Lessons in the Geography of the 

Underground Railroad in New York State

Scenario 8: The Greater Rochester Region

by Timothy McDonnell
New York Geographic Alliance

UGRR Station Map

List of UGRR Stations:

1 - Pitts Mansion (Honeoye)
5 - Douglass Home (Rochester)
9 - Ramsdell Castle (Perinton)
2 - Rubin Sleeper Home (Mt. Morris)
6 - Babcock House (Brighton)
10 - Friends Meeting House (Farmington)
3 - James Sperry Home (Henrietta)
7 - Kelsey' Landing (Rochester)

4 - Warrant Homestead (Brighton)
8 - Isaac Chase Home (Greece)

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 Genesee Region 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 family from Maryland's Eastern Shore has traveled through the Finger Lakes, and now they are hiding out at the Pitts Homestead in Honeoye, NY. There are rumors of slave catchers in the vicinity. So, they need to moved toward Rochester. Hopefully, Frederick Douglass can put them on a boat for Canada at Kelsey's Landing on the Genesee River. How can you get these Freedom Seekers to the Douglass home?
Determine a good path, listing the stations you probably could use along the way. Record them on your Student Worksheet.

TASK 3: The docks at Kelsey's Landing are being watched by federal marshalls. It is too dangerous to put the fugitives on a boat. 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: Rochester.

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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