Lessons in the Geography of the 

Underground Railroad in New York State

Scenario 7: The Southern Tier

by Timothy McDonnell
New York Geographic Alliance

UGRR Station Map

List of UGRR Stations:

1 - John W. Jones Home (Elmira)
5 - William Sortose Farm (Belmont)
9 - Dr. James Pettit (Fredonia)
2 - Marcus Lucas Home (Corning)
6 - Dr. Lambert Whitney (Olean)
10 - Eber Pettit Home (Versailles)
3 - Thatcher Brothers (Hornell)
7 - Hiram Thayer (Frewsburg)
11 - Oliver Lee Home (Silver Creek)
4 - Henry Crandall Home (Almond)
8 - Catherine Harris Home (Jamestown)
12 - Isaac Searle Home (Cadiz)

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 Southern Tier of New York State. 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 Southern Tier of New York? Do you think that this would affect the routes Freedom Seekers took?

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

A fugitive woman from northern Virginia has made her way up the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania, and now she has arrived in the city of Elmira to the home of John W. Jones (#1), himself a former slave. Mr. Jones has contacts with the railroads that run through Elmira. Do you think he should use the "Above-ground Railroad" to send this brave woman closer to Canada? One possible route could be to Jamestown (#8), and then to the home of Eber Petitt in Versailles (#10).
Determine a good path, listing the stations you probably could use along the way. Record them on your Student Worksheet.

TASK 3: The railroads in and around Elmira are being watched by federal marshalls. It is too dangerous to use this method of transportation. Can you think of an alternative? 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: Elmira/Jamestown

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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