ELMIRA, N.Y. (WETM) – The underground railroad known to many as the way Harriet Tubman was able to lead over three-hundred enslaved people to freedom. It was a network of routes and state houses established in the United States, used to free enslaved African Americans and Chemung county was apart of this network.
“So, the way the Underground Railroad system worked in Chemung County and specifically Elmira is that a letter would be sent from a man by the name of William Still who was the point person in Philadelphia…to be on the lookout” said Rachel Dworkin, archivist at the Chemung County historical society.
There were a number of people who were involved in this movement and they could have faced many consequences if they were ever caught helping those enslaved people.
“Most of them, we have no idea what their names were because it was a secret and super illegal, they could be charged with a thousand dollar fine which is the equivalent to twenty-nine thousand dollars today and serve six months in prison…if they were black they would be enslaved.” Dworkin said.
Rachel hopes this information can highlight the importance of history and show how our community played a part in eradicating slavery.
“The fact that there were a number of people who actively supported the abolitionist movement and were willing to risk imprisonment to help people certainly contributed to making this a major hub for the underground railroad in a way that another area, where that wasn’t happening wouldn’t have.”