Black History Month provides additional opportunities to highlight contributions by African-Americans to our national history and culture. Throughout the month, Amtrak is celebrating with various events and exhibitions at locations across the country.
Amtrak is proud that in October 2014 a site on railroad property near Perryville, Md., was accepted into the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, a program of the National Park Service (NPS). Perryville is located on the busy Northeast Corridor (NEC) between the stops at Aberdeen, Md., and Newark, Del.
The Underground Railroad was a network for those with or without assistance who used resources at hand to escape slavery and find a means to head north to the free states or Canada during the antebellum years. The NPS established the Network to Freedom to connect more than 500 local historic sites, museums, archives and interpretive programs related to the Underground Railroad.
The Perryville Railroad Ferry and Station site is located close to where the eastern end of the Susquehanna River Rail Bridge joins the embankment carrying the tracks. Since colonial times, Perryville and Havre de Grace, its sister town located on the opposite bank, have constituted an important crossing point at the meeting of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay. In the late 17th century, what is now Perryville was known as Lower Ferry in recognition of its important role in the local transportation network.
The article continues with a brief history of the Susquehanna crossing and its connection with the Underground Railroad, and then features brief histories of other AMTRAK sites with connections to the Underground Railroad.
My thanks to Mike Dixon for calling my attention to the article after he posted it on his blog, Window on Cecil’s County’s Past, and for adding an editor’s note recognizing my work with the National Park Service to nominate the site. He plans on a cross-post to his other blog, Reflections on Delmarva’s Past.
The National Park Service's Network to Freedom website is compiling a database of sites that have verified connections to the Underground Railroad. The Perryville Railroad Ferry and Station site was accepted after I completed an investigation and submitted a detailed application for inclusion last year. The Network to Freedom database summaries the report on this above ground railroad on the Underground Railroad:
Perryville Railroad Ferry and Station Site
The Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Baltimore Railroad Steam Ferry Landing and Station site in Perryville, Maryland, at the mouth of the Susquehanna River, is relevant to the resistance to slavery. The site 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, passengers and cars crossed on the railroad ferry, and resumed their journey from Perryville. 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 he fell into the hands of Constable Thomas McCreary.
Unfortunately, the Network to Freedom website currently does not provide a link to download the full report (however, the full report is available from the National Park Service on request). I have made a pdf of sections 4, 5, and 6 available here. These three sections contain the investigative details and the sources used.
A supplemental file of illustrations and photographs was included with the application to the National Park Service. I will provide a sampling in a later post.