Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad in New York City

Sydney Howard Gay, Louis Napoleon and the Record of Fugitives


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About the Book

During the fourteen years Sydney Howard Gay edited the American Anti-Slavery Society’s National Anti-Slavery Standard in New York City, he worked with some of the most important Underground agents in the eastern United States, including Thomas Garrett, William Still and James Miller McKim. Gay’s closest associate was Louis Napoleon, a free black man who played a major role in the James Kirk and Lemmon cases. For more than two years, Gay kept a record of the fugitives he and Napoleon aided. These never before published records are annotated in this book.
Revealing how Gay was drawn into the bitter division between Frederick Douglass and William Lloyd Garrison, the work exposes the private opinions that divided abolitionists. It describes the network of black and white men and women who were vital links in the extensive Underground Railroad, conclusively confirming a daily reality.

About the Author(s)

Don Papson was awarded the 2012 Underground Railroad Free Press Prize in Leadership for co-founding the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association and establishing the North Star Underground Railroad Museum. He lives in Plattsburgh, New York, and blogs at
Tom Calarco is a professional writer whose antislavery research is widely recognized. He was awarded the 2008 Underground Railroad Free Press Prize for advancing the knowledge and study of the Underground Railroad. He lives in Ohio.

Bibliographic Details

Don Papson and Tom Calarco
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 312
Bibliographic Info: 55 photos, 3 maps,  appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2015
pISBN: 978-0-7864-6665-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-1871-5
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix

Foreword by A.J. Williams-Myers 1

Preface 5

Introduction 9

1—Sydney Howard Gay and the Cause 13

2—Friends of Freedom 31

3—A Slave Hunt in the Shadow of City Hall 43

4—Louis Napoleon’s Early Life 51

5—More Fugitives and Challenges 55

6—Stationmasters 66

7—Outrages 75

8—The Case That Made Louis Napoleon Famous 83

9—Alliances and Misalliances 89

Annotated Record of Fugitives, 1855– and Later Years

10—Introduction to the Record 104

11—Gay’s Underground Railroad Networks 105

12—1855 117

13—1856 154

14—Addendum to the Record 197

15—And Still They Come 206

16—Civil War Years 217

17—After the Civil War 228


I. Fugitives Passing through Philadelphia 242

II. Fugitives Sent to Albany 246

III. Fugitives Sent to Syracuse 248

IV. Fugitives Passing through Harrisburg 252

V. Fugitives Sent to Boston and New Bedford 252

VI. Fugitives Traveling by Sea 254

VII. Key to New York City Underground Railroad Map 254

Chapter Notes 257

Bibliography 280

Index 287

Book Reviews & Awards

“Don Papson and Tom Calarco have opened for us a treasure trove, a first hand, first person, first rate exploration of the Underground Railroad in operation”—North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association; “This book is a must-have for researchers, genealogists, students, teachers, and general readers interested in this dramatic period in our nation’s history!”—Kate Larson, Bound For the Promised Land: Harriet Tubman, Portrait of an American Hero.