Massachusetts February 24, 2018
6 Incredible Places Around Massachusetts That Were Once Part Of The Underground Railroad
The underground railroad was a string of safe houses that extended from the American south all the way to Canada. It provided escaped slaves a means of reaching freedom in the north, especially after the Fugitive Slave Acts were passed in 1793 and 1850.
These incredible places in Massachusetts were stops on the underground railroad, sheltering runaway slaves on their way to freedom.
1. Liberty Farm, Worcester
The aptly named Liberty Farm was purchased by Abby Kelley and her husband Stephen Symonds Foster in 1847. They felt so strongly about women’s rights that they refused to pay annual taxes on their home until Abbey gained the right to vote. Each time the government seized the home for unpaid taxes, friends and neighbours would buy the home together and give it back to the Fosters. The couple sheltered many slaves on their way to resettle in Canada.
The couple also toured the country promoting a variety of human rights and social issues, abolitionism among them.
2. Jackson Homestead, Newton
This large home in Newton was built in 1809 by Revolutionary War veteran Timothy Jackson. He passed the house to his son William, who regularly sheltered slaves and abolitionist workers in his home. William’s daughter Ellen was witness to many of the comings and goings, and continued to volunteer at local charities and abolitionist causes even when the family could no longer afford to shelter slaves after William’s death in 1855.
3. The Wayside, Concord
Not to be confused with the Wayside Inn, this historic home was once home to "Little Women" author Louisa May Alcott, as well as children’s writer Margaret Sidney and novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne. The Alcotts sheltered numerous slaves under their roof, though the exact number isn’t known due to the secrecy necessary in running the underground railroad. The house is now open to the public as part of Minute Man National Historic Park and seasonal guided tours are available.
4. Ross Farm, Northampton
This yellow farmhouse in Northampton was a busy stop on the underground railroad. Samuel Hill first opened his home’s doors to runaway slaves in the early 19th century before selling it to Abel Row in 1849, who then sold it to his nephew. All were abolitionists who helped escaped slaves find work and passage to Canada.
5. Williams Ingersoll Bowditch House, Brookline
This small cottage home in Brookline was a bustling stop on the underground railroad. It was built in 1844 and belonged to William Ingersoll Bowditch, a local selectman and staunch abolitionist. Along with escaped slaves, the home provided sanctuary for the son of abolitionist John Brown after his father’s execution. John Brown was put to death after conducting a botched raid on Harper’s Ferry in Virginia.
6. The Hayden House, Boston
This Boston home is one of the most well-documented stops on the underground railroad. It was actually owned by former slave Lewis Hayden, who escaped with his wife Harriet and turned their new home into boarding house. They sheltered escaped slaves in the 1850s and throughout the Civil War. When slave catchers turned up at their door, the Haydens said that they would blow the entire home up with gunpowder if the men attempted to take any escapees back with them. The hunters left the city without their quarry.
There’s so much history hidden in plain sight here. You should also check out
this abandoned 1950s neighborhood in Massachusetts.