A Safe Resting Place

$100 Reward for runaway slaves

A safe resting place was of primary importance to escaping slaves. An uncertain future, the possibility of being discovered, caught and hung or beaten, then returned, haunted slaves on the run. Those traveling with their families could have found the experience even more magnified. So, a friendly face, a helpful hand, a meal, a safe resting place was a welcomed event.

As the Abolitionist Movement took hold, many people in Northern states began to allow escaped slaves to remain in spite of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which allowed escaped slaves as 'property' to be returned to their owner, and the federal government did not take any follow up action. Southern states began to interpret this as the government imposing control over their economy, and they began to rebel.

Escaping slave proposed routes

States that allowed escaped slaves to remain free were known as free states (shown in the above map in grey). Pennsylvania’s location on the border between free and slave states and its large free black and abolitionist population made it an important route on the Underground Railroad.

Slavery and Liberty

from the Narrative of the life of J. D. Green, a runaway slave, from Kentucky. Library of Congress, American Memory, www.memory.loc.gov

I'm on my way to Canada,
That dark and dreary land;
Oh! the dread effects of slavery
I can no longer stand.
My soul is vexed within me so
To think I am a slave,
Resolved I am to strike the blow,
For freedom or the grave.

Oh, Righteous Father!
Wilt thou not pity me,
And help me on to Canada,
Where coloured men are free.

I've served my master all my days,
Without one dimes reward,
And now I'm forced to run away,
To flee the lash and rod.
The h?unds are baying on my track,
And master just behind,
Resolved that he?ll bring me back
Before I cross the line.


Old master went to preach one day,
Next day he looked for me; I greased my hells and ran away,I greased my heels and ran away,
For the land of liberty.


I dreamt I saw the British Queen
Majestic on the shore;
If e'er I reach old Canada,
I will come back no more.


I heard that Queen Victoria said,
If we would all forsake
Our native land of Slavery,
And come across the lake:
That she was standing on the shore
With arms extended wide,
To give us all a peaceful home
Beyond the swelling tide.


I heard old master pray one night,
That night he prayed for me,
That God would come with all his might,
From Satan set me free.
So I from Satan would escape
And flee the wrath to come,
If there's a fiend in human shape,
Old master must be one.


                             Former home of F. Julius Lemoyne, Washington, Pennsylvania                      

The F. Julius LeMoyne House, a safe house stop or 'station' on the Underground Railroad, was the center of antislavery activity in southwestern Pennsylvania from the 1830s through the end of slavery. It is a historical landmark and the headquarters of the Washington County Historical Society.

Thomas Garrett and Harriett Tubman statue

Adjacent to the free state of Pennsylvania, Delaware also offered Underground Railroad stops for escaping slaves. One notable example is Wilmington's Friends Meeting House, (above left) a major overland East Coast stop. 

The Friends, also known as Quakers, is a theological diverse religious organization. During Civil War times, the Society of Friends opposed the abolitionist campaign for an immediate end to slavery. The Society also considered abolitionists within the church as heterodox radicals seeking to destroy civil and religious liberty, but many members supported abolition and assisted escaping slaves. Friend's member Thomas Garrett was known to be the 'stationmaster' and credited with assisting about 2,700 escaping slaves. The sculpture (above right) of Thomas Garrett and Harriet was dedicated October 3, 2012 in Wilmington, Delaware.

Many Underground Railroad locations recorded by the National Park Service are now designated registered historical landmarks.

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