Lessons in the Geography of the 

Underground Railroad in New York State

Scenario 5: Finger Lakes Region

by Timothy McDonnell
New York Geographic Alliance

UGRR Station Map

List of UGRR Stations:

1 - St. James AME Zion Church (Ithaca)
5 - M'Clintock House (Waterloo)
9 - Griffith Cooper House (Williamson)
2 - Rogues Harbor Inn - Lansing
6 - The Friends Meeting House (Farmington)
10 - Samuel Cuyler Home (Pultneyville)
3 - Slocum Howland House (Sherwood
7 - Sexton House (Palmyra)
11 - Billy Marks Funeral Home (Naples)
4 - Seward Mansion (Auburn)
8 -  (Marion)
12 - Cobblestone Farm (Canandaigua)

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 Finger Lakes region? Do you think that this would affect the routes Freedom Seekers took?

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

An African-American woman and her two children have been living in Ithaca (#1) for several months now. Word has come north that slave catchers are heading north from Elmira to capture this family and take them back to Kentucky. The members of St. James AME Zion Church make preparations to help this family flee north. They know that there is a ship owned by Capt. Horatio Throop of Pultneyville (#10) that probably can take them across Lake Ontario to Canada.
What route do you recommend? Should you go to Auburn (#4) or to Waterloo (#5)? Should you go overland or by water?
Record your decisions on the chart on your Student Worksheet.

TASK 3: You receive a tip in Palmyra (#7) that the road to Pultneyville is not safe. There are slave catchers in town. What alternative route can you take? Is there another port on Lake Ontario you can use? 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: Finger Lakes UGRR

Primary Sources to Help in Verification

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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