Historical Markers
Underground Railroad (Dauphin County) Historical Marker
Mouse over for marker text

Underground Railroad (Dauphin County)

Hershey/Gettysburg/Dutch Country Region


Marker Location:
Walnut St. near 4th St., Harrisburg

Dedication Date:
April 29, 2000

Behind the Marker

This c. 1911 photo of the Wesley Union AME Zion Church on the corner of Tanner's Alley and South Street was taken shortly before the area was razed to make room for the expanding Capitol complex.
Wesley Union AME Zion Church, corner of Tanner's Alley and South Street,...
By 1850, Harrisburg's free black population had grown close to 900 people, about 12 percent of the town's population. A large portion of this community lived in a neighborhood known as Tanner's Alley or Tanner's Lane. A vibrant section of the city, Tanner's Alley contained local churches, including the Wesley Union AME Zion Church, the black Masonic Hall, businesses, restaurants, and dance halls.

Born into a prominent black Philadelphia family, Joseph Bustill (1822-1895) came to working in Harrisburg during the 1850s as a schoolteacher. There, he and William "Pap" Jones, a prominent African-American doctor and merchant, were active in the Underground Railroad, hiding escaped slaves in this homes.  Jones also transported fugitive slaves in a large covered wagon.

In the 1850s, Bustill wrote several letters to markerWilliam Still of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee informing him of various operations and describing the formation of what he called Harrisburg's Fugitive Slave Society. Bustill did not use railroad metaphors to discuss the fugitives his group was sending to Philadelphia. Instead he referred in one case to "five large and three small packages," and in another case to "four large and marker two small hams" that were due to arrive on the real Reading and Pennsylvania Railroad.
Back to Top