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Lake Champlain: Gateway to Freedom - Page 6

Rev. Fayette Shipherd

Rev. Fayette Shipherd, minister of the
Free Congregational Church of Troy

In a series of responses to UGRR historian Wilbur Siebert, the old abolitionist lawyer Martin Ingram Townsend of Troy, New York, shared his recollections of the UGRR:

...the colored man was always a welcome guest at the house of a colored man who bore the name of John N. Hooper—Hooper was a man who owned his house and lived by Whitewashing. He was a Marylander & Lived near Fred Douglass in his Boyhood. When a fugitive arrived at Troy, a fund was raised to send him or her to Suspension Bridge or Rouses Point—White People made individual contributions...

Townsend provided further clarification,

...fugitives from slavery always traveled from Troy to the Canada line with perfect Safety—whether by Vermont & Lake Champlain—and by Suspension Bridge. When they reached Troy they only needed money to pay their fare for the rest of their voyage...

In November of 1840, Rev. Fayette Shipherd sent a letter to Garret Van Hoosen of Hoosick, Renesalaer County. The letter was addressed to Charles Hicks of Bennington, Vermont. Shipherd informed Hicks,

As the canal has closed I shall send my Southern friends along your road & patronize your house. We had a fine run of business during the season...We had 22 in two weeks 13 in the city at one time. Some of them noble looking fellows I assure you. One female so near white & so beautiful that her master had been offered at different times $1,200-1,500 & 2,000 for foulest purposes. A Baltimore officer—a man hunter was seen in our city making his observations but left without giving us any trouble. Several slaves were in our city from Baltimore at the time. Our Laws are now a terror to evil doers who live by robbery...


Fayette Shipherd, letter to Charles Hicks, Nov. 24, 1840. Vermont Historical Society.

Martin I. Townsend, letter to Wilbur Siebert. Sept. 4, 1896. Wilbur H. Siebert Collection (1840-1954), [microform]. ([Columbus]: Ohio Historical Society), reel 8.

New York City

Isaac Hopper, a Quaker who had begun his Underground Railroad work in Philadelphia and moved to New York City, forwarded fugitive slaves "chiefly by water to Providence & Boston, or by river & canal & Lake Champlain."

Isaac Hopper

Isaac Hopper

These documented accounts of Lake Champlain and the Underground Railroad highlight an unheralded history. They inform us that Lake Champlain was an Underground Railroad highway, the ultimate link in an extensive and major UGRR network which started in the Southern United States and ended in Canada.

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James S. Rogers, letter to Wilbur H. Siebert, April 17, 1897. [the Underground Railroad in Vermont, vol. 1, MIC 192 Wilbur HJ. Siebert Collection (1840-1954) Microfilm Edition] (Columbus: Ohio Historical Society), reel 15.