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The Underground Railroad

The  Underground Railroad was a network of people in the Northern states who helped slaves (before the Civil War) escape to freedom in Canada. One route ran from Cincinnati to Newport, (now Fountain City) Indiana, continuing northeast through Greenville, Ohio and on to either Sandusky or Toledo, Ohio. There were also people in the South who helped runaways with their flight to freedom.

This is the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City, Indiana. Many runaways were hidden in this house on their way to freedom in Canada.

I took this photo while on my book tour to Ohio and Indiana. The open doors lead down into the basement kitchen where the meals were prepared. The door to the right of the basement opening is where hundreds of slaves over a period of many years knocked for entrance. The second story window just above the open doors is a bedroom where the secret hiding place is located. Click on the word station below and it will take you to the Levi Coffin House web page. I believe you will find it most interesting.


Underground Railroad Facts

It is said that the Underground Railroad got its name in the year 1831. A runaway slave by the name of Tice Davids swam the Ohio River to the town of Ripley, Ohio. His owner got to the place where he walked out of the river, but could find no trace of him. He had vanished. The owner searched the riverbank and all through Ripley. He finally gave up and went home. His only answer to what happened was that the slave took an underground road. Since the steam engine train had been invented not long before, many folks began saying he took an underground train out of town.

The Underground Railroad was a secret way for slaves in the South before the Civil War to get through the Southern states into the North and on to Canada. Canada did not have slavery.

People that hid the slaves and moved them from place to place were called "agents", "railroad workers", "station masters" and "conductors".

The conductors and agents used many types of hiding places. Secret attic rooms, walls that would move revealing a secret room, trap doors to cellars, hidden tunnels, false bottoms in wagons, and there were many other places of refuge.

Secret codes were used on the Underground Railroad. Messages sometimes were sent ahead to the next station telling the agent "packages" would be arriving soon. A house with a quilt hanging out of an upstairs window meant it was safe to stop. Runaways hiding in the woods listened for tapping sounds from conductors. When they heard the tapping they knew it was safe to come out.

Runaways sometimes stayed at a conductor's home for several days or weeks, at other times only a few hours. It depended on how close the slave catchers were to catching them.

Many people did not work as conductors or agents, but gave other support. Some gave speeches saying slavery was wrong. Others made clothes for the runaways. For slaves arriving sick, medicine was provided by the local medical doctor, or sometimes an herb doctor.

Comments From Sarah's Fans

"I loved "Sarah's Wish" and the part when Sarah helped the runaway slave, Jim. Make more books.  -Kristin

"I learned a lot about slaves. I thank you for everything...I am inspired by you. Thank-you!!! -Kiara

"I love the character, Granny."  -Ashley


What Do You Think?

How many slaves escaped their masters?

How did a slave travel when escaping to the North?

Before the Civil War how many slaves were in America?

Who was William Still?

Did all people in the North believe slavery wrong?


Answers To The Questions


It is not known how many slaves escaped, but many think over 100,000.

Usually by walking at night and hiding in the daytime. Sometimes slaves went by boat, carriage, horseback, wagons, and sometimes on a real railroad.

Four Million

William Still was a free black man. He lived in Philadelphia and helped slaves escape to freedom. After the Civil War he published a book telling of the brave men, women and children who ran from their masters in the South to freedom in the North and Canada.

Many people in the North would have kept slaves if it were legal. Many did help the slave catchers find runaways and send them back to slavery.