The ferry landing on the opposite river bank at Havre de Grace is equally important to the one at Perryville, but the NPS requested I limit the application to one site.
Parts of this narrative are verbatim from the official report sent to the NPS. But as the original author, I took the liberty of making some alterations in length and wording to make the content more suitable to for this post:
Cecil County, Maryland, wedged into the northeast corner of the state, shares two Mason Dixon Lines, and is equidistant between Baltimore and Philadelphia. The more famous segment is the symbolic north-south divide at Maryland’s border with the Free State of Pennsylvania. The bordering counties in Pennsylvania, Lancaster and Chester counties, were in an area with a well-organized Underground Railroad leading to Philadelphia. The Mason Dixon Line on the east is shared with Delaware, a sister slave state. But like Pennsylvania, Delaware had a well-organized Underground Railroad, leading to Wilmington and on to Philadelphia. But accessing that network through Cecil County was not easy. As Frederick Douglass noted in his autobiography when he wrote about his escape through Cecil: “After Maryland I was to pass through Delaware--another slave State, where slave catchers generally awaited their prey, for it was not in the interior of the State, but on its borders, that these human hounds were most vigilant and active. The border lines between slavery and freedom were the dangerous ones, for the fugitives.”
In January, 1838 the Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad opened a direct ninety-three mile route between Baltimore and Philadelphia. This roughly straight-line route along the coastal plain was the shortest railroad route between the two cities. Other routes opened, but the PW&B RR remained the most direct, fastest, and convenient way to travel from slavery in Baltimore to freedom in Philadelphia. But the close scrutiny of African Americans at railway stations, which became stricter over time, made obtaining a ticket difficult. Those allowed to board the train at Baltimore, would travel through Baltimore County (politically separated from the city in 1851), Harford County, and then cross the Susquehanna River, before continuing through Cecil County, Maryland and New Castle County, Delaware, finally entering a free state a short distance out of Wilmington.
The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Steam Ferry Landing and Station site in Perryville, Maryland, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, is associated with famous and lesser known escapes, and one kidnapping and rescue of a free Pennsylvania citizen. At the Susquehanna River, trains stopped in Havre de Grace. The cars, detached from the engine, were rolled on to the rails on top of the railroad ferry Susquehanna prior to December, 1854, and the larger Maryland after that. The passengers gathered on the lower deck. Upon reaching the opposite shore at Perryville, the cars attached to another engine, and the passengers reentered the cars. Work on a bridge began in the 1850s, but the railroad did not complete the bridge until after the Civil War. Frederick Douglass escaped on this railroad in 1838, and the Crafts in 1848. Charlotte Giles and Harriet Eglin escaped from Baltimore on this railroad. Henry “Box” Brown was freighted across on the ferry in 1859. Rachel Parker was kidnapped on the last day of 1851 by Thomas McCreary, who Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists referred to as “the notorious kidnapper from Elkton.” Part of the drama of her abduction, her rescue, and her pleas for freedom unfolded at the railroad site in Perryville. In 1853, Aaron Digges, fleeing from a Baltimore butcher, entered the train at the Susquehanna crossing, but his attempt to flee failed.
The Susquehanna River widens at Perryville to join the head of the Chesapeake Bay. Freedom seekers traveling through Harford County, Maryland by road found their path to Philadelphia blocked by the Susquehanna. Some could steal a boat to cross. That was the advice John Thompson received from a free black in the area when he escaped from the Washington D. C. area around 1837. But some, like Thompson, considered stealing a boat hazardous and chose to follow near the river into the free state of Pennsylvania and then cross near the river town of Columbia. Isaac Williams, Henry Banks, and Christopher Nichols fled from the Fredericksburg area on the first day of December, 1854. When they reached Baltimore, they find the depot of the PW&B RR at the President Street Station. Wanting a direct route to Philadelphia, they followed the railroad tracks and reached Havre de Grace at the mouth of the Susquehanna. On arrival, they were disappointed when they realized there was no bridge there connecting the two sides of the river. They headed north along the river into Pennsylvania, assisted by blacks they met along the way. Some freedom seekers encountered boatman who willingly rowed or sailed them across. Among them were two agents financed by abolitionist Lewis Tappan and a colleague. One agent at Havre de Grace would kindle a fire at night to signal that he had passengers waiting on the west bank and the agent on the Perryville side crossed to pick them up.
But some freedom seekers, taking a risk under the scrutiny of suspicious authorities, boarded trains on the literal railroad, and let the PW&B RR convey them across the obstacle and on to Philadelphia. Some of these passengers on the above ground railroad succeeded and some of them became well known. Frederick Douglass … I will continue with Frederick Douglass's story of his crossing at the Susquehanna in the next of this series of posts based on the application to the NPS (see March 2 for the Douglass post).
 Frederick Douglass, Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, His Early Life as a Slave, His Escape from Bondage, and His Complete History to the Present Time [Hartford, Conn: Park Publishing Co., 1881], 199-200.
 John Thompson, The Life of John Thompson, a Fugitive Slave; Containing His History of 25 Years in Bondage, and His Providential Escape [Worchester: Self-published, 1856], 94-95. Thompson does not provide the date of his escape but his birth in 1812 and his subtitle reference to 25 years a slave places the date in or near 1837.
 Benjamin Drew. A North View of Slavery: The Refugee: Or, the Narratives of Fugitive Slaves in Canada [Boston: J. P. Jewett and Company, 1856], 66-67; William Still. The Underground Railroad: A Record of Facts, Authentic Narrative, Letters …. [Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1872], 684.