Fort Erie, Canada

Upstate New York

Eber Pettit in his Sketches in the History of the Underground, Samuel Ward,  and William Wells Brown, who for a time worked on the steamers in Lake Erie, talked about Black Rock, which was across the Niagara River from Fort Erie, as a port of exit for fugitive slaves to Canada.  A ferry regularly took traffic across the river, and Brown described an incident at the ferry during which more than 40 blacks battled the authorities to prevent them from taking a fugitive slave in the late 1830s.

Bertie Hall, just across the Niagara from Black Rock, in the Promised Land, has long been alleged to have been an Underground Railroad haven.  In recent years, however, historians have questioned its validity. My research suggests that the legend surrounding it may be apochryphal.

Looking out on the Niagara River towards Black Rock in New York State


Two other destinations for fugitive slaves crossing the Niagara River were the British Methodist Episcopal churches in Niagara Falls (the Dett Memorial Chapel) and the BME Church in St. Catherines. Harriet Tubman brought her formerly enslaved parents to St. Catherines, where they found a residence just down the block from the BME Church. Tubman often stayed there up through the Civil War, and she and her parents became members of the church.  


British Methodist Episcopal Church, St. Catherines


Dett Memorial Chapel, Niagara Falls, Ontario


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