“To reach Canada, or to die trying”
In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 1787, a convention met to frame the Constitution of the Untied States. Many of the people in attendance were opposed to the clause sanctioning negro slavery. They felt it ill-matched the principles of the Declaration of Independence that supported them in their long fight for liberty. After much deliberation, they yielded to to the adoption of this clause (1). Many slaves endured tremendous hardships during their time in slavery. Many slaves even tried to escape. The slaves who were successful in escaping, escaped on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was developed to help aid fugitive slaves on their escape to freedom. The Underground Railroad was dangerous and illegal and the term Underground Railroad referred to the entire system of routes and lines. The free people who helped the slaves escape on the Underground Railroad were often called conductors and the slaves were their “cargo.” Along the Underground Railroad were multiple hiding places. They consisted of churches, houses, barns, and thickly wooded areas. These places were known as stations and often a lit lantern hung outside to identify these stations(2).
There were many routes that the Underground Railroad ran on. A few even ran through Carlisle, Pennsylvania and Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania. These routes were led by Daniel Kaufman. He was only seventeen years old when he took over as conductor. He had the help of Stephen Weakley, Philip Brenbill, and Karl Griffith. Kaufman and his other conductors got these runaway slaves from a free black man named Cole. Kaufman hid his slaves in safe houses all around Carlisle and Boiling Springs, Pa. Kaufman’s passage started in Hagerstown, MD. It then ran to Chambersburg, Shippensburg, Millers Furnace in Huntzdale, Burkholder’s Cider-press at Walnut Bottom, Kaufman’s farm and then to Dr. William Rutherford in Harrisburg. Kaufman ran the Underground Railroad in Carlisle and Boiling Springs from 1835-1848. In 1848, he was caught and went through four trials. These trials added up to be around $5,000.00. His help all pitched in to pay but it was not enough and Kaufman was forced to sell his farm to pay the remaining balance. After Kaufman’s trial, Richard Woods became the leader and the routes changed (3). The focus of this exhibit is to show the “safe houses” in Carlisle and in Boiling Springs where Kaufman may have hid the fugitive slaves he was aiding.
1. Smedley, R. C.. "History of the Underground Chapter 1." In History of the Underground Railroad in Chester and the neighboring counties of Pennsylvania. New York: Negro Universities Press, 1968.
2. Eastern Illinois University . "Underground Railroad: A Path to Freedom." . http://www.eiu.edu/eiutps/underground_railroad.php (accessed May 10, 2014).
3. Cumberland County Historical Society Archives Box MG-072(African American Collection): Folders 7, 7a, 7e.