Map of Underground Railroad Routes

The Underground Railroad was a secret network organized by those opposed to slavery to help slaves travel to freedom.  In the 1830s and 40s, slaves escaping from the south could find relative security in northern free states such as New York.  After the passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act, runaway slaves moved through the Genesee Valley on their way to Canada.  Although the term “railroad” implies a fixed transportation route, the Underground Railroad was actually a loose network of hiding places where fleeing slaves could find shelter and support. 

The Genesee River and Valley were important landmarks on this network and houses reputed to have been part of the network exist throughout the region (because of the secretive nature of the Underground Railroad, it is often difficult to substantiate these claims).  As a center for abolitionist activity, Rochester and the Genesee Valley were home to men and women who provided support for the Underground Railroad.  Ports on Lake Ontario (e.g. Pultneyville, to the east of Rochester) and the Genesee River (e.g. Kelsey's Landing in Rochester) provided convenient transportation to Canada.