Lessons in the Geography of the 

Underground Railroad in New York State

Scenario 4: Central New York

by Timothy McDonnell
New York Geographic Alliance

UGRR Station Map

List of UGRR Stations:

1 - Gerrit Smith Estate (Peterboro)
5 - Asa Wing House (Parish)
2 - Old Stone Library (Fort Ann)
6 - Orson Ames Home (Mexico)
3 - Jermain Loguen Home (Syracuse)
7 - Littlefield Home (Oswego)
4 - Bristol Congregational Church (Volney)
8 - Case House (Fulton)

There are several parts to this lesson. First you will decide on a route for a Freedom Seeker to take on his/her way northward. Then you will read about a real escape on the Underground Railroad in the Greater Syracuse Area. You will look over some primary sources (old map, census record, a journal) and see if the story makes sense. Ready? It's time to do some geography!

TASK 1: Look at the NYGA Elevation Map (by Carol Gersmehl). What does the landscape look like in the Central New York region? Do you think that this would affect the routes Freedom Seekers took?

TASK 2: Help plan the escape route for a Freedom Seeker:

One of the safest places for a fugitive was probably at Gerrit Smith's estate in Peterboro (#1). It was said that, "There are two places a slave holder cannot go, Heaven and Peterboro." Even so, there was a young African-American hiding there that needed to continue on his journey to Canada. The Smith family thinks the best route is to Syracuse (#3) and then on to the lake port of Oswego (#7). Does this sound good to you?
The details of this journey is up to you! Record your itinerary on the chart on your Student Worksheet.

TASK 3: The harbor at Oswego is being patrolled too closely. You need to send the Freedom Seeker somewhere else. What alternative route can you take? Write your new plan on the Student Worksheet.

TASK 4: Now that you have determined a possible escape route for a Freedom Seeker, now it is time to compare it to an actual event in the real Underground Railroad. To view this document, click on this link: Jerry Rescue

Primary Sources to Help in Verification

Photos of People and
UGRR Stations
Maps and Panoramic Views
Census Records
Gerrit Smith

Jermain Loguen

Rev. Stephen May

Jerry Rescue Building

Oswego Freedom Trail Sign

Wesleyan Methodist Church of Syracuse

The Faces
1868 NYS Canal Map

Panoramic View of Downtown Syracuse 1874

Panoramic View of Oswego Harbor

1875 Map of Mexico, New York

Loguen - Syracuse Census Record

Lucy Watson Moore Census Record

William Gray Census Record

Mexico 1860 Census

Volney 1860 Census

Quotes from the Jerry Rescue Incident

Volney's Multicultural Community

Make sure you answer the questions on the Student Worksheet from Task 4. This includes filling in the chart on the primary sources included in this web page.

CONCLUSIONS: The wrap-up of this activity will be done as a class. Make sure you participate in the class discussion!

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