The Blairsville Underground Railroad
The Blairsville Underground Railroad Project began in 2006 with the prospect of a grant that would enhance the historic marker of 1858 that commemorated the Rescue of Richard Newman. Through the Blairsville Improvement Group and the Blairsville Borough a grant from the Department of Community and Economic Development was received and a committee formed to begin the research into the history of local events connected to Underground Railroad activity in the Blairsville area.
The Passport to Freedom became the working title of many projects that soon developed with the group. This project is dedicated to the memory of the area men, women and children who joined in the Underground Railroad Movement of pre-Civil War America. It also seeks to commemorate the self-emancipated men, women and children who rode this path to freedom and to those who had the courage to obtain freedom on their own.
Our commitment is to:
- Educate the public about the known facts and to reveal how certain myths came into being as well as to present oral histories that may in time be documented.
- Research , document and preserve area history.
- Develop presentations, historic narratives and other materials to advance public awareness.
- Create a History Center to showcase and exhibit area UGRR-related material as well as providing a central location for events, seminars and workshops.
The Project works hand in hand with the Historical Society of the Blairsville Area which serves as the base for communication and research. The Blairsville UGRR is a financially independent non-profit organization and all funding for their projects comes from grants or individual donations.
Some Background Information:
Mr. John Graff was a major factor in the operation of the Underground Railroad in Blairsville. He was a wealthy business man with strong religious convictions. Passionate in his hatred of slavery, he belonged to many abolitionist societies and was a stationmaster for the UGRR.
Another man of note was Lewis Johnston. He was the son of a free black man and a slave woman. Johnston was a coal miner and well respected in the community. He and Graff shared a common cause. He, too, was a stationmaster.
A bit further north, near the village of Black Lick, was Johnston M. Palmer.; like Graff and Johnston, Palmer was a committed Christian who abhorred slavery. He also served as a stationmaster.
The story of the Rescue of 1858, Newman's escape, took place on the main street in Blairsville and became an event that merited the placement of the historic marker just west of the "Diamond" area. Please go to the Rescue of 1858 tab for the story of Richard Newman.