Underground Railroad Agents in Erie County

Detail of map by Wilbur H. Siebert for The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. Many thanks to OhioMemory.org for digitizing the full map. Elbert Wixom Cook drew a similar map in 1903.

These names were originally compiled by Christopher Densmore with additions by the author of this website. Where did he find them?

Lists like this are never entirely comprehensive or reliable, because some authors who claim people for the UGRR, sometimes decades after the fact, do not cite any sources from the period. When encountering claims about the Underground Railroad, always evaluate what evidence, if any, the author provides.

Of these individuals, these men were African-American:

  • William Wells Brown
  • John Dandridge
  • Phoenix Lansing
  • Samuel Murray
  • William Qualls (sometimes spelled Quarles)
  • Bob Smith
  • George Weir, Jr.

Many more Black Buffalonians assisted freedom seekers but their names were not recorded.

Modern audiences often conflate abolitionism, Quakerism, and Underground Railroad activity, assuming that anyone who advocated for abolition was also an Underground Railroad agent. Or that anyone who was Quaker was also an Underground Railroad agent. It is possible that many who supported the abolition cause never encountered the opportunity to assist anyone feeling from slavery.

Some who did assist, like the anonymous boatmen who piloted the Black Rock Ferry back and forth to Canada, thus delivering fugitives to freedom, were doing their jobs and may never have joined organized efforts to assist freedom seekers.

Aldrich, SidneyClarenceSiebert, p. 414
Baker, BenjaminEast Hamburgh, now Orchard ParkGraf, p. 76
Merrill, p. 106
Baker, ObadiahPotter’s Corners, in what is now Orchard ParkMerrill, p. 100
Barker, GideonWalesSiebert, p. 414
Brown, William WellsBuffaloGraf, p. 80
Merrill, p. 106
Butler, MorrisBuffaloGraf, p. 78-79
Merrill, p. 105
Seibert, p. 195
Chester, LucasBuffaloWhite, v.2, p. 466
Dandridge, JohnBuffaloMSBC, p.24
Dodge, CheesmanBuffaloGraf, p. 76
Dodge, HamptonBuffaloMerrill, p. 105
E—–, DeaconSpringvillePettit, p. 70-71
Fosdick, John SpencerBuffaloGraf, p. 78
Hathaway, [possibly Isaac?]CollinsPettit, p. 46
Haywood, WilliamSiebert, p. 414
Hill, RoswellEdenMerrill, p. 99
Hosmer, Rev. George W.BuffaloPowell, p. 7
Jonson, George W.BuffaloSiebert, p. 414
Lansing, PhoenixBuffaloWeir
Love, Thomas C.BuffaloGraf, p. 77
Matteson, H.H.BuffaloPicquet, p. 43
Maxwell, JohnBuffaloMerrill, p. 105
Moore, Deacon Henry AuroraSiebert, p. 414
Murray, SamuelBuffaloGraf, p. 79
Merrill, p. 106
Severance, p. 242
Orr, AbnerHollandMerrill, p. 99
Orton, Rev. Samuel G.BuffaloSeverance, p. 189
Pepper, —– [attorney?]BuffaloBrown
Qualls, WilliamBuffaloMSBC, p. 24
R—-,T—-, Esq.BuffaloWeir
Smith, BobBuffaloPowell, p. 8
Varney, “Friend Andrew”Evans?Pettit, pp. 14, 17, 94
Webster, Mary WillisTown Line/AldenMerrill, p. 100
Weir, George, Jr.BuffaloWeir
Wilkes, JohnRice Corners, SardiniaMerrill, p. 99
Williams, —–Siebert, p. 414
Ziegler, [possibly William?]Black RockMerrill, p. 106
Zimmer, CarlBuffaloGraf, p. 79
SourceFull Citation
BrownBrown, William Wells
Narrative of William Wells Brown [Chapter 11, excerpt]
Boston, MA: Anti-Slavery Office, 1847
GrafGraf, Hildegarde.
Abolition and Anti-Slavery in Buffalo and Erie County
Buffalo, NY: Thesis, University of Buffalo, May 1939
MerrillMerrill, Arch.
The Underground, Freedom’s Road and Other Upstate Trails
New York: American Book-Stratford, 1963
MSBCBuffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition et al.
Historic Structure Report for the Michigan Street Baptist Church
Buffalo, NY: Buffalo Niagara Freedom Station Coalition, 2013
PettitPettit, Eber M.
Sketches in the History of the Underground Railroad
Fredonia, NY: McKinstry & Son, 1879
PowellPowell, Ed
Street as school: Ideas and Assembly in Buffalo, Seen Through the Diary of George Washington Jonson (1835-1849)
Urban Education, vol. 18, no. 4, January 1984, pp. 413-425
PicquetPicquet, Louise
Louise Picquet, the Octaroon
New York: The author, 1861
SeveranceSeverence, Frank H.
Old Trails on the Niagara Frontier
Cleveland, OH: Burrows Brothers, 1903
SiebertSiebert, Wilbur.
The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom
New York: Macmillan, 1898
WeirWeir, George.
Still they come: Underground Railroad in Active Operation
Frederick Douglass’s Paper, December 11, 1854
WhiteWhite, Truman, ed.
Our County and its People
Boston, MA: Boston History Company, 1898