Buffalo in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Black Rock Harbor / From Plantation to Promised Land
National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom
The Village of Black Rock received its name from a large rock outcropping that jutted into the river about a half mile south of this site. The original ferry crossing was located at the rock and a small village grew up around it. The rock outcropping was demolished for construction of the Erie Canal and the ferry and village relocated here.
Black Rock and Buffalo competed to become the terminus of the new canal. Buffalo won, in part, due to concerns about damage from ice flows in the river during winter.
Nonetheless, a protected harbor was created here by construction of a long stone pier connecting Unity Island (formerly known as Squaw Island) to the north and Bird Island to the south. Originally, canal boats entered the harbor, traveled upriver and enetered a final canal segment leading to Buffalo.
The configuration of the Erie Canal at Black Rock Harbor changed over the decades as industrial growth increased. Black Rock was absorbed into the City of Buffalo in 1853.
An 1825 view of Black Rock, facing north. The ferry dock is on the stone pier to the left where the ships are shown. Source: Buffalo History Museum.
Stone pier looking north toward the ferry dock with river on the left and harbor on the right. Image courtesy of the Queens College CUNY Graduate
Background image: Detail, 1866 Stone and Stewart Atlas. Map of the City of Buffalo. Source: Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library "City of Buffalo [Township]" The New York Public Library Digital Collections, 1866.
[right panel] From Plantation to Promised Land.
In the decades before the Civil War, the Black Rock Ferry was an important crossing point of the Underground Railroad. Fugitive Freedom Seekers used the ferry to cross the river to Canada and freedom. Other documented crossing points were located downriver at Niagara Falls, Lewiston, and Youngstown.
The Underground Railroad was an informal, interlocking series of local networks through which fugitive Freedon Seekers were assisted in reaching free states and Canada. The fugitives faced long journeys, great danger, and daunting odds.
1836 publication of the American Anti-Slavery Society in which a fugitive crossing at Black Rock is recorded.
Period accounts, memoirs, and local histories record crossings at Black Rock beginning as early as 1824, increasing though the following three decades. Each story has its own character and recounts its own dangers.
Broderick Park's Freedom Walk engravings note
Left: Samuel Ringgold Ward, an escaped Freedom Seeker, newspaper editor, and abolitionist, wrote about the 1836 escape at Black Rock depicted in the Anti-Slavery Record in his 1855 autobiography. Source/l "Samuel Ringgold Ward, "TPL Virtial Exhibits, accessed May 18, 2016, http://omeka.tplcs.ca/virtual-exhibits/items/show/172
Location. 42° 54.884′ N, 78° 54.167′ W. Marker is in Buffalo, New York, in Erie County. Marker is on Robert Rich Way 0.1 miles south of Ferry Street Bridge, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in Broderick Park on Unity Island at the south section of the island by a service building. Access to the marker is by the Ferry Street Bridge off of Niagara Street (NY Route 266). Marker is in this post office area: Buffalo NY 14213, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Broderick Park / Distinctive River Ecosystems (here, next to this marker); Harrowing Journey (a few steps from this marker); Underground Railroad River Crossing (within shouting distance of this marker); International Crossing (within shouting distance of this marker); Industrial Powerhouse (within shouting distance of this marker); West Ferry Street Bascule Bridge (within shouting distance of this marker); Nowak Pier (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Site of Fort Tompkins (approx. 0.3 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Buffalo.
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • Waterways & Vessels •
Credits. This page was last revised on September 19, 2016. This page originally submitted on September 19, 2016, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 139 times since then. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on September 19, 2016, by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York.