The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate NY

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Underground RR in Upstate NYAs the Civil War loomed and politicians from the North and South debated the fate of slavery, brave New Yorkers risked their lives to help fugitive slaves escape bondage. Because of its clandestine nature, much of the history of the Underground Railroad remains shrouded in secrecy—so much so that some historians have even doubted its importance.

After decades of research, Tom Calarco recounts his experiences compiling evidence to give credence to the legend’s oral history in a new book The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate New York (History Press, 2014).

Whites and blacks alike worked together on the Underground Railroad, using ingenious methods of communication and tactics to stay ahead of the slave master and bounty hunter. Especially after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, conscientious residents doubled their efforts to help runaways reach Canada.

Several meet the author / book signing events are planned in the near future:

Meet the author

August 9 from 11 am – 12:30 pm @ The Book Hound (Amsterdam, NY)

August 9 at 3 pm @ Walter Elwood Museum (Amsterdam, NY)

August 10 at 5 pm @ Peru Free Library with North Star Underground Railroad Museum (Peru, NY)

August 14 at 6:30 pm @ the Old Courthouse, sponsored by Montgomery County Department of History and Archives and the Montgomery County Historical Society (Fonda, NY)

August 16 at 2 pm @ Schenectady County Historical Society (Schenectady, NY)

August 22 at 7 pm @ Northshire Books (Saratoga Springs, NY)

August 23 at 2 pm @ Buffalo Street Books (Ithaca, NY)

August 25 at 6:30 pm @ Ontario Historical Society (Ontario, NY)

Tom Calarco is the author/editor of six books about the Underground Railroad, including The Underground Railroad and the Adirondack Region, for which he won the 2008 Underground Railroad Free Press award for the advancement of knowledge in Underground Railroad studies. Calarco has published more than thirty articles about the Underground Railroad in such varied publications and has presented papers at the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom annual conference, the Underground Railroad Project of the Capital Region conference in Albany and the Borderlands conference in Cincinnati. He also was the keynote speaker at the first North Star Underground Railroad Project conference and has spoken at a number of colleges and historical societies. A member of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association based in the Adirondack region, he continues to work on developing the true history of the Underground Railroad.

Note: Books noticed on The New York History Blog have been provided by their publishers. Purchases made through this Amazon link help support this site.

8 thoughts on “The Search for the Underground Railroad in Upstate NY

  1. Tanya Warren

    There are also surveys entitled “The Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and African American Life” that were sponsored by Preserve New York grants that are available online. These surveys are site-related, not story-related and utilized intensive primary documentation, property research and even genealogy to locate and either verify, refute or discover people and places associated with this 19th century struggle for human rights. The surveys were coordinated by Historical New York Research Associates (Dr. Judith Wellman, director) and included sponsorship and team work in each county. Use the title (above) and include your county to access surveys. Those that have been completed to date include Onondaga, Oswego, Cayuga, Seneca, Wayne and Niagara County .

  2. Roy Clement Jr

    You say you finished Onondaga County did you do the Euclid Hotel in the Village of Euclid Town of Clay Onondaga County ? This place was built in 1825 and has a Tunnel in the basement that goes out under Route 31 it was part of the underground railroad. Please don’t get upset over my questioning you because of my experiance with officials in New York State who wouldn’t know the truth if it jumped up and kissed them is why I’m asking this. I was born and raised in North Syracuse and Clay my mother lived in Euclid for many years as a little girl and teenager her maiden name was Bush.

  3. Tanya Warren

    Hi Roy,

    These surveys are always open to additions! Let me know the UGRR connection and I will pass this to the team for discussion-many thanks for your response-Tanya

    1. Roy Clement Jr

      I can only give you what I learned from my father and Rev. Greenwalt minister of the Euclid Methodist Church and history class in North Syracuse Central High School. The Euclid Hotel in the little village of Euclid was built in 1825 it was the last stop before Baldwinsville which was the jumping off point into Canada for the Underground Rail Road in the basement is a tunnel that goes out under Route 31. I have seen the tunnel three or four times last time was 1960. Years later the hotel became a speakeasy and bootleggers used the tunnel to hide there booze. The hotel is heavly haunted. Some slaves supposedly died in that tunnel. I don’t know who owns it now.

  4. Susan See

    I bought a home in Morrisville, N.Y. and lived there from 1985 until 1994. The house was on Union Street and when we moved in we discovered that a section of the dining room floor covered an entrance to a space under the house. It’s possible it was for something else but I always wondered if it could have been used to hide runaway slaves. Morrisville is only 10 miles from Cazenovia.

  5. Brian Keator

    Can anyone help? I’m looking for information on the UGRR in otsego county.
    I have heard about the UGRR from old-timers in my neighborhood. But I can’t find any information on the web.
    Upstate n.y.,southern tier, otsego county,goodyear lake area.
    Thanks for any help.


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