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An Underground Railroad Story from York County, Pa.


“In 1842 a party of sixteen slaves came to York, Pa., from Baltimore county, Md. Here they were taken in charge by William Wright, Joel Fisher, Dr. Lewis, and William Yocum. The last named was a constable, and used to assist the Underground Rail Road managers by pretending to hunt fugitives with the kidnappers. Knowing where the fugitives were he was enabled to hunt them in the opposite direction from that in which they had gone, and thus give them time to escape.

This constable and a colored man of York took this party one by one out into Samuel Willis’ corn-field, near York, and hid them under the shocks. The following night Dr. Lewis piloted them to near his house, at Lewisburg [Lewisberry], York county, on the banks of the Conewago.

Here they were concealed several days, Dr. Lewis carrying provisions to them in his saddle-bags. When the search for them had been given up in William Wright’s neighborhood, he went down to Lewisburg and in company with Dr. Lewis took the whole sixteen across the Conewago, they fording the river and carrying the fugitives across on their horses.

It was a gloomy night in November. Every few moments clouds floated across the moon, alternately lighting up and shading the river, which, swelled by autumn rains, ran a flood. William Wright and Dr. Lewis mounted men or women behind and took children in their arms. When the last one got over, the doctor, who professed to be an atheist, exclaimed, “Great God! is this a Christian land, and are Christians thus forced to flee for their liberty?” William Wright guided this party to his house that night and concealed them in a neighboring forest until it was safe for them to proceed on their way to Canada.”

Source: The Underground Railroad: A Record of Events, Authentic Narratives, Letters, etc., Narrating the Hardships, Hair-breadth Escapes, Death Struggles of the Slaves in their Efforts to Escape  by WILLIAM STILL, for many years connected with the Anti-Slavery Office in Philadelphia, and Chairman of the Acting Vigilant Committee of the Philadelphia Branch of the Underground Rail Road (Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872).