Underground Railroad Stops

By its very nature, the work of the Underground Railroad was secretive. Some of our knowledge of the Railroad in Solebury Township comes from a paper written by Dr. Edward Hicks Magill, “When Men Were Sold, Reminiscences of the Underground Railroad in Bucks County and its Managers.” This was printed in 1909 in Vol. 2 of A Collection of Papers Read Before the Bucks County Historical Society, pages 493-520. Magill’s father, Jonathan, owned a farm located on the side of Solebury Mountain, which was a stop on the Railroad. In addition, Magill hired many of the escaped slaves to work on his farm. These men and woman told Edward the stories of their lives as slaves. Some of the stops were in lower Bucks, where the fugitives were first received after leaving Philadelphia. The next stops along the Railroad were north of there in central Bucks. Edward mentions the names of families in the area, who received the fugitives:  Atkinson, Brown Trego, Blackfan, Smith, Simpson, Paxson, John E. Kenderdine, Jonathan P. Magill, Jacob Heston, William H. Johnson, Joseph Fell, and Edward Williams. From this area the fugitives were frequently moved on to Quakertown or Stroudsburg and many continued on to Canada.

A story that has been confirmed is of the escape in about 1847 of seven men from Queen Ann County, Maryland. One of them died on the trip north, but six others arrived in Solebury Township. They were given the name Samuel Scott, Parry Helmsley, James Griffith, William Wright, William Stephens, and Alec Reed. Most of them remained in Solebury.

Most of the abolitionists in Bucks County were Quakers. But in his autobiography, Edward Magill explains that his family was alienated from mainstream Quakerism because of their abolitionist activity. There is a tendency within Quakerism to avoid overt political activity and to focus on perfecting one’s own actions within the insular Quaker social group instead of trying to change the wider society. Because of this, many mainstream Quakers were hostile to the abolitionists. Magill explains that this almost led his family to break from the Society of Friends.

Noor Dean Takiedine, a student at Bucks County Community College, submitted this paper on the Underground Railroad for a history class at the college.