The "The Underground Railroad And Lancaster County: Part II" Story
It was an ordinary day. Beginning another story on the "Underground Railroad" and how Lancaster County played a big part in it. If you failed to read yesterday's story, I should tell you that the "Underground Railroad" was network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early-to-mid 19th century, and used by African-American slaves to escape into free states and Canada wit the aid of abolitionists and allies who were sympathetic to their cause. It has nothing to do with trains, but was meant to find save passage for escaped slaves to find refuge in Northern states or Canada. I wrote about how the city of Lancaster played a big part in the "Underground Railroad" and today I will give you an idea as to how the nearby town of Columbia, Pennsylvania helped in the escape lines for fugitive slaves. The two main abolitionists in Columbia were two black men, Stephen Smith and William Whipper.
Mr. William Wipper
Mr. Smith began life in Columbia as an indentured servant who was eventually sold to Columbia's Thomas Boude. Smith's mother, who was owned by another person in nearby Dauphin County, escaped to be with her son. The owner of Mrs. Smith came to Columbia to reclaim his property, but neighbors rushed to her aid. The actions of the owner from Dauphin County so enraged the residents that they intensified their antislavery efforts. When Stephen turned 21 he bought his freedom for fifty dollars. At the time he was the manager of Mr. Boude's lumber yard. Upon obtaining his freedom he opened his own lumber yard and real estate business and was a leading businessman in Columbia. He was also working as a conductor on the "Underground Railroad," helping escaping slaves find freedom to the North. In 1838 Smith was ordained as an African Methodist Episcopalian minister in Columbia. As for Mr. Whipper, he too was a black man and cousin of Mr. Smith. In 1828 he was residing in Philadelphia and was known for his role as an intellectual within the free black community. He was editor of the National Reformer, the first African-American magazine. He was also one of the founders of the Philadelphia Library for Colored Persons. In 1835 he attended the convention of the Improvement of Free People of Color. He urged delegates to adopt a resolution which was to end the usage of the word "colored."
Mr. Stephen Smith
The American Moral Reform Society was born at this convention. In 1847 he bought a home on Front Street in Columbia and accumulated several businesses in Columbia. In the early 1860s Whipper purchased a steamboat which shipped lumber as well as escaping slaves from Sandusky, Ohio to Ontario. William became a leading abolitionist in the area and became a "stationmaster" along the pathway to freedom for slaves. When the Fugitive Slave Act was enacted in 1850, Smith persuaded Whipper, along with about fifteen thousand other African Americans, to move to Canada. The two of them had 29 railcars fitted with false walls and bottoms and hid runaway slaves in them. Eventually they made their way to Canada. Smith eventually found his way back, after the Civil War, to live in Philadelphia. Today there is an exhibit in Columbia, Pa. telling of the heroics of these two black abolitionists. Tomorrow I will end my stories on the "Underground Railroad" and it's ties to Lancaster County. It was another extrarodinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.