Stop #1 is located at 133 N. Allegheny Street. Click the photo to learn more about BAM's connections to the Underground Railroad.
Stops #2 and #3 are located at the intersection of Allegheny and High Streets. "The Diamond" is in front of the Centre County Courthouse. Click the photo to learn more about its connections to the Underground Railroad.
Stop #4 is located at 211 W. High Street. The historical marker indicates the former location of the Mills Barbershop between 1871 and 1931. Click the photo to learn more about its connections to the Underground Railroad.
Stop #5 is located at 121 St. Paul Street. The African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Church has been on this site since 1859. Click the photo to learn more about its connections to the Underground Railroad.
Stop #6 is located at 160 Dunlop Street. The Gamble Mill area is rich in history, click the photo to learn more about its connections to the Underground Railroad.
Like other towns and regions across Pennsylvania, Bellefonte has a history linked to the Underground Railroad — but why and how?
Geography is a factor that brought freedom seekers along routes and transportation links through central Pennsylvania. By 1821, the Philadelphia to Erie Turnpike ran through Centre County and would have been a major thoroughfare of people, goods, and ideas during the 19th century (Linn 1883, 446). The "trail to freedom" from Harrisburg to Bellefonte followed the Susquehanna and Juniata rivers to Mifflintown, onward to Lewistown, and then to Milroy. Each of these stations had Underground Railroad agents along the way to help freedom seekers. From Milroy the trail followed the old Kishacoquillas Indian Path over Seven Mountains into Bellefonte (Switala 2001, 114). From Bellefonte routes continued westward to Philipsburg, Clearfield and beyond (26). Scholars have also connected Centre County to the Jefferson Route which "extended from Maryland through Bedford and Altoona into Centre County before heading to various points north and west" (Clemson and Hannegan 2008).
In addition, between 1820 and 1840, the Black population of the Bellefonte borough more than tripled and accounted for close to 11% of the local population (2008). This number would have been proportionally higher than Philadelphia during the same period. By 1860, half of Centre County's Black population was living in Bellefonte. Among other industries and skilled crafts, the iron industry was a major pull factor that contributed to the Black population in Centre County (2008).
Lastly, there was a local population of abolitionists, such as Quakers (Society of Friends), who also played a role in assisting freedom seekers in their escape from slavery. As you will see on the tour, the home of William A. Thomas (a Quaker and ironmaster) is one of the documented Underground Railroad sites in Bellefonte.
Clemson, Daniel, and Susan Hannegan. Underground Railroad Activity in Bellefonte, PA. 2008.
Linn, John B. History of Centre and Clinton Counties, Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: Louis H. Everts, 1883.
Switala, William J. Underground Railroad in Pennsylvania. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2001.