Niagara Falls played a big role in the Underground Railroad. The history dates back more than 150 years.
“During that time I would definitely say Niagara Falls had a lot of hustle and bustle. It was like the last option, they knew it was their last chance to get to freedom,” said Christina Beauvoir, Visitor Experience Specialist.
Back in the 1800’s, Niagara Falls was seen as a pathway to freedom for people trying to escape slavery.
“You could cross by ferry boat at the base of the Falls or you could cross on the suspension bridge that was built in 1848 like Harriet Tubman and many others did,” said Ally Spongr, Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center Director and Curator.
Many people played a role in the Underground Railroad in the Cataract City. Some sought freedom, others suppressed it. Bounty hunters were on the lookout.
“They’re paid to bring back people that were enslaved. Bounty hunters would try and make sure that they brought them back because essentially it’s a piece of property that needed to be returned,” said Beauvoir.
The Cataract House was a prominent hotel at what is now Niagara Falls State Park. Many waiters there were secret agents.
“They helped people get right across the river right outside the front doors to freedom in Canada,” said Spongr.
There’s also a contemporary exhibit that highlights the struggles many people still face today.
For more information on the Niagara Falls Underground Railroad Heritage Center, you can click here.