UGRR Route Highlights - Pittsburgh Spur

Pittsburgh, PA

  • Senator John Heinz History Center has an African American collection and an Underground Railroad exhibit that highlights Pittsburgh’s role in the Underground Railroad and abolitionist movements.
  • Martin Delany Plaque. Martin R. Delany was a writer, scientist, army officer and physician, who founded Pittsburgh's first African American newspaper, The Mystery (1843 - 1847). He was the first black Major in the U.S. Army and among the first African Americans admitted to Harvard Medical School. He was instrumental in helping Pittsburgh during the Cholera outbreak in 1854.
  • John B. Vashon’s Barbershop and City Baths. In its day, Vashon’s shop served as a hub for the latest news relating to the many issues of abolition and slavery.
  • John Peck’s Oyster House. Peck was a central character in Pittsburgh’s Underground Railroad movement.
  • Monogahela House was a prominent hotel during the turn of the century but is now the home of the Allegheny County Department of Human Services. This hotel employed over 300 blacks who aided slaves accompanying their visiting masters, occasionally helping them escape on the Underground Railroad.
  • Avery College once existed on Nash St. and Avery St., now a plaque recognizes the college. Also known as Allegheny Institute and Mission Church, it was founded by Charles Avery, a wealthy Pittsburgh entrepreneur and ardent abolitionist, as a vocational school open to blacks in the mid 19th century. The church was reported to have a tunnel which led to a canal on the Allegheny River to help escaping slaves on their journey to freedom.
  • Thomas Bigham House on Mt. Washington Rd. and Olympia Rd. was a safe house for freedom seekers and was part of one of America’s oldest planned communities called Chatham Village. Having served in the state Legislature, Bigham was known as the "Sage of Mount Washington," and reputedly helped escaping slaves, thanks partly to an African-American family nurse who kept a lookout for runaways.
  • Soldiers and Sailors Military Museum. Exhibit that focuses on 19th century Africans escaping enslavement and finding sanctuary in Pittsburgh and other areas of Pennsylvania.
  • Bethel AME Church was the first African American church west of the Allegheny Mountains and the first Pastor was Rev. Lewis Woodson, a well-known abolitionist.
  • Grace Memorial Presbyterian Church was ministered by Henry Highland Garnet, a well-known abolitionist who spoke in New York after the passage of the Emancipation Proclamation. Today, a society works to honor and preserve his name.
  • The North Side*, which was known as Allegheny City, was a significant stop on the Underground Railroad. The mansion of Felix Brunot, where "[r]emains of the old tunnels and entrances [could] still be seen" a century later resided here before being torn down.

Washington County, PA

  • Washington County Historical Society/LeMoyne House* Pennsylvania's first National Historic Landmark of the Underground Railroad, LeMoyne House is one of only seven such sites in the U.S. Stories include anecdotes of slaves hiding in a dumbwaiter, or beneath the bed of Madeline LeMoyne, who "feigned illness to prevent slave catchers from searching the room.” The stately stone house in Washington County is open for tours.

New Castle, PA

  • Freedom’s Call Standing Exhibit at the Lawrence County Historical Society features the history of the Underground Railroad in Lawrence Co. and the abolitionist movement. Also includes a civil war display.

Mercer, PA

  • Mercer County Historical Society administers numerous Underground Railroad sites in and around Mercer.
  • Follow the Drinking Gourd Walking Tour of Mercer’s Historic Underground Railroad and Abolitionist Era Sites and the Underground Railroad Driving Tour. Highlights include: Hanna and Small Houses, a passageway was uncovered under the Hanna house that is believed to have hidden freedom seekers. The Hanna and Small families were ardent abolitionists and close friends. Magoffin House was a site of Underground Railroad activity and during the Civil War, Magoffin was considered a “copperhead” or peace democrat; Old Mercer Graveyard is where James Kilgore and other Underground Railroad conductors are buried; Bethany Presbyterian Church where Rev. William Taggart McAdam lectured on the Civil War; Mercer Co. Courthouse and Civil War Monument; and White Chapel Church at Indian Run was led by ardent abolitionist John Young. This area was originally called Pandenarium and was formed when wealthy slave owner from Virginia, Dr. Charles Everett, upon his death, provided his newly freed slaves with a small plot of land and money to settle. Most of the inhabitants couldn’t sustain a living here and they all eventually left the site.

Sandy Lake, PA

  • Freedom Road Cemetery Historic Marker located across from the main gate at the Stoneboro Fairgrounds, US 62, southwest of Sandy Lake is all that remains of Liberia, a fugitive slave town established by the Travis family, free African Americans.

Meadville, PA

  • Bethel AME Church was organized in 1849 and many of its members and trustees were active in the UGRR.

New Richmond, PA

  • John Brown Farm and Tannery Museum. Brown aided an estimated 2,500 slaves and his farm was a major stop, marking its place in history from 1825 to 1835. Interpretive displays tell the story of his role in the national events leading up to the Civil War.


* Denotes a site not listed on the map.