Created By: Kennett Underground Railroad Center
From the earliest European settlement of what is now the United States to the close of the American Civil War in 1865, enslaved people, unwillingly transported from Africa, provided much of the labor to build this country. These people could be bought and sold like any other form of property. As long as their was slavery, there were enslaved people who sought to free themselves by escape. After the American Revolution, many northern states, including Pennsylvania, ended slavery within their own borders, while others, including near-by Delaware and Maryland, became even more dependent on slave labor. By the 1780s, enslaved people tried to escape to a place were they could be free. Some stayed locally in the Kennett area, while others went to Philadelphia, New York or New Bedford, and by the 1830s, many escapees headed for the safety in Canada.
Chester County, Pennsylvania, shares its southern boundary with Delaware, and is close to the Maryland. Both Delaware and Maryland were slave states so freedom seekers from those states, or from the lower South, had to keep moving north. This closeness, the presence of a large Quaker population opposed to slavery, organized anti-slavery societies, and a relatively large number of African-Americans,: all of these factors made Chester County an important stop for freedom seekers on their way north.