Underground Railroad

Underground Railroad (HM1PB3)

Location: Rochester, NY 14612 Monroe County
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Country: United States of America
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N 43° 14.954', W 77° 36.722'

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The upriver ports of Carthage and Kelsey's Landing were stopping places for boats bound for Canada. Escaped slaves arrived in Rochester via the "Underground Railroad" and looked for a friendly captain to take them across the lake and deliver them to freedom. Lake Ontario was the terminus for the railroad and the last leg of a dangerous journey. Harriet Tubman was a "conductor" and Frederick Douglass was a "station master." Both arranged safe passage routes through western New York to Rochester and north along the Genesee River. Many sympathetic Northerners would help in this cause - men like Myron Holley at Carthage and a free black familty that lived at Kelsey's Landing. (A historic marker in Maplewod Park shows the location of Kelsey's.) At the mouth of the river, there was a ferry operator, Richard Murphy, and in Charlotte there was the ardent abolitionist, Benjamin Barney, who ran the meat market on River Street. The journey to the boats would often end at Charlotte. A house on the east side of Lake Avenue (just south of Denise Road) is rumored to have been a "safe house." The riverfront at "Skunk Hollow" was far enough upriver from the river mouth to allow ships to be boarded unnoticed and in the darkness of night. George Ruggles came to Charlotte from Orleans County. He was an inventor and ship captain who would eventually become President of the Village of Charlotte. His descendants believe he took "precious cargo" to Canada on the schooner H.M. Ballou. According to New York's 1860 gazeteer, the population of Charlotte was 400 people. Many of her native sons answered the call to join the Union Army. In the summer of 1862, soldiers were summoned to act as port sentries to prevent anyone eligible for military duty from leaving for Canada in order to evade the draft. Since England was sympatheic to the Southern cause, it was feared that Charlotte's proximity to British Canada might make it vulnerable to attack. A company from the 26th New York Cavalry arrived in Charlotte on the steamer Cataract. They remained for several weeks to guard the port and pitched their tents at the triangle of River Street and Lake Avenue. It was also suggested that the lighthouse and pier beacons be extinguished as a precaution to hamper a night invasion from the lake. In 1892, a number of notable visitors came to the village of Charlotte for breakfast at the Cottage Hotel. Among them was Honorable Frederick Douglass, President Benjamin Harrison, the mayor and the governor. Over 800 bicyclists accompanied the entourage from downtown Rochester to the lake. The dignitaries were on their way to dedicate the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument in Washington Square Park in downtown Rochester. The religious revivals of the 1830s solidified anti-slavery sentiment on the Rochester area. Strong abolitionist sentiments favored the runaway slaves, and Rochester's marshals were uncooperative with the Fugitive Slave Act.
HM NumberHM1PB3
Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Saturday, November 14th, 2015 at 9:01pm PST -08:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)18T E 287955 N 4791805
Decimal Degrees43.24923333, -77.61203333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 43° 14.954', W 77° 36.722'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds43° 14' 57.24" N, 77° 36' 43.32" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)585
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 302 River St, Rochester NY 14612, US
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