Newfane in Niagara County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
An Underground Railroad Safe House
Cultural Heritage - Routes to freedom passed through many Seaway Trail communities
Not Underground, Not a Railroad
Freedom seekers used whatever means available to make their journey. Some stowed away on canal boats and lake steamers. Some were transported hidden in wagons. Usually, however, they simply traveled on foot, under the cover of darkness, carrying few possessions, following creek beds to avoid detection, and following leads to safe houses like the McClews' to rest and eat.
Charles and Anna Maria McClew were part of a secret network of people who helped freedom seekers make their way through the Niagara Frontier to Canada. Abolitionists throughout the Niagara region not only assisted people fleeing from slavery but also fought for abolition of slavery through political channels.
The McClews moved to this property in 1850 and built this house and barns. They used native wood, made the bricks on site, and used stones cut from the Erie Canal excavation to cap the foundation wall.
There is a concealed room beneath the McClews' barn where people escaping slavery were able to rest and recuperate. The entrance to the room
Boat and Bridge Crossings
Rowboats were used to secretly ferry people across the Niagara River to Canada and freedom.
After the first Suspension bridge was built to Canada near the Whirlpool Rapids in 1847, most fugitives escaped either by stealthily walking across the bridge or, after the original bridge was replaced by the Suspension Railway Bridge in 1855, by hiding in baggage or cattle cars of the trains.
Creekbeds offered pathways that were easy to follow even at nighttime and were often edged with concealing vegetation.
People who were escaping from slavery were sometimes hidden in wagons filled with produce that was being taken to market in Lockport or Niagara Falls.
Underground Railroad in New York
People who were escaping from slavery followed several routes from the south to the north, and from the interior of the state to its border with Canada.
1865 Slavery abolished by the 13th Amendment.
1863 Emancipation Proclamation decrees that all slaves in Rebel territory are free.
1861-65 United States Civil War
1860 Abraham Lincoln Elected.
1850 Compromise of 1850, which encompasses the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, passes U.S. Congress, allowing bounty hunters and Federal Marshals to seize fugitive slaves within states where slavery has been
1837 Slavery is abolished by a Law of Complete Emancipation in New York State.
1820 Missouri Compromise forbids slavery in any new territories north of latitude 36°30'.
1808 U.S. bans slave trade. 1793 Fugitive Slave Act outlaws efforts to impede the capture of runaways.
Seaway Trail, Inc. Corner Ray & West Main St., Sacketts Harbor, NY 13685. www.seawaytrail.com This project was funded in part by the federal Highway Administration and administered by the New York State Scenic byways Program of the New York State Department of Transportation and Seaway Trail, Inc.
Erected by Seaway Trail, Inc.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans. In addition, it is included in the Great Lakes Seaway Trail National Scenic Byway series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1850.
Location. 43° 17.952′ N, 78° 43.535′ W. Marker is in Newfane, New York, in Niagara County. Marker can be reached from McClew Road, 0.6 miles north of Ide Road. This property and business is now Murphy Orchards. The marker is between the house and the barn, which is behind the house. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 2402 McClew Road, Burt NY 14028, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within Binational Heritage Peace Garden Trail (a few steps from this marker); Home of James Van Horn (approx. one mile away); First Baptist Church (approx. 1.4 miles away); The Willingness to Sacrifice (approx. 1½ miles away); Roller Mill (approx. 1.6 miles away); Brick Kiln (approx. 1.9 miles away); Lakeview (approx. 2.4 miles away); One Country and One Flag (approx. 2.7 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Newfane.
Also see . . . Murphy Orchards. Visit Buffalo-Niagara website entry (Submitted on November 6, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.)
Credits. This page was last revised on January 25, 2022. It was originally submitted on November 6, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 420 times since then and 48 times this year. Last updated on November 11, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. submitted on November 6, 2014, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.