Historic Talk

“Williamsport in the Underground Railroad”
Speaker: Karen Frock
Friday, November 17, 2017

6:00 PM
Thomas T. Taber Museum
858 West Fourth Street
Williamsport, PA 17701
Saturday, November 18th, 2017
9Am – 12PM
James V. Brown Library Rotunda
19 E 4th St.
Williamsport, PA 17701

Williamsport’s Part in The Underground Railroad


This year’s Victorian Christmas events offer an educational focus on the Underground Railroad (UGRR), including special lectures and a visit to historic Freedom Road cemetery. Long before it became known as the UGRR, people of different races, religions, and walks of life worked together here to help others escape from slavery.

As local residents went about their daily lives, nearby, in barns, homes, caves, underbrush, and outbuildings, people on their way to freedom lay hidden: resting, being fed, recovering from wounds. Those helping included members of African Methodist Episcopal and AME Zion churches, Quakers, Wesleyan Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, and  Dunkards; research continues into potential Jewish, German Lutheran and Reformed, and other participants. Local hostility to abolitionists included violence against anti-slavery speakers. Nevertheless, conspirators continued assisting runaways.

Some who arrived here remained in Williamsport and the region. After the second Fugitive Slave Act (1850) many went to Canada for safety. Slavecatchers pursued their prey all the way to the Canadian border, at least once searching the home of Daniel and Annie Hughes, a UGRR “station” in what is now called Freedom Road, failing to find a woman and sick children hidden there. One slaveowner came to Williamsport by canal boat, caught a glimpse of his “property” who had ventured out of her hiding place during daylight, and gave chase. The terrified woman ducked into a nearby barn, witnessed by UGRR agent Abraham Updegraff. After darkness, she and her family were forwarded to the Freedom Road conductors, who saw them safely beyond the grasp of their pursuers.

In 1870, when the 15th Amendment allowed black American men to vote, Williamsport celebrated, and UGRR agents, both black and white, rode together in the parade – openly visible at last. ~Karen L. Frock, 2017

Download our 2017 Victorian Christmas Freedom Road Brochure 2017

Download our 2017 Victorian Christmas Map