Dozens gathered at the historical Harmony House in Geistown on Saturday morning in solemn reverence for the role the home played in African-American history.
The home used to lie on the property of William Slick, a farmer and known abolitionist who helped heal two escaped slaves and send them on their way.
A marker was placed on the site to commemorate the harrowing journey of brothers Patrick and Abraham, slaves who made their way to freedom via the Underground Railroad. Both carried bullet wounds with them.
“(Slick) made sure they were well and got them in shape to travel, which was a bit of a risk for them to hold folks until they were well and ready to move on,” said Alan Cashaw, president of the Johnstown chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.
He said the Geistown memorial symbolizes the sacrifices made on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line.
“When slaves were trying to escape and they had an opportunity to help, (abolitionists) opened their hearts,” Cashaw said, adding that it was still illegal for a free state resident to harbor a runaway slave. “It was civil disobedience.”
But it was that disobedience that paved the way for the civil rights movement in the U.S.
“The Underground Railroad was the beginning of the end of slavery – and that culminated in black people being full citizens and having equal protection under the law.
“As an African-American, that was encouraging that people then said men should be free.”
Justin Dennis is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on Twitter at @JustinDennis.