Digital Collections -> Pathfinders -> Many Roads to Freedom -> Underground Railroad

MANY ROADS TO FREEDOM:
THE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD IN ROCHESTER AND VICINITY

The Underground Railroad began operating in earnest in the 1830s in Rochester and vicinity. Both black and white people managed the railroad, as well as people of different denominations. The Quakers Isaac and Amy Post probably helped the greatest number of runaway slaves, followed by Presbyterians Samuel D. Porter and his sister Maria. Certain members of the founding Fitzhugh family were involved in helping the cause financially and politically. Elizabeth Potts Fitzhugh married James G. Birney, who became the Liberty Party candidate for president (1840 and 1844). Her sister, Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, was the wife of famed abolitionist and Congressman Gerrit Smith. A third sister, Mary E. Fitzhugh, was married to John Talman, a banker who owned the Talman Building in which Frederick Douglass was to begin his North Star. Talman also gave abolitionist speeches.

When Frederick Douglass moved to Rochester in 1847 to begin his abolitionist newspaper, he became one of the prime "stationmasters" on the railroad. Both his home and office were used as stations. The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church was a stop. William Clough Bloss' home (located where today's Cutler Building is) is also said to have been a stop. Several other local places were probably stops, but here the picture gets murky, as documentation proving a location's use as a stop is hard to find. There are disagreements among scholars and researchers, and the lists of stops can vary greatly.

When the Fugitive Slave Law was enacted in 1850, the penalties for helping runaways and for runaways who were captured were sharply increased, but still the work went on.

Here are some reminiscences you can read:

A Few Leaves from the Diary of an Underground Railroad [pdf, 7.83 MB], by William S. Falls, from the Democrat & Chronicle of June 12, 1881. This article also contains a long obituary of Amy Post with descriptions of her work on the Underground Railroad.

A Reminiscence of Anti-Slavery Days [pdf, 553 KB], by Horace McGuire, read before the Rochester Historical Society, October 27, 1916.

Here are some pictures of probable and likely stops in this area:
 

CITY OF ROCHESTER

African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

Location: Favor Street, Rochester

Said to have contained a trap door by the pulpit and escape tunnels leading to Plymouth Avenue and the Genesee River

Asa Anthony House

Location: 446 Post Avenue, Rochester

Asa Anthony, a cousin of Susan B. Anthony, was a founding member of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society.

Photo appeared in the Times Union in 1936; Copyrighted by the Democrat & Chronicle and reprinted here courtesy of the D & C
http://www.rochesterdandc.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

Frederick Douglass House

Location: 4 Alexander Street, Rochester

This was one of several places Douglass lived in Rochester. All were stops on the Underground Railroad. This house was demolished in the 1900s. The later Douglass home on South Avenue was destroyed by fire in 1872.

Photo appeared in the Times Union in 1936; Copyrighted by the Democrat & Chronicle and reprinted here courtesy of the D & C
http://www.rochesterdandc.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

Frederick Douglass' North Star newspaper office

Location: Tallman Building, Main Street, Rochester

In 1859, Harriet Brent Jacobs opened an abolitionist reading room here.

George Harvey Humphrey House

Location:669 Genesee Street, Rochester

This house (now demolished) is said to have had a tunnel and various secret places.

Photo appeared in the Times Union in 1936; Copyrighted by the Democrat & Chronicle and reprinted here courtesy of the D & C
http://www.rochesterdandc.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

Edmund Miller Harness Shop

Location: 61 Spring Street, Rochester

This building was identified as a station in the Rochester Times-Union, March 10, 1950.

Samuel D. Porter House (center building)

Location: Fitzhugh Street, Rochester

This is one of several residences used by Porter in Rochester. He was corresponding secretary of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society.



Isaac and Amy Post House -- Exterior view, Interior view of parlor

Location: Plymouth Ave., Rochester

The Posts were both founding members of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society. In the 1840s they came under the influence of Spiritualism and the Fox sisters.

Saxon Apartments (view of hiding place)

Location: 59 South Sophia Street, Rochester

This building was used as a boarding house in the 1840s, and was later owned by Dr. Harvey Montgomery. Several people may have housed runaways here.

Photo appeared in the Times Union in 1936; Copyrighted by the Democrat & Chronicle and reprinted here courtesy of the D & C http://www.rochesterdandc.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

OTHER MONROE COUNTY LOCATIONS

BRIGHTON

 

Thomas Warrant Homestead

Location: 1956 West Henrietta Road, Brighton

Thomas Warrant was a founder of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society. Slaves may have traveled from this house to Frederick Douglass' home.

Photo appeared in the Times Union in 1936; Copyrighted by the Democrat & Chronicle and reprinted here courtesy of the D & C http://www.rochesterdandc.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

GREECE

 

G.C. Latta House

Location: Lake Avenue and Latta Road, Charlotte (Greece)

The Latta family is said to have hidden escaped slaves in their cellar before the fugitives could board ships on the Genesee River or Lake Ontario.

Quinby House

Location: Clover Street, Mendon

Rev. Henry Quinby was a Hicksite Quaker who was also a founder of the Rochester Anti-Slavery Society.

Photo appeared in the Times Union in 1936; Copyrighted by the Democrat & Chronicle and reprinted here courtesy of the D & C http://www.rochesterdandc.com/apps/pbcs.dll/frontpage

HILTON

 

Gideon Archer Homestead

Location: 286 South Avenue, Hilton

Gideon and Mary Archer are said to have taken slaves to Walter Vond of Parma, who then rowed them to freedom in Canada.

PERINTON

 

Gideon and Jeremiah Ramsdell House

Location 173 Mason Road, Perinton

Gideon Ramsdell was a Quaker. This house is said to be a station.

Isaac Talman House

Location: 2187 Whitney Road, Perinton

Isaac Talman (or Tallman) House. A location operated by Isaac Tallman and his family.

Talman/Butler House

Location: 2381 Whitney Road, Perinton

This house was built by Darius Tallman, a son of Isaac Tallman (see above). It is considered a possible stop on the Railroad.

PITTSFORD

 

Hargous-Briggs House (Ashley Sampson)

Location: 52 S. Main Street,  Pittsford

This home was occupied from the 1820s by Judge Ashley Sampson, reportedly an ardent abolitionist.

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

SOME OTHER LOCATIONS IN THE FINGER LAKES REGION OF WESTERN NEW YORK

"Cobblestone Farm"

3402 West Lake Road, Town of Canandaigua

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

Cobblestone-Ferry Farm

Lower Lake Road, Bridgeport (Seneca County)

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

Alfred B. Field House

104 Gibson Street, Canandaigua

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

Fisher Homestead

Main Street, Fishers, Town of Victor, Ontario County

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

James Harland House

Route 21, Town of Manchester

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

Pitts Mansion

Route 20-A (Main St.), Honeoye, Town of Richmond, Ontario County

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

Isaac Trembley Farm

County Road 12, South Bristol

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian

Van Houten House

20 Pulteney Street, Geneva

Photo courtesy of the Ontario County Historian