The Stevens Museum at the John Hay Center is happy to announce the opening of our new display, said Washington County Historian Jeremy Elliott.
He said the display is in the main gallery and details the county’s involvement with the Underground Railroad.
“Assuredly, soon after the settling of this area, certain factions of our pioneers were assisting runaway slaves on their trek to freedom,” said Elliott. “Large groups of Quakers, Presbyterians and Methodist, along with others who held abolitionist views, migrated to this area expressly to withdrawal from the southern institution of slavery.”
Free black citizens and blacks who had been granted their freedom were also early pioneer settlers of this county and played a fundamental role in facilitating fugitives through the county’s UGRR.
The earliest report of a runaway slave in the area goes back to 1819. Undoubtedly, the little information we have gleaned about the clandestine operation of the UGRR in our county, would have actually went back another generation.
“Most of the information gathered over the operation and its participants was from the descendants of the active members, during its heyday, not the members themselves,” said Elliott.
Additionally, by the time stories/traditions began to publicly come out about the county’s operation, all of our former black citizens had relocated away from here, or were unjustly encouraged to leave the area. Their levels of involvement and activities in the operation were lost at an early date and are therefore poorly represented in the overall scheme.
“So by no means can we give a detailed accurate account of the UGRR operation in this county,” Elliott said. “Nor are we able to explicitly say that these were the only routes/station houses/conductors who participated, but we present everything there is to offer from what we know.”
He encourages everyone to plan to stop by to see the new edition to the museum’s impressive collection.