What Part Did New Jersey Quaker Abigail Goodwin Play in the Underground Railroad?

by Kristy Ambrose
Fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad.

Fugitive slaves on the Underground Railroad.

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Abigail Goodwin was one of the figures whose work was instrumental in the success of the Underground Railroad. To commemorate her efforts, historians have preserved her home in Salem along with many other Underground Railroad sites in New Jersey. If you visit the state's Delaware River region today, you can follow the same path as the fugitive slaves of the 19th century as they escaped to freedom.

Abigail's Work

Although figures like Harriet Tubman overshadow Abigail Goodwin, she was one of the most important agents in the Underground Railroad movement. She provided lodging, food, clothing and other necessities to fugitive slaves. She also raised money to buy and free slaves in North and South Carolina. Slave hunters occasionally approached her in disguise, but never fooled her. She often sent warnings to other "stations" about authorities lurking nearby as salespeople or travelers.

Goodwin Sister House

Abigail did not work alone. Her sister Elizabeth helped her run the Underground Railroad station from their home. The house, built in 1821 and located at 47 Market Street in Salem, New Jersey, had become an official Underground Railroad Station by 1838. The house still stands as a tribute to that period. Besides helping to operate the Underground Railroad with other local abolitionists and Quakers, they provided sanctuary to any slaves passing through on their way to freedom.

The Underground Railroad in the New Jersey

Natural landmarks like the North Star, the Delaware River and the Cohansey River guided runaway slaves north to Salem, where they could rest from their journey and be safe from slave hunters. Many of the Quakers in New Jersey hid, fed or sheltered runaway slaves. Thanks to the network that Abigail Goodwin helped direct and support, thousands of slaves crossed New Jersey safely and found freedom in Canada.

The Path Preserved

If you're fortunate enough to live in the Delaware River region in New Jersey, or plan to visit, you can see many historic sites preserved to remember the era of the Underground Railroad. The Goodwin sister's house is only one of many links that stretch across northern New Jersey. You can also see the Croft Farm, another "station" like Abigail's, or the Mont Zion Church, which still has its trap door and secret room that hid runaway slaves.

About the Author

Kristy Ambrose enjoys writing about teaching, travel and pet care. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from the University of Victoria.

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