Follow the Path to Freedom in Bucks County
For thousands of escaped slaves in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Underground Railroad represented hope for a new life. This secret network of hidden, safe places relied on abolitionists and kind communities to aid runaways on their journey northward. Bucks County was home to many important stops on the railroad from taverns and churches to privately owned farms, many of which can still be visited today. Follow this list to trace the journey that many people took as they sought freedom.
Upper Bucks County:
Start your journey back in time at the Bucks County Visitor Center's Quakertown location. Located just off of Rt. 309 in the historic downtown area, the Visitor Center shares space in a historic 19th century barn with the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce. The building also houses a glass-enclosed display highlighting historic artifacts documenting 150 years of industry and commerce in Upper Bucks County.
Due to the distance between stops (up to 10 miles), Richard Moore’s stone house became one of the most important stations on the Underground Railroad for slaves traveling through Bucks County. A local potter, Moore became noted for his hospitality and many were directed to his home. He helped more than 600 escaped slaves find freedom and his kindness can now be read about in the book “Underground Railroad at Quakertown." Note: This is a private residence, please view from afar.
Central Bucks County:
New Hope served as the end of the Underground Railroad in Bucks County. Here slaves would cross the Delaware River into New Jersey, continuing on their journey north. Are you a big history buff? While in town, stop by the Parry Mansion Museum for a guided historic tour. Built in 1784 by one of New Hope's founders, Benjamin Parry, the mansion has furnishings in 11 rooms reflecting 125 years of decor.
Members of the Buckingham Meeting gave up slave ownership in 1776. After the abduction of a local slave and beloved figure, Big Ben, abolitionists held a series of anti-slavery lectures here, in Buckingham and in Lambertville. Today, the meetinghouse hosts community events.
During the revolution, armaments were stored in the cellar of this Victorian bed and breakfast’s original structure. However, during the time of the Underground Railroad, it was used to hide people on their journey north. There is a hatch in the Gazebo on the property that leads down to the underground tunnel system that people would use to get to the canal and continue on to Lumberville.
Lower Bucks County
Several locations in Yardley were likely hiding places for fugitive slaves, including a white-columned mansion on South Main Street, a shop on Afton Avenue, a house on South Canal Street, the Old Library, the borough Baptist and American Methodist Episcopal churches and a stone house on River Road. While in town, be sure to stop by Vault Brewing Company, a popular alehouse housed in a bank from the 1800s.
It is believed that the Continental Tavern (the Continental Hotel in the 1800s), the Yardley Grist Mill (a former mill that supplied sorghum and meal to Union soldiers) and Lakeside (one of the earliest homes in the area) were also stops on the Railroad that were connected by an underground tunnel system. Today, the Continental Tavern is popular for happy hour and delicious dinners. Try out one of their specialties like the Continental Bacon Burger or the Striped Bass, which pairs perfectly with one of their bottled craft beers. Click here to watch Visit Bucks County's exclusive video tour underground.
Most recognizable for the beautiful iron grillwork on its porch, the Archambault House, was a station on the Underground Railroad during the Civil War. A dentist, innkeeper, postmaster and former owner of the Brick Hotel, Joseph O. Archambault, helped slaves keep moving north. Note: This is a private residence, please view from afar.
The Newtown Theatre, the oldest continually operating movie theater in the United States, was known as Newtown Hall in the early 1850s. It was a popular location for town gatherings and anti-slavery meetings. Famous abolitionists, including Lucretia Mott and Fredrick Douglas are noted as speaking here. If you need to refuel for the rest of your journey, visit the 18th century Temperance House Tavern offers happy hour specials. Then make plans to stay overnight in one of their 13 historic hotel rooms.
During the Civil War, Langhorne, then known as the village of Attleboro, served as an Underground Railroad station connecting Princeton, New Jersey, and New York. In 1876, the town was incorporated and renamed for Jeramiah Langhorne, a former chief justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. A lot has changed since then! Today, Langhorne is known as the home of Sesame Place®, the nation's only theme park dedicated to the award-winning children's television show, Sesame Street®.
At almost 200-years-old, the Bensalem AME Church, is the oldest African American church in Bensalem and a former Underground Railroad safe station. Robert Pruvis, an abolitionist, rowed slaves up the Delaware River from Philadelphia to take refuge at the church and a nearby farm. A runaway slave from Roanoke, Virginia, Leroy Allen, found sanctuary here before joining the Union Army to fight for his freedom. He later settled in Bensalem and is buried at the church.
Bristol was one of the many stops on the road to freedom and provided hiding spots for runaway slaves. The people of Bristol even purchased freedom for runaway Dick Shad who had sought refuge in Bristol after being a slave for twenty years in Virginia. Now, Bristol is full of historic buildings and locations just waiting to be discovered. Go shopping on Mill Street and then take in the great outdoors at the iconic Bristol Wharf area.
While walking along the waterfront, don't miss The Harriet Tubman Memorial Statue, a must-see among Bucks County’s Underground Railroad sites! Tubman dedicated her life to freedom and is perhaps one of the most well-known conductors on the Underground Railroad. She risked her life a number of times before the Civil War to guide nearly 70 slaves northward.
If this list sparks your interest, we recommend checking out the “The North Star,”a film shot in Bucks County that tells the true story of runaway slave, Big Ben, from Virginia seeking freedom in Bucks County. Want a deeper dive on the history? Visit the African American Museum of Bucks County's events page.