A Bold Rescue in Buffalo Harbor

Wells Plaque
The Buffalo Rescue was led by William Wells Brown who lived on Pine Street. Himself a fugitive, Wells was an abolitionist leader and the first African-American novelist.

In the early 1840's William Wells Brown operated one of the lake steamers and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. As an officer on what might have been called the Lake Erie Division of this railroad, he was popular and busy. Between the first of May and the first of December, 1842, he carried sixty-nine fugitive slaves to Canada. In 1843 on a trip to southern Ontario, he renewed acquaintances with many Negroes whom he had helped to get there. In the village of Malden alone he saw seventeen who had been his passengers.
A slave catcher from Nashville, Tennessee came to Western New York to recapture the Stanfords, a couple and their infant child who had sought refuge in St. Catherines, Ontario. The slavers were successful, but during their return trip they reached Hamburg, New York, where a group of Buffalo blacks including William Wells Brown, apprehended the party and brought the Stanfords to Buffalo. There, a heavily armed group of fifty Black men escorted the runaways to the Black Rock Ferry. to board the boat to St. Catherines. In the meantime, the slaver appealed to the Erie County sheriff who gathered a posse of seventy men. When the two groups met a melee ensued (and the Stanfords escaped), but the men were arrested and fined more than a month's salary each.