News and Tribune

Recent Local News

February 19, 2013

New Albany Bicentennial: The Underground Railroad part 1

(Continued)

Around this time, aiding slaves was considered a criminal act. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it illegal to help slaves who had run away from their owners. In fact, any found slaves, even in free-states like Indiana, were mandated to be returned. 

Not wanting to get caught, participants in the Underground Railroad used word of mouth to relay their plans. A rich oral history still exists, especially surrounding one church in particular that took part in the plight.

“There’s a lot of strong oral history in our community about it being connected to what is now Second Baptist Church. I set about to make sense out of what I was hearing,” she said. 

Through her meticulous research sifting through old microfilmed newspapers and census records, Peters discovered that what was then called Clock Tower Church was known to have many ties to the abolitionist cause. 

During the mid-1800s, the church allowed black members to join their congregation. Records show that the pastor there had baptized, married and buried black members. A sign in the undercroft of the church even indicates the presence of a tunnel that may have once been used as a station in the Underground Railroad. 

“Those church people looked on slavery as a sin,” Peters said. “The town excused their helping because they looked on it as benevolent activity.”

Due to the lack of records, no official count exists of those who traveled through Indiana to escape the bonds of slavery. One can only speculate.

“We don’t know how many people made it through here to freedom because that never made it in the paper,” Peters said. “My estimation is that at least an average of one slave made it through New Albany during those years a day.” 

Not all citizens wanted slavery abolished. Anti-black sentiment still ran rampant. Leaders like the editor of the New Albany Daily Ledger wanted slavery to continue because of the town’s economic ties to the South. Others had derogatory attitudes in general about black citizens.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Recent Local News
LOCAL MAGAZINES
Easter 2014 photos


Click on any photo to purchase it.

SPECIAL CONTENT
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
AP Video
Raw: Lawmakers Scuffle in Ukraine's Parliament The Rock Finds His Inner 'Hercules' Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die Raw: MH17 Passenger Remains in Kharkiv, Ukraine Raw: Israel Hits Gaza Targets, Destroys Mosques ShowBiz Minute: Hoffman, Oberst, Box Office WWII Vet Gets Medals, 70 Years Late Raw: Israel Bombs Multiple Targets in Gaza Veteran Creates Job During High Unemployment Raw: Cargo Craft Undocks From Space Station Widow: Jury Sent Big Tobacco a $23B Message New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts UN Security Council Calls for MH 17 Crash Probe Obama Bestows Medal of Honor on NH Veteran Texas Sending National Guard Troops to Border Hopkins to Pay $190M After Pelvic Exams Taped Foxx Cites Washington 'Circus Mirror' NASA Ceremony Honors Moon Walker Neil Armstrong
2013 Photos of the year


Take a look at our most memorable photos from 2013.