The Brandywine Valley in Southeast Pennsylvania was a major route for the Underground Railroad. The underground railroad was a network made up of homes, churches, and farms where slaves intent of becoming free could be secreted on their journey from the south to freedom. The Kennett Underground Railroad was a major stop in this journey as it was the closest area for those crossing the Mason-Dixon Line north into Pennsylvania. Those brave people who helped guide the slaves on their journeys were known as conductors or station masters. There were many organizations formed in this area during the 1700s and 1800s and they had famous speakers such as Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Lucretia Matt. In addition, if you visit the Kennett Underground Railroad Center you’ll learn about John and Hannah Cox, William Still, Eusebius Barnard, and Bartholomew Fussell. These brave men and women helped change the face of our nation’s history. The current site of the Chester County Visitors’ Center (Brandywine Valley Tourism Information Center), located just outside the entrance to Longwood Gardens was a Quaker Meeting House was one of these sites and visitors to our area are welcome to visit it. Brochure below courtesy of Loraine Lucas.
It became even more dangerous to help runaway slaves after the Fugitive Slave Act was passed in 1850. This brought the full force of the federal government against anyone assisting runaway slaves. The abolitionists referred to this law as “The bloodhound law”. Most slaves continued their travel to Canada to feel safe from being recaptured but many remained in Chester County. Throughout our area there remain houses where the escaping slaves could rest until going on to the next phase of their escape. These sites were unmarked but the “conductors” either knew of them or recognized signs. Although there is a major controversy regarding this, some historians believe quilts was one method of communicating. Information regarding the use of quilts and coding have been passed down through folklore although there is nothing that substantiates these oral histories.
There were some sites in Delaware County as well. In fact, the man, Charles Delucena Meigs and his wife who built Hamanassett in 1856, was known to abhor slavery. We have found on our site a basement room under our well head that we strongly believe was a safe haven for slaves on their way into Philadelphia. When you visit, ask Glenn to show it to you. I have to warn you, it isn’t to see it because you have to climb down a steep ladder.
Philadelphia was the home of the 17th century abolitionist movement and played a major role in the underground railroad. Originally this was the site where individuals from Africa were brought to be sold and sent off to enslavement. This was also the site of the largest neighborhood of free African Americans. At the same time, this area was also home to a large group of free African-Americans. You’ll find 5 Underground Railroad landmarks and 17 historical markers in the historic district. Among these are the Liberty Bell Center, Historic St. George’s Methodist Church and the African American Museum. Also Pennsylvania Hall, the London Coffee House, and the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society.
We will be happy to give you brochures with all the sites listed as well as maps to help you plan your tour. Be sure to check rooms available at Hamanassett Bed & Breakfast.
We are a short 30 minute drive from Philadelphia. We recommend you stay with us in the country where you will find clean air and receive a wonderful free breakfast each morning, free parking, free WIFI, and much lower taxes. You can drive less than 10 minutes to the Elway Train station which will take you into Philadelphia and save on parking.