Welcome to stop number 9.
From this corner, look across the street and to the left. You will see a stone house. This is Fairthorn.
Fairthorn is reputed to be one of the oldest houses in Kennett Square borough. The Taylor family owned the property for 130 years and was the home of Bayard Taylor’s grandparents and the setting for his novel The Story of Kennett. Many members of the Taylor family were sympathetic to the abolition cause.
The following story was written by our very own KURC board member, Michele Sullivan. She has been researching a challenging topic, Black Abolitionists. Information is difficult to find because of the secretive nature of the Underground Railroad. Here is just a sample of what she has found so far.
Kennett Square, Pennsylvania is considered one of the most important hubs for the Underground Railroad in Southeastern Pennsylvania. Fugitives from the slave states of Delaware, Virginia, and Maryland often escaped into the “free state” of Pennsylvania. One reason for Kennett being such an important hub was because many Quakers lived in Chester County some of whom might help by giving shelter, rest, food, sometimes clothing. Some Quakers also provided paid work for those that wanted to earn some money in the short or long term. It must be said that not all Quakers agreed to support fugitives because to do so was breaking the law.
What most people do not know is that African American abolitionists were also a big part of the picture. African American families, communities and churches were known to many freedom seekers. All would provide shelter and help them escape or guide them to Underground Railroad stations. Before the Civil War, there were at least 27 African American churches in Chester County , one of them being the African Union Church and its community at Bucktoe.
Harriet and Levi Hood are examples of African American abolitionists in the Kennett Square area. Rev Levi Hood’s underground railroad work was with other black ministers. Mrs. Hood participated in some interracial collaboration. The Hoods had 13 children; many of whom lived with Quakers to become literate in exchange for light work on the farm. Along with her responsibilities to her family, Mrs. Hood was very independent and sometimes went to mostly white meetings such as the Pennsylvania Abolition Society to give anti-slavery speeches. It was rare that women spoke at such meetings because these meetings included only white men for many years. There were very few African Americans involved. Nonetheless she spoke and was well respected. She also worked with Quakers at the Longwood Progressive Meetinghouse in Kennett Square. She served on a Quaker committee that sponsored fairs to raise funds for the Pennsylvania Abolition Society.
James H. Walker and his wife Elizabeth lived on South Union St. in Kennett Square and sheltered freedom seekers. He was also active with the Quaker committees at Longwood Progressive Meeting just as Mrs. Hood was.
In the African American community of Bucktoe, 3 miles south of Kennett, lived a great many African American abolitionists. Through a great deal of research we know that Perry Augustus, Reverend Jacob Wiggins, Reverend Nelson Wiggins, Reverend Reuban Wiggins, James Maxfield and Richard Bivens were all African American abolitionists. When freedom seeker Isaac Mason arrived there he discovered other freedom seekers who had found Bucktoe and decided to make it their home.
You will need to cross West Sickles Street. Please do not cross North Union Street as that is the busy Rt 82. Continue walking south on the sidewalk along North Union Street. Your next stop is just ahead. We hope you are enjoying your walk!