Niagara's Freedom Trail
Sites and Exhibits of the Underground Railroad
What was the Underground Railroad?
Neither a railroad nor underground, it was a network of people who hid and guided freedom seekers as they followed the North Star to Canada and freedom.
Millions of black Africans were shipped as slaves to the United States and the Caribbean in terribly overcrowded boats. Over time, 40,000 of these people fled to Canada. After the Civil War, half of them returned to the south with the hope of being re-united with family and friends.
Niagara's Rich History
Following the American Revolution, many British Loyalists left the United States and moved to Upper Canada. Many brought slaves with them.
On May 21, 1793, Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe introduced a bill which prevented the introduction of further slavery into Upper Canada.
From the early 1820's, those excaping slavery in the United States followed the North Star to find shelter behind Upper Canada's humanitarian policies. Before long, the Underground Railroad brought the first freedom seekers to Upper Canada and as a result, a substantial population of blacks established itself in the Niagara Region.
Sites and Exhibits in St. Catharines
- St. Catharines Museum and Welland Canals Centre, Lock 3, 1932 Welland Canals Parkway. Explore the history of the Underground Railroad and the African-Canadian community in St. Catharines. Learn about people such as Harriet Tubman, the "Coloured Corps", and others who helped shape our community.
- Anthony Burns Grave Site & Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Queenston Street (west of Homer Bridge). A provincial historical plaque honours the memory and grave site of Rev. Anthony Burns, the last person tried under the Fugitive Slave Act in Massachusetts. A verdict which returned him to slavery incited street riots. Boston abolitionists bought his freedom and educated him before he settled in St. Catharines.
- Richard Pierpoint Plaque, Oakdale Avenue. This Ontario Heritage Foundation Plaque commemorates Richard Pierpoint, a freedom seeker who received a land grant in St. Catharines in recognition of his military service to the Crown during the American Revolutionary War.
- B.M.E. Church, Salem Chapel, 92 Geneva Street. Founded in 1855, the chapel was built by slaves seeking freedom in Canada. The church was also attended by Harriet Tubman, the renowned conductor on the Underground Railroad. The church was designated a National Historic site in 2000.