As the Civil War grew imminent, the 1800’s remain a significant piece in both American and local history. It was at this time, that more than 50,000 runaway fugitive slaves attempted to obtain their freedom through what is known as the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was the name given to the network of secret routes and safe houses which served to aid the enslaved runaways as they migrated from the Southern slave states to areas such as the Northeastern US and Canada; they were often aided by abolitionists, former slaves, and those who remained dedicated to the anti-slavery movement in the United States. For many, one crucial area of their journey was right here in the Abingtons; this was where a great deal of runaways passed through, and were substantially assisted by local residents on their trek towards freedom. In fact, because of the sense of community and refuge that the area provided, a great deal of runaways even settled down in Waverly and the surrounding areas; they bought and rented homes at reasonable prices on installment plans from certain property owners willing to extend assistance to their families. At one time, over 75 African-American residents established residences in the area; likewise, the very first A.M.E church began in the area and the structure presently remains. In addition to providing them with land, local residents also taught the former slaves how to read and write; ultimately, the Abingtons remain symbolic of hope and bravery during a time of civil unrest in the United States.
At this time, the Waverly Community House is proud to announce that it as been awarded a grant from the Lackawanna Heritage Valley National State and Heritage Area (LHV). Thanks to this grant, the Comm will create Destination Freedom: an Interpretive Walking Trail Map; this map will serve as a guide for visitors to utilize in order to see and learn about the local sites of significance of the Underground Railroad. It is our intention to benefit the community through this unique learning tool by emphasizing the importance of local history and heritage. The Lackawanna Heritage Valley National State and Heritage Area has supported this project in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the National Park Service. We are also partnering with author Jim Remsen, who has done extensive research on the subject. We remain very excited for this project, and more information, as well as volunteer opportunity information will be supplied in the near future. Stay tuned!
The Comm Archive also wishes all of our valued community members a happy new year; we are excited to see what 2017 brings!
**Map above is credited to the Scranton Times, February 2004