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Madison Underground RR

Crossing the River to Freedom

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Madison, an early 19th century river port city on the Ohio whose historic Georgetown section, located north of Main Street, is the only designated National Underground Railroad District in the country.

In the mid 1800s, Madison was one of the largest cities in the state with the largest number of free African Americans as well.

Many resided in a Madison neighborhood known as Georgetown which, just five blocks from the river, was the perfect spot for UGRR to thrive and became the center for UGRR activity – as well as the focal point for angry pro slavery groups from Louisville, Kentucky who tried to destroy the community – and slightly over 70% of the homes, churches and environments dating from 1830 to 1865 that the freedom seekers, conductors and abolitionists saw, still exist today.

George de Baptiste, a nationally known conductor on the Underground Railroad, lived in Madison from 1838 to 1846.

William J. Anderson, born a freeman, was later enslaved but managed to escape and in 1836 moved to Madison. He was one of the founders of the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church which was at 711 Walnut Street (now a private residence).

Those wanting to explore Georgetown can get a walking tour guide from the Madison Indiana Convention and Visitors Bureau. There are eight historic sites to see including the African Methodist Episcopal Church (open for tours by appointment through Historic Madison Inc.), built in 1850 and recently restored as well as the home of William Anderson, who as a slave child was bought and sold at least eight times.

Anderson learned how to read and write and escaped by writing his own pass. Arriving in Madison, he became a prosperous landowner but risked it all to help others achieve freedom too.

Madison also played a part when John Hunt Morgan and his Raiders crossed the Ohio River and began wreaking havoc on the communities of Southeastern Indiana. They took over a telegraph station in another town and attempted to send a false message, bu the Madison operator immediately knew the message being sent wasn’t from the real operator.


At A Glance

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