SITE 1: COLUMBIA RIVERFRONT PARK
Learn about Columbia’s significance in the Underground Railroad, and the people who orchestrated it: Stephen Smith and William Whipper. Stephen Smith was born into slavery in Lancaster County. At 21, he purchased his freedom for $50 and allied with the abolitionist cause. A successful businessman, Smith and his partner, William Whipper, had 29 railcars which had false walls and bottoms to hide runaway slaves. Railcars shuttled fugitive slaves from Columbia, through Lancaster, to Philadelphia. They were the wealthiest black men in America in the mid 1800’s.
STORYTELLER, CHRIS VERA
Chris Vera is the President and Director of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society, Co-Owner of the Ghosts of Columbia Walking Tours, and Event Coordinator for Albatwitch Day, Catch the Fat Cat and Columbia Small Business Saturday. He lectures on Bridges of the Susquehanna, Columbia Bank & Bridge Company, the Underground Railroad, and Albatwitches. Chris coaches Penn Manor Rec League Girls’ Basketball.
SITE 2: FORMER COLUMBIA BANK & BRIDGE COMPANY BUILDING (PRESENT-DAY ART PRINTING)
The history of this building lies deep in the secrecy of what is known as the Underground Railroad. Many historic figures such as Stephen Smith, Thaddeus Stevens, William Whipper and William Wright held meetings of business as Directors of the Columbia Bank & Bridge Company. This company was vital for the transportation over the Susquehanna River, and was owned by a host of shareholders.
STORYTELLER, PETE GREEN
Pete Green is the Vice President of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society, and a lecturer on the Columbia & Philadelphia Railroad, Lloyd Mifflin and the Underground Railroad.
SITE 3: SHREINER CEMETERY
Shreiner is the burial site of Thaddeus Stevens, the Lancaster representative who was the most powerful congressman during and after the Civil War. Learn about Stevens’ interactions with three presidents -- Buchanan, Lincoln, and Johnson -- and how he helped to free the slaves and protect them after the war.
STORYTELLER, ROSS HETRICK
Ross Hetrick is the president and founder of the Thaddeus Stevens Society, a non-profit group dedicated to promoting the legacy of Thaddeus Stevens, one of the greatest statesmen in American history. He is also member of the Shreiner-Concord Cemetery Foundation, which oversees the cemetery where Stevens is buried. Hetrick, who lives in Gettysburg, has had a varied career as a business reporter, a union official, coffeehouse owner and non-profit organization leader.
SITE 4: THE FULTON THEATRE
The Fulton Theatre is the oldest continuously running theatre in the country with an incredible history. At 167 years old, the Fulton stands upon the remains of Lancaster County’s first prison and is a registered site of the Underground Railroad. The best actors and actresses, speakers, and entertainment have graced the Fulton’s stage from Sarah Bernhardt to Mark Twain to the Edison Telephone Company. The theatre continues to be a hub for theatrical entertainment in Lancaster and beyond with exciting growth in the future.
STORYTELLER, KELSEY POLLARD
Kelsey Pollard is the Community Engagement Coordinator at the Fulton Theatre. She is a theatre and history enthusiast and is thankful to work in a place that combines both! She moved to Lancaster from California to work at the Fulton after college as the Stage Management Apprentice and fell in love with the city. She lives on the West Side of town with her wife and dog.
SITE 5: SAINT JAMES EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Saint James Episcopal Church, established in 1744 under charter by the Church of England (Anglican), has played a prominent role in the religious and civic affairs of the City and County of Lancaster. Celebrating its 275th anniversary this year, Saint James members during the American Revolution forced the church to close rather than allow the Rector who was loyal to the Crown to continue to influence members and public opinion. These stirrings of rebellion continued in the years after the War. One member of the Church, Thomas Boude (1752-1825) was a major in the Continental Army who was involved in an early anti-slavery action that some describe as a spark that laid the groundwork for what became known as the Underground Railroad Movement by the late 1830s. Many other stories of African American Heritage will be shared inside the current church building, opened in 1820, as well as in the church cemetery.
STORYTELLER, RANDY HARRIS
Historian Randolph Harris of Lancaster will be your storyteller at this historic religious site. Harris is a member of Saint James and is the former Executive Director of the Historic Preservation Trust of Lancaster County (1995-2003). With the Trust, he and his Board of Directors developed the concept plan and raised $500,000 that launched the first phase of the retention and preservation of the Thaddeus Stevens and Lydia Hamilton Smith Historic Site. Originally planned to be demolished, the Stevens and Smith buildings are now partially restored and are included within the Lancaster County Convention Center and which will be opened for tours sometime after 2020 under the stewardship of LancasterHistory.org. Now an independent historic preservation consultant and the Archivist for the African American Historical Society of South Central Pennsylvania, Harris has been responsible for securing designations from the National Park Service for 20 of the 50 sites in Pennsylvania that are included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
SITE 6: BETHEL AME
The AMEC grew out of the Free African Society (FAS) which Richard Allen, Absalom Jones, and others established in Philadelphia in 1787, in opposition to racial segregation and discrimination. Bethel AME Church served as an active site in the Underground Railroad, and a pillar in the African American Community in Lancaster. Riders will learn about Richard Allen, church founder, view AME’s cornerstones, see the area designated for Civil War soldiers, and the window used as a question on Jeopardy.
STORYTELLER, KATHLEEN ANDERSON
Kathleen Anderson was born and raised in Lancaster, attending Bethel AME as a child and teenager. She is a member of the African American Historical Society of South Central PA and serves as a Site Host on the AAHS Walking Tour, honoring her great-great grandfather, Thaddeus S. Henry.
SITE 7: HANS HERR HOUSE
See the oldest surviving dwelling still standing in Lancaster County, which is now 300 years old. Built in 1719, less than a decade after the first European settlers arrived here, this house represents a connection point bridging the medieval German culture and architecture these European immigrants left behind and the start of a settlement in what became Lancaster County. The presentation here will use the Herr House to prompt us to imagine the landscape, buildings, and people that we would find here exactly three hundred years ago when the house was constructed.
STORYTELLER, DAVID SCHROCK
David Schrock, director of the 1719 Herr House, grew up just a few miles from that site. After graduating from college, he taught at Ephrata Mennonite School, which gave him time to volunteer as a Herr House tour guide each summer. He assumed his current role at the museum in 2017 after 10 years of tour volunteering. He and his wife Lindsay and son Joseph live in Manheim.
SITE 8: FLORENCE KLING OF CONESTOGA
A Mennonite family with roots in the tiny community of Conestoga moves to Ohio and produces a daughter who develops the ambition that her husband should be president of the United States. Headstrong and rebellious, Florence Kling moves into the White House in 1921 with her husband, Warren Harding. Their journey is educational by providing many illustrations of what to avoid in creating good family life!
STORYTELLER, KEN SENSENIG
Ken Sensenig has worked both internationally and domestically with Mennonite Central Committee. He enjoys local history and telling history stories. Ken and Karen live on a little farm near Akron, PA. Three adult children are scattered across the globe.