<p>Harriet Tubman's home for the aged on the ground of the Harriet Tubman Inc. site.</p>
35 Stops

Harriet Tubman was Auburn’s most famous freedom seeker. But, as a traveler on the Underground Railroad, she was a relative latecomer. Although she escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1849, she did not settle in Auburn until 1859. By that time, the Underground Railroad had been operating locally since at least the early 1830s, sustained by an inter-racial group of men and women, rich and poor, old, and young, Black and White. By the 1850s, Cayuga County’s Black population numbered about 400. Two hundred of them lived in Auburn. The first African Americans had come to Cayuga County in slavery, part of the earliest non-Indigenous post-Haudenosaunee settlers. Freed by 1827, when NYS formally abolished slavery, they remained to welcome newcomers from the South, many of whom bought land, found jobs, and raised their families here, leaving many descendants who represent their stories. Cayuga County’s significance on the Underground Railroad emerged partly from its geographic position. In the middle of the Finger Lakes region, it was a major crossroads for people coming north from Philadelphia to Lake Ontario, as well as for those coming from eastern NY on what became the NY Central Railroad, headed for Niagara Falls and Canada. The importance of Cayuga County for the Underground Railroad came also from its people. Several Quakers worked with a network that included the Vigilance Committee headquarters in Philadelphia kept by William Still, who regularly sent travelers to Auburn. Martha Coffin Wright, Frances and William Seward, and the Howland family in Sherwood were part of this network. Local African Americans such as Morgan “Luke” Freeman, a barber born enslaved in Auburn in 1802, became major Underground Railroad operatives. The initial research study “Uncovering the Freedom Trail in Auburn and Cayuga County was completed by Judith Wellman and others in 2005 as published by the City of Auburn’s Historic Resources Review Board and the Cayuga County Historian’s Office. The study completed at that time identified over 100 documented connections in Cayuga County to the Under Ground Railroad. Additional research by noted historian Kate Clifford Larson and others has expanded our knowledge of several more connections. This project only identifies a small number of historic sites relating to the Underground Railroad remained on Cayuga County’s landscape in the twenty-first century. They help tell stories of the remarkable people who committed their lives to freedom.

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