and children, John S. Fiery, was rapidly on their trail, tracking them to Chambersburg within hours of their escape. There he recovered the horses and carriage, and upon making inquiries, also discovered that the Taylors had then gone to Harrisburg. John Fiery and his slave catching helpers immediately set out for Harrisburg, hoping to catch the large group resting, but again he and his party arrived too late. All he found was a less-than-helpful Joseph Bustill.

If the Harrisburg activists had used the traditional routes and methods—guiding the families by foot along the turnpike road to the Rutherford farms in Swatara Township—John Fiery and his men would have easily caught up with them. Considering that his party arrived in Harrisburg less than twelve hours behind the fugitives, it is likely that he would have run them down on the turnpike before they even reached the first Rutherford farm.

That, perhaps, was what Fiery intended. The Rutherford farms were, by this time, known harbors for wayward slaves, and the turnpike road was sometimes watched by those sympathetic to slave holders. Most of Harrisburg’s white residents were not sympathetic toward abolitionists and Underground Railroad activities, and even through the end of the Civil War never would be. The popular ouster of Richard McAllister three years earlier, it should be remembered, was not so much an anti-slavery statement as it was a backlash against mercenary slave hunting and corruption. Slave owners, backed by the Fugitive Slave Law, still had the expectation of success in Harrisburg, but that was about to change.

John S. Fiery presented Bustill’s reformed Harrisburg operation with its first test, and it passed. The Washington County, Maryland slaveholder was foiled in his attempts to capture his three slaves and the slaves of his father, Henry Fiery, by the bold and inventive tactics of the newly formed Harrisburg Fugitive Slave Society.

The difference was the rapid response of Harrisburg’s activists. The Taylor fugitives arrived at the Cumberland Valley Railroad Station on Chestnut Street at 8:30 a.m. It is possible that Joseph Bustill and his Harrisburg team were expecting the fugitives, particularly if the activists in Chambersburg were the ones responsible for putting the family on board the night train. If so, advance notice in the form of a telegraph might have been sent. Regardless of whether the Harrisburg team received notice, the families were processed quickly; they were fed, cared for, and briefed on the next part of their journey, all within the space of a few hours. By three o’clock that afternoon, Bustill’s workers had placed all the fugitives on the cars of the Philadelphia and Reading Railroad, and by twenty minutes past three, the train left Harrisburg for Reading. The haste was necessitated by the belief, possibly communicated to Bustill by Chambersburg activists, that the Fiery’s were on their way.

Inspired by their use of a night train to reach Harrisburg, Bustill quickly devised a scheme to continue using this mode of transportation, and he either contacted his associate in Reading, an African American barber and fellow agent named Grayson Snowdon Nelson, to make arrangements for their safe arrival and immediate forwarding to Philadelphia, or he provided the Taylors with information to locate Nelson. The plan worked beautifully, and the freedom seekers arrived safely in Philadelphia just as the Fierys reached Harrisburg.114



After the departure of the Taylors, but before the arrival of their Southern owners, Joseph Bustill sat down to compose a letter to William Still, in Philadelphia, explaining the circumstances and his reasons for using the train, which was a daring and risky venture. The letter itself may have been risky, as Bustill, a novice stationmaster, revealed his inexperience in the lack of code words to disguise the operation:

Friend Still: I suppose you have seen those five large and three small packages I sent by way of Reading, consisting of three men and women and children. They arrived here this morning at 8:30 o'clock and left twenty minutes past three. You will please send me any information likely to prove interesting in relation to them. Lately we have formed a society here called the Fugitive Slave Society. This is our first case, and I hope it will prove entirely successful. When you write, please inform me what signs or symbol you make use of in your dispatches, and any other information in relation to operations of the UR. Our reason for sending by the Reading Road, was to gain time; it is expected the owners will be in town this afternoon and by this Road we gained five hours' time, which is a matter of much importance, and we may have occasion to use it sometime in future. In great haste. Yours with great respect, Joseph C. Bustill.115

“This is our first case, and I hope it will prove entirely successful.” Joseph Bustill’s optimistic line indicates that the break with the old methods was complete. The new Harrisburg Fugitive Slave Society was now running the local Underground Railroad operation. Its success in this first endeavor, which had apparently caught it off guard—Bustill’s request to be informed of the standard signs and symbols shows he had not yet worked out all the details—stoked the confidence of its agents. They had the backing of a well-organized network that stretched from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and able captains at the helm in Martin R. Delany in the west and William Still in the east.

Bustill even became brazen enough, after receiving notice that the Taylors were safe, to taunt the owners when they arrived in Harrisburg, stringing them along with promises that a deal might be worked out whereby they could still recover their slaves. John Fiery remained in contact with Bustill, and at his suggestion sent a power of attorney letter to the Harrisburg abolitionist offering “to liberate the oldest [Taylor brother] in a year, and the remainder in proportional time, if they will come back; or to sell them their time for $1300.”

Bustill continued to encourage the Maryland slaveholder through May of that year, even though he had no intention of ever arranging for the return of the Taylor families, who by then were safely settled in St. Catharines in Canada West, well beyond the reach of the Fugitive Slave Law. He forwarded letters from John Fiery to the former slaves, and from the Taylors to their former master, who doggedly bore a steady stream of costs and fees as Bustill gave him just enough information to remain hopeful that he would eventually recover his slaves. In a 28 April 1856 letter to Still, Bustill asked, “Or if you can send me word where they are, I will endeavor to write to them for his special satisfaction; or if you cannot do either, send me your latest information, for I intend to make him spend a few more dollars, and if possible get a little sicker of this bad job. Do try and send him a few bitter pills for his weak nerves and disturbed mind.”

Finally, in late May, Bustill tired of the game and broke the news to John Fiery, who had again come to Harrisburg to press his case. Writing to Still in a letter dated 26 May 1856, Bustill wrote of recent operations, then added at the end, “I have nothing more to send you, except that John Fiery has visited us again and much to his chagrin received the information of their being in Canada.”116

Joseph Bustill worked on perfecting his Harrisburg operation through the late spring, having plenty of opportunities to fine-tune his tactics. Late May and early June proved to be a very busy period, not only for Bustill in Harrisburg, but for William Still in Philadelphia as well, as the incoming fugitive slaves funneled through the network increased in numbers, until the system reached an “anxious state” on the last day of the month as Still strained to find resources for four separate parties that arrived at his doorstep within the space of a few days.

One that passed through Harrisburg consisted of a white lady named Emily Ann Mahoney and her ten-year-old daughter, accompanied by an African American man named David Lewis, the slave of Joshua Pusey of Leesburg, Virginia. Their story mimicked that of the Taylor family in several respects: the couple commandeered Pusey’s horse to pull a rented carriage, and the slave posed as the coachman for the lady and her daughter as they drove from Leesburg, Virginia, straight to Chambersburg, where they stopped at a hotel.

In this case, they stayed the night in the hotel, but upon checking out the next morning, the hotel keeper, having become suspicious, stated to the woman “that he ‘believed that it was an Underground Rail Road movement;’ but being an obliging hotel-keeper, he assured her at the same time, that he ‘would not betray them.’” He then added that they would find friends and aid in Harrisburg.

The family, knowing that they were still far removed from a safe haven, chose not to trust the hotelkeeper, and decided to switch their mode of transportation. Again, the Cumberland Valley Railroad became the chosen method of getting rapidly out of a dangerous situation, so they left Pusey’s horse and the rented carriage at the inn and boarded the next passenger train to Harrisburg, where they sought out members of the local Fugitive Slave Society. Within hours of their arrival in Harrisburg, Bustill or one of his workers had given them instructions for locating the office of the Vigilance Committee in Philadelphia, and put them on the next passenger train to Philadelphia, where they arrived safely on 31 May.117

Although the arrival of this family in Harrisburg presented an urgent situation to the members of the Fugitive Slave Society, it did not severely tax their resources, as the family had rested the previous evening and were prepared to pay for their own train tickets. This was probably just as well, as Bustill and his workers suddenly found themselves scrambling to find aid for six persons who arrived in Harrisburg greatly in need of help. They straggled into town at the end of May after spending a week on the road, hiding from potential captors, faring “as they could, out in the woods, over the mountains,” until they eventually found their way across the Susquehanna River to friends.

The group consisted of two men, two women and two children, all working together to get away from two separate masters in the Hagerstown area. They had initially escaped at night in a wagon drawn by two horses, but began experiencing setbacks almost immediately. They had only gone about nine miles when their wagon broke down. As they were gathered around, trying to decide what to do, a pair of white men descended on them out of the darkness and tried to seize their horses. The two men in the group fought desperately with the whites, fiercely refusing to allow their plans for freedom to be stolen away from them. The fight was violent and quick, and when it was over the two white men lay unconscious in the road.

Although their attackers were down, the situation for the freedom seekers had gone from serious to critical. Not only were they broken down on a dangerous stretch of road, but they now also had two severely beaten white men at their feet. The only solution was to unhitch both horses from the wagon and saddle them, distributing three persons on each horse. In this manner, they made a desperate dash for the Pennsylvania border, which they knew was not far away.

They rode through the night, riding deep into Pennsylvania some thirty or forty miles, not stopping until the exhaustion of their mounts forced a halt. With single-minded purpose, they abandoned the horses and walked, only stopping when daylight forced them into hiding. They walked by night and hid by day for a week, not finding any aid to speak of until they reached Harrisburg on the last or next to last day of May.118

When the group reached Harrisburg and the attention of Joseph Bustill, the resistance leader knew that they had to work fast if they were going to save these hardy souls from recapture. All six were in desperate need of care, having survived for a week in open country. They needed food, medical attention, new clothing, and if possible, some rest. He made arrangements to fulfill their needs, while at the same time planning on how to get them quickly to a safer place.

They had not made contact with Underground Railroad agents prior to their arrival in Harrisburg, and therefore had not been smuggled in. Unfriendly as well as friendly eyes had observed their arrival, and Bustill knew that the telegraph wires were probably already conveying a description of this ragged bunch to interested sources below the Mason-Dixon Line. He was correct.

Within hours, the Washington County owners, George Schaeffer, a miller, and David Claggett, a farmer, were making their own arrangements to reclaim their wayward property, now that they finally knew their location. On 31 May, Schaeffer telegraphed an alert to the Philadelphia police informing them that his runaway slaves were believed to be on the direct train from Harrisburg to Philadelphia. His telegram offered a $1300 reward for their capture, and he requested that a police officer be posted at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot to intercept them before they made contact with the local Vigilance Committee.119

Although Joseph Bustill was not aware of this telegram, William Still was. In the early evening of 31 May, Still returned to the office of the Vigilance Committee after dinner to find an unexpected guest, a highly agitated Philadelphia police officer, waiting there for him. The appearance of this officer of the law must have caused him considerable concern, particularly as he was highly aware of the illegality of the Vigilance Committee’s actions.

The policeman, who was also aware of the Vigilance Committee’s activities, was not there to arrest anyone, though. He told Still about the telegram from Schaeffer, and explained that he had been assigned to arrest the fugitives when they arrived at the railroad depot, but he was morally burdened by his assignment, explaining, “I am not the man for this business.” He warned Still that the information he was sharing was confidential, and that he had only come to him as a courtesy, “so that [the Vigilance Committee] may be on the look-out” for the fugitives from Harrisburg.

Still was impressed by the seeming sincerity of his visitor, but did not entirely trust him. All throughout the policeman’s story Still was nervously eyeing an unopened telegram that had been laid on his desk while he had been away for dinner. He suspected that it had come from Joseph Bustill and that it concerned the fugitives in question. He gestured to the telegram and told the policeman that it might confirm the story. Still opened and read the telegram silently, then folded it and told the officer that it was indeed about the same party, and “that they would be duly looked after.” Satisfied that he had accomplished his goal, and perhaps now somewhat unburdened, the policeman then left the office to send a return telegram to the Maryland slave holder that he would be posted at the station that night. The telegram that Still received read:

HARRISBURG, May 31st, 1856.
WM. STILL, N. 5th St.:--I have sent via at two o'clock four large and two small hams.

The six “hams” arrived later that evening, but not at the Pennsylvania Railroad depot, where the policeman waited. They arrived about ten blocks away at the Reading and Philadelphia depot, as indicated in the dispatch from Bustill. The freedom seekers who had boarded the train in Harrisburg at two p.m. earlier that day were Charles Bird, George Dorsey, Dorsey’s sister Angeline Brown and her two children Albert and Charles, and Jane Scott.

All but Bird were the slaves of George Schaeffer, who had a mill on the Antietam Creek, and who regularly terrorized his slaves with threats to sell them off. Most of George and Angeline’s family, their mother and ten more brothers and sisters, were still enslaved on the Schaeffer estate. They, along with Angeline’s two young sons, were the only ones able to get away.

Because of the suspicious circumstances surrounding this party, William Still had considerable difficulty in finding shelter for them. Many of his usual hosts refused to take these freedom seekers in, after hearing that the police had been assigned to watch for them. Finally, he found a safe spot, placing all six with a widow named Ann Laws, who agreed to keep them as long as necessary.121


Bustill Reorganizes The Harrisburg Network

By late May, it appears that Joseph Bustill had developed an operating plan for his station in Harrisburg, and it was a true reorganization. He needed to inform William Still of his plan and methods, and he needed to do so in plain language, to avoid the possible misinterpretation inherent in the use of code words. But he did not want to risk trusting a message of that importance to the mails, and certainly not to the telegraph.

An opportunity presented itself in the person of Harrisburg activist John F. Williams, a mutual friend of both Bustill and Still. When he learned that Williams was making a trip to Philadelphia, Bustill asked his friend to hand deliver a letter to William Still at the Vigilance Committee office, detailing his plans for future operations. In the letter, Bustill revealed that the Harrisburg station would continue to send fugitive slaves directly to Philadelphia by way of Reading, with the understanding that William Still would then forward the fugitives to stations on the New York-Canada border by train.

Bustill preferred to use the Philadelphia and Reading line, and specifically a route that left Harrisburg at 1:30 a.m. and arrived at Philadelphia’s Broad and Callowhill Streets depot at 5:00 a.m. Referring to this late night run as the “Lightning Train,” Bustill, noted that he would send a telegram to Still’s office before the closing hour on any day that he intended to send fugitives by this route.

Prior to this, there are indications that Bustill had sent, or had planned to send, fugitives by train to an Underground Railroad operator in Auburn, New York, but as he noted in his letter, “as the traveling season has commenced and this is the southern route for Niagara Falls,” that option was too public for his tastes, “except in cases of great danger.”122

Notably, Bustill’s plan did not make use of the overland route depended upon by previous activists. No longer would arriving fugitives be guided by foot or taken by wagon to Swatara Township, then to Linglestown and points further north. This plan did two important things: It acknowledged the graying of the old guard, men such as Frederick Kelker, William Rutherford, Edward Bennett, and William Jones, and it recognized the speed with which Southern slaveholders were reacting to the escape of slaves.

During the time that William McAllister held the office of Slave Commissioner, he had, even if improperly, developed a network of informants to share information about arriving fugitive slaves with contacts in the South. This nascent reverse Underground Railroad network took advantage of both the telegraph and railroad lines to speed communication and travel between Harrisburg, Maryland, and Virginia. Harrisburg residents witnessed, in the years of McAllister’s reign as Commissioner, the spiriting of captured fugitive slaves out of town and back into slavery not by wagon, as had been the custom of slave catchers prior to this, but by train.

Although McAllister became ineffective after 1853, the network of anti-fugitive informers in Harrisburg remained active through the Civil War. Joseph Bustill, by making use of the telegraph and railroad in his operation, was merely fighting back with the technology available.

This did not mean that the Rutherfords, Kelkers, and other Underground Railroad activists located outside of the borough were cut out of the operation after 1856. All still remained a vital part of the network, although their role seems to have switched from actively forwarding fugitives to the hiding, support, and care of fugitives. The Rutherford Farms continued to be excellent locations to house arriving fugitive slaves who were not being hotly pursued. In some cases, fugitives remained either in town or on the outlying farms for extended periods, working as farm hands for their bed and board.

Joseph Bustill, in his letter to William Still that was hand delivered by John F. Williams, mentioned a woman that “has been here some time waiting for her child and her beau, which she expects here about the first of June.” That woman, in all likelihood, was Jane Johnson, aged twenty-two, who arrived at Still’s office along with another woman on 12 June. In his notes, Still recorded that Johnson "when in Harrisburg went by the name of Jane Wellington," and that she "was owned by David Beiller...who lived near Hagerstown."123 Bustill and his network found lodging for her somewhere in Harrisburg or the vicinity, while she waited for the arrival of her husband.

William W. Rutherford, for his part, continued to maintain an active political and social presence, through which he advocated and lobbied against the Fugitive Slave Law and in favor of abolitionist policies. There were also plenty of instances in which resourceful fugitive slaves managed to reach Harrisburg without having made contact with any Underground Railroad operators, found just enough aid to sustain themselves from local residents who were not a formal part of Bustill’s operation, and moved on by foot, continuing to follow the river or the mountains north, completely unknown to Bustill or his workers.

Four such fugitive slaves, who reached Harrisburg in late August or early September 1856 completely on their own, were fortunately turned over to Bustill’s care after they arrived in town and were sent by him to Philadelphia. George Solomon had been owned by Daniel Minor, of Moss Grove, Virginia; Benjamin R. Fletcher escaped from slaveholder Henry Martin in Washington DC; and Daniel Neal and Maria Dorsey, a widow, had both been owned by the grocer George Parker in Washington, DC. All four somehow became acquainted with each other in the national capital and together made plans for escape. They put their plan into action that summer and walked the entire distance from Washington to Harrisburg. After being taken in by Bustill’s activists in Harrisburg, the four were sent to William Still, who was able to forward them almost immediately to Canada.124

During the last week of December 1856, a cold and hungry Robert Brown, of Martinsburg, Virginia, bearing no supplies or possessions other than a photographic image and locks of hair from the family that was sold away from him a few weeks earlier, arrived in Harrisburg. Brown, like the four fugitives from Washington, DC, had been unable to make contact with any activists prior to his arrival in Harrisburg. He was taken in, fed, rested, and given medical attention until he was deemed well enough to travel, then forwarded by train to Philadelphia, arriving there late on New Years Day, 1857. Philadelphia agents were waiting at the Reading depot for him, having been alerted to Brown’s imminent arrival by a telegram from Joseph Bustill.125

These were the successes enjoyed by Joseph Bustill and the Harrisburg activists after local operations had been revived and updated for the times, but pro-Southern sympathizers and the foes of abolition remained very strong in central Pennsylvania, causing the local anti-slavery resistance to remain secretive and constantly on guard.

An incident in Carlisle showed just how impotent rescue operations could be in the face of a hostile local population. In the late summer or early fall of 1856, a party of fugitive slaves arrived in Carlisle, probably having been sent north from activists in the Quaker Valley region of Adams County. Waiting at Carlisle, however, were a group of slave catchers from Virginia, who arrested the fugitives and took them to the railroad station for the return trip south. At that point:

An attempt was made by the free negroes, and a few white men present, to ‘raise a row,’ but the United States Marshal was promptly in attendance and took them into custody. The Mayor of the town then addressed the crowd, and told them that these citizens of a sister State were there in pursuance of a law, recover their property, and that they must not be molested. The great majority of the audience heartily seconded his remarks, and declared that they would sustain him. After the investigation was had, and the slaves were proved and identified, the officers summoned a small posse to accompany them out of the State, and although there was a considerable crowd at the Marshal’s office at the time, they were passed through without the slightest disturbances.126


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113. Still, Underground Rail Road, 321.

114. Ibid., 322

115. Ibid., 323

116. Ibid. While newly settled in Canada, Otho Taylor made frequent requests to William Still for funds to finance his plan for a raid into Maryland to rescue additional family members. He even risked recapture in August 1856 by returning to the United States to visit Still at Philadelphia to make a personal appeal for funding. Still, however, had to disappoint the would-be raider “as but little encouragement could be held out to such projects” due not only to the inherent danger, but also to lack of funds “for this kind of work.” At some point, Otho Taylor settled in Harrisburg. He is found in post-Civil War city directories (1866, 1867-68 and 1869), living in Tanner’s Alley near Cranberry Alley, and is enumerated in the 1870 Census, living in the city’s Eight Ward. Bureau of the Census, 1870 Census, Harrisburg, Dauphin County, Pennsylvania.

117. Still, Underground Rail Road, 323. Regarding the relationship between the freedom seekers, William Still noted “What relations had previously existed between David and this lady in Virginia, the Committee knew not…The Underground Rail Road never practiced the proscription governing other roads, on account of race, color, or previous condition.” Additional details are from Vigilance Committee of Philadelphia, Journal C of Station No. 2, William Still, 1856 (hereafter Still Journal C), page 11, published online by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, (accessed 26 November 2009). This entry gives the date of arrival of Lewis, Mahoney and her daughter as June 3, whereas in his published book, Still gives the date of arrival as May 31.

118. Still, Underground Rail Road, 220; Still Journal C, 10. Again, Still’s journal gives slightly different details from the published book. In the journal, the six freedom seekers from Hagerstown arrived on June 3, 1856, rather than on May 31. The journal only notes George Dorsey as fighting with the white attackers, while the book includes Charles Bird as helping to defend the wagon.

119. Still, Underground Rail Road, 218. How Schaeffer got word that his slaves were being sent to Philadelphia by train is not known. Still’s account of the police officer’s story suggests that Joseph C. Bustill’s operation in Harrisburg was being closely monitored by someone in town who was opposed to his activities. This is not inconsistent with the political and social makeup of Harrisburg’s population during this period in history.

120. Ibid.

121. Ibid., 219.

122. Ibid., 323. The term “lightening train” indicates an express run. Bustill’s capitalization of the term is not necessarily significant. Because it stops at few stations between major towns, the train seems to have gotten its name from the speed with which it passes smaller stations, unlike a regular passenger or freight run, which stops at every station. In 1854, the New York Times reported that a lightning train from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, over the Pennsylvania Railroad lines, arrived in twelve and a half hours. New York Times, 10 July 1854.

123. Still Journal, vol. C, 285.

124. Ibid. It is possible all four slaves met at the grocery business of George Parker. George Parker (1800-1876) was, in partnership with his brother Thomas Parker, a leading grocer in Washington, DC, and his store, Parker & Company, Grocers, was located on the North Side of Pennsylvania Avenue, opposite Centre Market. His obituary notes “The Parker family were numbered in past years among the wealthy residents of the city and their entertainments were a feature in social circles.” The family home was a three story brownstone mansion built by Joseph B. Bryan in 1843 at the southeast corner of Four-and-One-Half and C Streets. “Death of Mr. George Parker,” Evening Star, 11 December 1876; Zevely, Old Houses on C Street, Columbia Historical Society, in “Interments in the Historic Congressional Cemetery,” Association for the Preservation of the Historic Congressional Cemetery, Washington, DC, (accessed 27 November 2009).

125. Still, Underground Rail Road, 121-122.

126. Liberator, 17 October 1856.


Caution: Copyrighted material. Published September 2010.

© 2010 George F. Nagle



This is the first in a series of books from the Afrolumens Project. Drawing on a large number of sources, and making good use of the treasure trove of information on the pages of the Afrolumens Project, this is the first truly comprehensive history of Harrisburg's African American community.

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