The Underground Railroad in Franklin County
Because of its location on the Mason-Dixon line Franklin County was intimately involved with both pro- and anti-slavery forces. Slaves who escaped would travel to Franklin County via the Underground Railroad and receive shelter there. The mountainous terrain made it particularly attractive, as well as the presence of substantial free black communities in Chambersburg, Greencastle, and Mercersburg. Several local people, white and black, are known to have maintained "stations." They included Henry Watson, a free black barber in Chambersburg, Hiram Wertz of Quincy, and the Shockey family, neighbors of Wertz. Others included the free black Coles family, and Michael Buck.
(Recent controversy has helped to rekindle interest in ferreting out Franklin County's role as a station for the famed Underground Railroad, which smuggled Southern slaves to freedom during the Civil War era. The county's role is undisputed but murky, and even today historians are still...
...Tracing the tracks to freedom.)
At the same time, several slave hunters were operating in the county as well. The men who captured two of the John Brown conspirators, Dan Logan and Claggett Fitzhugh of Quincy, were reputed to be slave catchers by profession.
During the 1870s, William Still, a free black active in anti-slavery activities in Philadelphia, compiled a history of the Underground Railroad. His book, The Underground Railroad, was composed of the stories of scores of slaves who had escaped and made their way to the offices of the Anti-Slavery Office and Vigilant Committee in Philadelphia. There many of the escapees were given assistance in reaching safety in Canada. The three episodes listed below describe slaves whose escape routes led them through Chambersburg.
Burning of Chambersburg
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