According to the History of Slavery in West Virginia, there were four major underground railroad routes in the state that became West Virginia in 1863 (prior to that it was western Virginia).
Harpers Ferry, due to its location as immediately across the Potomac River from Maryland, and just about thirty five miles from the Pennsylvania line, was in walking distance to freedom. In 1845, Garret van Metre of Hardy County sued Dr. Robert Mitchel of Pennsylvania for helping van Metre’s slave, named Jared, to escape. Two trials were held, but Mitchel was not find for van Metre’s loss of property.
During the war, the federal army, stationed in Harpers Ferry, considered escaped slaves to be contraband, and spoils of the war. Thousands of contraband blacks descended upon Harpers Ferry and camped there during the war for protection from the soldiers. It is thought that many were helped to Harpers Ferry and beyond by the systems of the Underground Railroad.
Two Underground Railroad routes passed through Morgantown. One led fugitive slaves north through Mount Morris and Greensboro, both in Pennsylvania. The other route was parallel to the Monongahela River and led to the Pennsylvania communities of New Geneva and Uniontown. A.M.E. churches both in Morgantown and in Pennsylvania aided those in need.
Slaves escaping along the Kanawha River were helped at the Ohio River crossing at Point Pleasant. They could also proceed to Parkersburg where they were often helped by Colonel John Stone an agent for the Underground Railroad. A black lady known as “Aunt Jenny” often provided them with a hide out until they could cross the river.
Several persons from Ohio including Rail Cheadle, a school teacher, and a barber (name unknown) traveled to Point Pleasant to help slaves cross the Ohio River to freedom.
Wheeling and Wellsburg, both located along the Ohio River and on the border to Pennsylvania were also important Underground Railroad sites. The McKeever family reportedly drove slaves hidden in their poultry wagons to Pittsburgh. The owner of the Wheeling House Hotel, located next to the auction block where slave were sold, is believed to have provided a sanctuary for escaped slaves. The Wheeling A.M.E. Church also provided valuable aid to those who were seeking freedom.
Many groups,such as A.M. E. Churches, Quakers, and free Masons, were well known as having aided fugitive slaves in their quest for freedom. All three were scattered throughout West Virginia.
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