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The Underground Railroad in
New York State

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 NY Panorama Map

1. Map of Tribeca around time David Ruggles was a station master there. Original is from a collection in the Library of Congress.

Guide Board
4. Guide Board with secret code telling fugitives how to reach Lake Ontario.

Myers House
5. The Myers Home on Lumber Street (now Livingston) in Albany

John Sands House
6. John Sands "Safe House" in Peekskill

John W. Jones House
8. John W. Jones home in Elmira, now under restoration for a new museum.

  Freedom Trail of Oswego County
9. This sign outside the Bristol Congregational Church in Volney marks an important station of the underground railroad in Oswego County.

Howland Stone House
11. Howland Slocum Store, a place of safety in the middle of the Finger Lakes.

Douglass Plaque
13. Site of Frederick Douglass's Home in Highland Park, Rochester

McClew Barn

14. The McClew Farm (now Murphy Orchards), a nationally-recognized UGRR station in eastern Niagara County. On the left is an entranceway to a hidden cellar.

Lewiston  Church
15. First Presbyterian Church in Lewiston is just a short walk from the Niagara River and a boat ride to Canada.

Well-documented stations of the Underground Railroad

The Thomas Root Home in Pekin (Upper Mountain Road in Niagara County) is pictured at the top left of this page. It is one of several sites on the Underground Railroad that has sufficient documentation to support its role in the illegal system of "slave-stealing."  Perhaps Freedom Seekers (fugitives) spent only a few hours here. They might have rested here for days. But they didn't have far to go for freedom. The crossings on the Niagara River are only a few miles to the west. Then they would be in Canaan, the Promised Land of Canada.

As explained on the previous page, New's York's long border with Canada made it an important way station on the Underground Railroad. Usually fugitives came to New York City via Philadelphia. Then they found their way (with assistance, usually) up to the Hudson River. From there they often went west along the Erie Canal towards the ports on Lake Ontario or the Niagara Country. Or they might have moved up the Champlain Valley into Quebec or across the St. Lawrence River into Canada West (Ontario Province). There is also good evidence that many Freedom Seekers came up the Susquehanna Valley from Central Pennsylvania. That means that the Souther Tier and the Finger Lakes Region had important stations, too. Sometimes, when it was too dangerous to cross into Canada at Detroit, the runaways were sent along Lake Erie's shore into Western New York. This kept agents like Eber Pettit of Fredonia/ Versailles very busy.

It is often difficult separating history from mythology when it comes the Underground Railroad.  It sometimes seems that every house dating from the 19th century had some kind a hidden passageway, or a fake attic to protect Freedom Seekers from capture. Of course, there probably were no more a handful of "safe houses" in most towns, maybe less. And, since they faced serious fines and jail time for assisting fugitives, most stationmasters never kept records. What we know about these places often comes from interviews with family members or neighbors who were young children at the time.

Freedom Map

Here are some of the most most well-documented sites on the Underground Railroad in New York State:

1. David Ruggle's Home (TriBeCa - Manhattan): David Ruggle is perhaps one of the most forgotton black warriors against slavery. He helped perhaps one thousand Freedom Seekers escape to more safe communities in Upstate New York and Canada during the 1830s. The most famous fugitive to seek shelter in his home on Lispernard Street (long demolished) was Fred Bailey, known to us all as Frederick Douglass.

2. Lafayette Street Baptist Church (Brooklyn): This African-American Church on Oxford Street was a known safe house for fugitives even when slavery was still legal in New York. From there, Freedom Seekers were often sent to other black or Quaker communities in the Hudson Valley.

3. Samuel Keese Smith House (Peru - Clinton County): There has recently been a resurgence of interest in the Underground Railroad in the North Country, thanks partly to the work of Tom Calarco. Also, Addie Shields, Historian of Clinton County, has provided us with incredible information about stations, black and white near the shores of Lake Champlain. One definite site was the home of Samuel Keese Smith a few miles south of Plattsburgh.

4. Old Stone Library (Fort Ann - Washington County): Tom Calarco has also written about the secret railroad in Washington County. Runaways were most certainly sheltered in Fort Ann in what is now the Old Stone Library. Nearby in Vaughn Corners is a cryptic sign that not only directs people to Fort Ann, but seems to give directions to a port on Lake Champlain. Very curious.

5. Stephen and Harriet Myers Home (Albany): Thanks to tireless research by the husband-wife team of Mary Liz and Paul Stewart, this very important station in the Capital District has been rediscovered and recognized as part of the Freedom Trail. The Myers (African-Americans) not only helped Freedom Seekers on their journeys, but they were leaders in the Albany Vigilance Committee.

6. John Sands House (Peekskill - Westchester County): Peekskill has a very fascinating history in regards to the Underground Railroad. Near McGregory Brook that flows through town to the Hudson is the A.M.E. Zion Church and John Sands Home on Main Street. There is also a tunnel nearby that might have concealed fugitives until they could be moved elsewhere. This seems to indicate that there was a close alliance between the black and white communities not only in Peekskill, but also throughout the state.

7. Catherine Harris Home (Jamestown): This gentle black lady quietly assisted hundreds of Freedom Seekers who came to Chautauqua County from Pennsylvania or Ohio. A small black community called "Africa" existed on 7th Street. Such communities like this are being "rediscovered" as new research on the Underground Railroad is being carried out.

8. John W. Jones House (Elmira): We are greatly pleased to read that the long abandoned home of John W. Jones, one of the most creative agents on the "railroad" is being restored into a museum in Elmira. He did this dangerous work knowing full well the consequences that the Fugitive Slave Law could rain down on him as a black man. In Elmira, the real railroad was used extensively, as Freedom Seekers were hidden in baggage cars and sent on to Niagara.

9. Bristol Congregational Church (Volney - Oswego County): Under the leadership of Prof. Judith Wellman of SUNY Oswego extensive scholarly research has been done about the stations of the Underground Railroad in Central New York. The historic Bristol Congregational Church sits on Route 3 a few miles east of Fulton. It had a surprising number of African-American members, and it seemed that the whole hamlet was anti-slavery. It is part of the Oswego County Freedom Trail. Other stations of note are in and around the city of Oswego and the village of Mexico.

10. Wesleyan Methodist Church (Syracuse): Around the corner from the Onondaga Historical Society, which now has an outstanding exhibit on the anti-slavery movement in Syracuse, is a small church where fugitives were hid until they could be passed on to Oswego or Rochester. One of the leaders of the abolition cause in Syracuse was Rev. Jermain Loguen, himself a fugitive from Tennesee.

11. Howland Slocum Store (Sherwood - Cayuga County): Isolated high above Cayuga Lake is the small crossroads of Sherwood, near Aurora. Here are a few sites important to the Underground Railroad in the Finger Lakes Region. Slocum quietly assisted many fugitives as they made their way north from the Susquehanna Valley through Ithaca and perhaps on to the Wayne County Route leading to....

12. Captain Horatio Throop House (Pultneyville - Wayne County): There are definitely several UGRR stations along Route 21 in Wayne County. Freedom Seekers were frequently sent to the small lake port of Pultneyville, especially to the home of Samuel Cuyler in what-is-now Forman Park. He often took the runaways to Captain Throop's boats for the last leg of the journey to freedom. His beautiful cobblestone home is right on the lake front.

13. Frederick Douglass Home (Rochester): Around thirty miles to the west is the state's third largest city, Rochester. It was definitely a hotbed of social causes - abolition, temperance, spiritualism, and women's rights (Susan B. Anthony lived here). "Frederick the Great" was not only a tireless speaker and writer for the freedom of his people, but he also was a major stationmaster in the Genesee Country. Often he would personally escort fugitives to the docks at Kelsey Landing, where they would sail off to Canada. Douglass's home, sadly, was burned down after the Civil War, but this champion of liberty is buried nearby in Mt. Hope Cemetery.

14. McClew Farm (Burt - Niagara County): Not surprisingly, Niagara County was very important to the clandestine highway of freedom, since it borders on Canada. There are probably a dozen good sites still remaining, including a farm now owned by Carol Murphy near the lake town of Olcott. The McClew Family sheltered runaways in their barn, and probably in a secret cellar below the barn. If you visit Murphy Orchards, request to see their own video about the underground railroad in Western New York. It is very well done.

15. First Presbyterian Church (Lewiston - Niagara County): Sitting near the banks of the mighty Niagara River, seven miles downstream from the Falls, is the historic village of Lewiston. Here the river is navigable, so it is not surprising that many enslaved people took their last "steps" to freedom by boat across the river here. If the slave-catchers were out in force they were often hidden in this church until the pressure subsided.

Do you feel neglected? Is your favorite local station being ignored?
Please don't be offended. We tried to get a good cross-section from the entire state. We will be changing this page periodically. If you have reliable information about a safe house on the Freedom Road, send us an email:

We are especially interested in stations in the Mohawk Valley and the I-88 corridor.

Click here to see a map showing the distribution of known or possible stations of the Underground Railroad in New York State.

UGRR Stations

Station Map of Underground Railroad in NYS

While looking over the map, try to use your geographer's eye to see if there are any patterns. Where are these stations concentrated? Is there any correlation to natural streams, canals and railroads to the location of stations?

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