The David Ruggles Center is committed to providing a regional archive for the study of the Underground Railroad. We are a member of the Massachusetts Underground Railroad Network. Sites included in the National Park Services Underground Railrad Network to Freedom program include the Roger Hooker and Keziah Leavitt and Hart and Mary Leavitt Houses in Charlemont and the Ross Homestead in Florence. We plan to house copies of materials from Longmeadow to Northfield along the Connecticut River, west to the Berkshires and east to Worcester. If you live in Western Massachusetts we wish you would consider sharing copies of newspapers, letters, recollections in booklet form, pictures–anything relating to the Underground Railroad in your area. While the hard copy archive at the Ruggles Center is the primary resource we will post material on this website as well.
We start here with two articles written Springfield, Mass. journalist, poet and essayist Aella Greene. Greene, born in 1838 covered stories throughout Western Massachusetts. Greene seems closer to the material than many later writers but the modern reader should be warned that racial stereotypes and racist language dot his narrative.
Springfield Union—March 25, 1900
The “Underground Railroad” and those who operated it.–II
Western Massachusetts and Vermont, Authentic Traditions of the Trying Times. Written by Aella Greene for the Sunday Republican
“Fugitives fleeing from slavery at the South and reaching New York and Westchester county were heartened there to resume their journey toward freedom in Canada and then they fared on through the shore towns to New Haven. From thence two routes of the Underground system extended northward across Connecticut, one of them going though Southington and places north of it, and entering Massachusetts at Southwick and Westfield, the other one extending through North Guilford and Meriden to Hartford and Springfield. The two routes came together at Northampton. And at the corners of the triangular section of the Bay state described by these converging lines of the road were kept three principal stations of the system. The agents at these points were true men and brave, and the conductors making trips to and from those stations had both the wisdom and the intrepidity fitting them for the hazardous business in which they were engaged. Faring through Connecticut by either of the two routes, the fugitives found that which had they dared to sing at all would have caused them to sing, “Jordan am a hard road to trabbel, I beliebe.” In every one of the towns on each route there were people of pronounced pro-slavery ideas, people glad to see the slaves sent back to the servitude from which they were fleeing, and some of whom were not adverse to aid in their rendition,–at least not averse to putting the hunters on their track. Risky business, indeed, was it for the fugitives to traverse Connecticut, and hazardous for the agents of the road to do their work. Click here to continue reading this article.