Some Interesting Quaker Roots Threads
The Underground Railroad
Date: Sat, 27 Dec 1997 11:39:29 -0800
Will someone please tell me when the Underground Railroad for escaping slaves was started? A relative supposedly worked in this movement but his death was in 1847. Was it active before that date? Thank you.
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 1997 13:52:11 -0600
The most authoritative source I have on the subject is the Douglass Autobiographies Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave (originally published 1845); My Bondage and My Freedom (originally published 1855); Life and Times of Frederick Douglass (originally published 1893) by Frederick Douglass. Frederick Douglass was his Freeman name. He was the son of Harriet Bailey, d/o Isaac and Betsey Bailey, and a white man whose identity was never known. Frederick Douglass was born in MD.
As you read Mr. Douglass' work, you will learn that the Underground Railroad existed for many years before his escape to freedom. In his slave life, Mr. Douglass originally was the obedient, compliant slave, not wishing to upset any of his masters in any manner. One day, he had a master whose wife decided that he should be taught to read and write. When her husband learned of these lessons, he became outraged and demanded that they be terminated immediately because educating a slave was to cause slavery unrest and a demand for freedom. As a slave, he felt that he would never become that way even if he were educated because he always wished to please his masters. However, the school lessons ceased.
He later came in contact with white youth who were willing to build upon the basics that had already been taught and thus, teach him to read and write. Once the slave mastered reading, he realized that his master was quite correct in his tirade. The US Constitution spelled out equality and freedom for all. He, then, questioned why this did not exist for the slaves.
Eventually, he, too, partook of the benefits that the Underground Railroad offered the slaves. Once freed and with a new name, he was a popular speaker at abolitionist meetings in the North. Taken by his educated ability to speak, he was encouraged to write about his life so that more whites could become aware of the conditions of bondage and disparity that existed for Southern blacks and Northern blacks, as well as whites in this country.
The first two volumes were read by Abraham Lincoln and strongly influenced his decision to write the Emancipation Proclamation. His decision was backed by the Union States who were in agreement with the need to end this disparity of existence between the slave blacks and freemen as well as whites concomitant with the Civil War.
This 3 vol. work was republished and printed in one vol. (and recopyrighted) in 1994 by the Library Classics of the United States, Inc., New York, N.Y., ISBN 0-940450-79-8; Library of Congress Catalog Number 93-24168. I obtained my copy through the History Book Club. It is well worth reading and represents a critical part of the US history, demonstrating the disparate views of Northerners and Southerners during the slavery years.
I highly recommend it. It is especially critical for any us whose ancestors were active members of the Underground Railroad.
Julie Sones Molek
Date: Sat, 27 Dec 1997 13:11:58 -0800 (PST)
The following web site provides a fairly detailed history of the Underground Railroad:
And yes, it was active prior to 1847.
Date: Sun, 28 Dec 1997 08:58:52 -0800 (PST
check the web site http://www.undergroundrailroad.com
Date: Sun, 28 Dec 1997 13:39:09 -0500
From: Stu_Hotchkiss@mlsonline.com (Stu Hotchkiss)
I have checked a number of resources and nowhere did I find a definitive date for the Underground Railroad. The reason is that initially the activity was sporadic and unorganized. Generally it began about 1830, and spread northward predominantly through Pennsylvania, Ohio and New York.
Arch Merrill of Rochester, NY, in his book "The Underground, Freedom's Road and Other Upstate Tales" (1963) states, "The Underground Railroad was the name given a vast, silent conspiracy, conceived and operated by humanitarians who defied a law of the land because they believed it violated the inherent right of human beings to be free". He relates the following: "Around 1831 a Negro slave fled a Kentucky plantation and, leaping into the Ohio River, began swimming toward the Ohio shore. His master gave chase in a boat. He watched his property wade ashore to the freedom-loving Ohio town of Ripley. There all trace of him was lost. The planter never saw his slave again. The Kentuckian scratched his head and in his perplexity uttered a phrase, which was to live in history: 'He must have gone on an underground road.' The name caught on and because the first American steam railroad had just been completed (1830), it was twisted into 'the Underground Railroad.'
"But long before that, slaves were running away from their masters and finding sanctuary in Northern centers. As early as 1786 a Virginia planter of some military renown complained, after the escape of a slave from his estate and a neighbor's similar loss, that an organization of Philadelphia Quakers was sheltering runaway Negroes. The irate planter was George Washington."
There are numerous stories on the subject, not to mention books. "Sweet gift of Freedom: A Civil War Anthology" by Shirley Cox Husted (1986) devotes three chapters to the subject. Husted identified 56 "operators", the name given to those who harbored runaway slaves, in Monroe county, NY alone. 37 of these lived in the city of Rochester, NY. She found references to another 40 in the county, but could not fully document their "stations". In the early years there was only a trickle of fugitives passing through Monroe county, but between 1850 and 1860 there were more nearly 300 a year. This increase was a direct consequence of passage of the fugitive slave bill of 1850.
I live about 6 miles from Lake Ontario, NY. There are several "stations" within a mile or so from my home. In one of these can still be seen the secret room where fugitives were hidden while they waited for a ship that could carry them 60 miles across the lake to safety in Canada.
Date: Mon, 29 Dec 1997 06:11:06 -0800
It's hard to say when it started. Slaves fled their masters from the beginning of slavery in North America. Certainly someone who died in 1847 could have been involved, as it was flourishing by the 1820s.
Date: Sat, 7 Feb 1998 18:36:39 -0600 (CST)
On 02/07/98 15:23:28 you wrote:
My family was heavily involved with the underground railway, manning at least 4 stations. I cannot remember all the details off the top of my head, but certainly can contribute.
1. Levi Coffin, one of the most famous people enveloped with the underground railway, and a staunch Quaker, married my 3C6R Katharine White. There is so much written about his activities that I won't try to include them here. Levi was born 10/28/1798 at New Garden MM, Guilford Co, North Carolina, to Levi Coffin and Prudence Williams.
He married 10/28/1824 at Hopewell MM, Guilford Co, North Carolina to Katharine White, dt of Stanton White and Sarah Stanley.(Stanton is the son of Isaac White and Catherine Stanton. Isaac White is the son of Henry White, III and Ruth Keaton, and she is the daughter of Henry Keaton, my 8th GG Father.) In any case, you should have no trouble finding material about his activities.
2. My 4th GG Father, William Bundy Sr, was born 1 Jan 1780 in Pasquotank, Co, North Carolina and married Sarah Overman, born 16 Mar 1786 at Contentnea MM, Wayne Co, North Carolina. The new family moved to Ohio in 1806 where 10 of their 11 children were born in Belmont Co. (Stillwater MM). William Sr. died in 1828 but the family continued to prosper there. They had a good farm not too far from Barnesville, and also not too far from the Ohio River. Slaves escaping northward, would often come up to the section of Virginia opposite this portion of Ohio (now West Virginia) and would cross the river under cover of darkness. The Bundy farm was usually the first stop on their way northward. The family had very strong anti-slavery beliefs. When the group of slaves was brought to them, the Bundy family would hide them in the farm buildings, usually the hay mow, and would feed and care for them while they waited for an appropriate time to proceed further, sometimes as long as two or three weeks.
This was an area filled with slave catchers, since the US laws favored the return of slaves, even from free states. Slaves were considered lawful property, even in the North. Large bounties were paid for their return to the South. Thus anyone participating in this process of aiding their escape was considered a lawbreaker and could be prosecuted severely for their actions, with heavy fines and jail or prison time as a result. It was not for the weak at heart. William Bundy, Jr. (8/8/1819) acted as a conductor, taking the group on to the next station further north, usually in the Salem area (Columbiana Co). He made the trip many times, sometimes with a few and sometime with a larger group. The area had to be scouted to make sure that they would not be taken by surprise by bounty hunters. On one occasion the dreaded thing happened. The weather was quite stormy and overcast, good conditions for such a trip.
It was a Sunday evening and all was quiet. "Black Bill" Bundy, as he was called, had left the family farm with a group of slaves, several of whom belonged to a single family. They made their way quietly in the dark up the road through town. As fate would have it, the evening church service at the Ebinezer Baptist Church had been held and the congregation had stayed on to wait out the storm. Just as the group of slaves was passing the church, the lights all went on and the congregation streamed out, with the group of fugitives in plain sight. "Black Bill" thought for sure he had had it, with so many witnesses to this unlawful act. But no one seemed to take notice and they all left the group to continue on their trip. When he returned from his trip north, he expected to be arrested, but nothing happened. Apparently he and his family were so well regarded by the community that no one would turn them in, even for the reward money.
Every time I hear this story or tell it again, I get tears in my eyes thinking about these great people that I am lucky enough to descend from. It is a great Heritage we share, fellow Quaker descendants!
3. and 4. Will have to wait until I can find them again among my 8000 families. But I am sure others here will supply you with additional material.
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 1998 23:08:26 -0500
There's a marvelous little book I read several months ago called, "His Promised Land," about John P. Parker, a black abolitionist, and former slave. He lived much of his life in Ripley, Ohio, and claims to have seen the incident told by Harriet Beecher Stowe in "Uncle Tom's Cabin," of Eliza crossing the frozen Ohio river with her baby. The book is actually a manuscript of an interview with Parker. The editor of the volume say in a footnote that Parker couldn't have actually seen this incident because he was not yet in Ripley. Regardless of that particular passage, the book is fascinating for the glimpses it gives about the nature of American slavery and the fight against it. Parker was a conductor on the UGRR and a very active abolitionist. I'll tell you more, if interested.
From: email@example.com (Murray McCombs)
Has anyone read the "Escape from Slavery - Underground Railway" article from the National Geographic, Vol.168, No1 July 1984?
Reference is made to Surnames "RANKIN, COFFIN", in southwestern Ohio. apparently Oberlin, in North central Ohio, were anti-slavery.
Episodes from this area and era were drawn upon, in Harriet Beecher Stowe's character of Eliza Harris in "Uncle Tom's Cabin."
Does anyone have other references, books for the Underground Railway to Canada?
Date: Sun, 08 Feb 1998 20:56:35 -0600
I've seen a fair amount of requests for information re: the Underground Railway so I went out surfing tonight. Found a couple of great sites for those interested to check out:
The North Star: Tracing the Underground Railroad
This site is wholly devoted to information on the Underground Railroad. There is a good deal of info out there already, and it appears they add to it frequently. On the North Star is a section called the Reading Room. There is a bibliography and online books. The URL for the bibliography is:
Date: Mon, 9 Feb 1998 06:20:29 -0800
The two books I'd recommend: Wilbur H. Siebert, THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD (MacMillan, 1898); Larry Gara, THE LIBERTY LINE (University Press of Kentucky, 1961; recently reissued). Siebert includes lots of names of individuals. Gara is more critical.
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