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York County History Center To Release Underground Railroad Book: The Ground Swallowed Them Up


On September 1, 2016, the York County History Center will release the first book on the Underground Railroad ever to be published in York. Surprising, considering that from the 1820s through the early Civil War period, York County was a significant pathway for runaway slaves seeking freedom.

The book, titled The Ground Swallowed Them Up: Slavery and the Underground Railroad in York County, Pa., is authored by popular local historian Scott Mingus, and details the networks developed in the movement, including a Quaker system, another one involving free blacks, and a third with several of York’s leading Pennsylvania Germans as conductors.

These conductors smuggled fugitives in railroad cars, wagons, or carriages, or helped them travel on foot or horseback, risking their own freedom in the process. By the Civil War, no slaves or former slaves lived in York County. The last former York County slave was an elderly man on the Forney farm near Hanover, who died in 1841.

Scott Mingus is an Ohio native residing in York, PA. A scientist and executive in the paper industry, he holds patents in self-adhesive postage stamps and bar code labels. He has written 18 Civil War books. His biography of Confederate General William “Extra Billy” Smith was nominated for and won multiple awards, including the Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr. Literary Prize. He also wrote several articles for Gettysburg Magazine. Scott maintains a blog on the Civil War history of York County ( He received the 2013 Heritage Profile Award from the York County Heritage Trust for his contributions to local Civil War history.

From the book cover:

When the team of Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon surveyed Pennsylvania’s southern edge in the 1760s, they placed York County in the middle of America’s history. They ran a 40-mile state and county line that has indelibly marked where North meets South. It was a border on paper, not a wall of logs and stone, and a steady stream of slaves seeking their liberty flowed through that line from Maryland, Virginia, and points south. Armed slave owners followed these freedom seekers but often found the bondsmen had mysteriously disappeared as if, according to one historian, “the ground had swallowed them up.” Award-winning Civil War historian Scott Mingus tells the compelling story of how the Underground Railroad in York County helped these fugitives find their coveted freedom. It’s a story of an oppressed people’s quest for liberty and about the conductors along their path of York County’s hills and valleys aiding their escape “without public applause or hope of award.”

Many other York County history publications are available on the York County History Center’s website,