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Historical ties proven: Thaddeus
Stevens' Lancaster home was on Underground Railroad
Read more: http://articles.lancasteronline.com/local/4/372705#ixzz1J82xYxas
NEWS RELEASE – April 7,
Contact: Thomas R. Ryan, Ph.D. 717-392-4633
Sheri Jackson, Northeast Regional Manager,
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, Philadelphia 215-597-7050
Randolph Harris 717-808-2941
Thaddeus Stevens Home and Office, Lancaster, PA designated
authentic site by
National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
With additional documentation of U.S. Congressman Thaddeus Stevens’ role
as a supporter of African Americans seeking freedom from slavery, the
National Park Service on Wednesday in Wilmington, NC, approved the Stevens
office at 45 South Queen Street in Lancaster as an authentic site in
the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program.
During the summer of 1848, Lancaster attorney Thaddeus Stevens (1792-1868),
at his property at 45-47 South Queen Street, assisted several freedom seekers
from Maryland, guiding the group seven miles east to the next Underground
This group of some 16 men had escaped enslavement from Maryland three days
before. They were being tracked by bounty hunters hired by the family from
whose property they fled. At great personal and professional risk, Stevens,
just weeks from entering his first campaign for the U.S. House of Representatives,
gave the former slaves a note and instructions on how to get to the farm
of his friends and fellow Underground Railroad operatives, Daniel and Hannah
Gibbons whose farm was at the Village of Bird-In-Hand.
Historians describe the Gibbons
as the most active Underground Railroad “stationmasters” in
Lancaster County. By most authoritative accounts, they helped nearly
1000 freedom seekers over the years of peak operations of the Underground.
his 20-plus year residency at 45 South Queen Street, until his death
in 1868, Stevens is likely to have sent many others seeking freedom to
Gibbons Farm, in addition to the group he helped on August 23, 1848.
The previous year, 1847,
while he was a well-known attorney at this location, Stevens paid agents
to infiltrate the ranks of slave catchers operating in Lancaster
County. He thwarted their plans by alerting Underground Railroad activists before the bounty hunters arrived to capture
Also in the late 1840s and 1850s,
Stevens’ Caledonia Iron Works in
Franklin County, PA provided
employment and support for African Americans through the agency of his
superintendent and other
Underground Railroad operatives in Franklin and Adams Counties.
As Lancaster County’s
U.S. Congressman, Stevens served as co-counsel to defendants charged with treason in connection with the Christiana Resistance, which occurred
on September 11, 1851. This tragic incident is described in historical
accounts as one of the flashpoints that led to the Civil War.
While serving as Lancaster County’s member of Congress, Stevens was
an avowed Abolitionist and Constitutional scholar, playing key roles enacting
major civil rights Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The “Old Commoner” was
one of the prime movers of Reconstruction and the leading advocate for
the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson, whom he regarded as too lenient
towards the rebellious South.
The Stevens Home and Office is
owned by the Lancaster County Convention Center Authority and is now under
lease for long-term development, preservation
and use by LancasterHistory.org -- Lancaster County’s Historical Society
and President James Buchanan’s Wheatland.
“We are delighted by this national designation and believe it adds
tremendously to our efforts to tell the Stevens story,” said Thomas
R. Ryan, Ph.D., president and CEO of LancasterHistory.org.
The National Underground Railroad
Network to Freedom is the nation’s
official register of sites, programs and facilities associated with the
Underground Railroad. There are approximately 400 properties or programs
in the Network, of which 50 are in Pennsylvania. There are seven overall
Network to Freedom resources in Lancaster County and nine in the Commonwealth
that are associated with Thaddeus Stevens.*
For sites to be accepted
into the Network, applications for properties generally must demonstrate
through at least two reliable sources that
freedom seekers were given shelter or some kind of important assistance
flight to freedom.
One of the primary
goals of the program is to direct public attention and possibly support
to the site owners in order to better preserve
and promote the property as a heritage attraction.
Preserved as part of the Lancaster County Convention Center, the
Stevens Home and Law Office and the adjacent Kleiss Tavern at 49
Street were the subject of extensive renovations over the period
by the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County, Phase One
was unveiled in October, 2009 with the Stevens and Smith exteriors
restored to their
mid-19th century appearance.
As to the site’s
potential as a heritage tourism destination, Chris Barrett, president
and CEO of the Pennsylvania Dutch Convention and Visitors
The story of the vital role played by Thaddeus Stevens and other Lancaster
County citizens in the Underground Railroad is of great interest to many
travelers, and there’s no better time to tell it than as the state
and nation gear up to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Civil War
over these next four years,” said Barrett.
“We’re honored and excited to further add to that story with the
recognition of Congressman Stevens’ home and office as a site in the National
Network to Freedom program.”
Site, programs and facilities now in the National Park Service Network
to Freedom that include direct or indirect involvement by Thaddeus Stevens
1) Thaddeus Stevens
Home and Office, Lancaster, where Stevens assisted Oliver C. Gilbert
and his group find shelter along the Underground Railroad
Mill, 1.5 mile south of Gettysburg on Rock Creek, off -Baltimore Pike-Underground
RR safe house and site of formation of
Adams County Anti-Slavery Society (1836) in which resolutions were
ghost-written by Stevens.
3) Bethel AME Church’s Living The Experience, an NPS content authenticated
program – live performance, in which Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith
are interpreted as key people involved in UGRR activities in Lancaster.
4) Stevens’ Grave and Memorial,
Shreiner Cemetery, Lancaster, location of his famed epitaph
5) Caledonia Iron Works Monument,
Caledonia State Park, Franklin County- Stevens’ managers and crews
gave employment and support to freedom seekers.
6) Amtrak Line-Old Philadelphia & Columbia Railroad, Phila. to Lancaster
(Stevens shown as property owner on Front Street, Columbia, directly adjacent
to properties of Stephen Smith , William Whipper, Black’s Hotel, etc.,
all noted UGRR operatives);
7) Kaufmann’s Station, Boiling Springs, Cumberland County – Stevens
defended Kaufmann in court case, citing violation of Fugitive Slave Law.
8) Pennsylvania Quest for Freedom-Lancaster
County – an NPS-sanctioned
program tour and related web-presence that includes sites associated
with Stevens and Smith, and others.
9) Zercher’s Hotel and
Underground Railroad Visitor Center, Christiana-Stevens defended those
accused of treason in the Christiana Resistance.