Levi Coffin Home
Life for a runaway slave was full of hazards. The journey to freedom meant traveling only a few miles at night, using the North Star as a guide and trying to avoid search parties. Often, escaped slaves would hide in homes or on the property of anti-slavery supporters. These stops to freedom were called Underground Railroad stations because they resembled stops a train would make between destinations. "underground" refers to the secret nature of the system.
To the thousands of escaped slaves, an eight-room Federal-style brick home in Newport (Fountain City), Indiana, became a safe haven on their journey to Canada. This was the home of Levi and Catharine Coffin, North Carolina Quakers who opposed slavery. During the 20 years they lived in Newport, the Coffins helped more than 2,000 slaves reach safety.
In their flight, slaves used three main routes to cross into freedom: Madison, Indiana; Jeffersonville, Indiana; and Cincinnati, Ohio. From these points, the fugitives were taken to Newport.
Once in the house, the runaway slaves were concealed for up to several weeks, until they gained enough strength to continue their journey. So successful was the Coffin sanctuary that, while in Newport, every slave reached freedom. One of the many slaves who hid in the Coffin home was "Eliza," whose story is told in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
In 1847, the Coffins moved to Cincinnati so that Levi could operate a wholesale warehouse which supplied goods to free labor stores. The Coffins continued to assist the cause, helping another 1,300 slaves escape.
The Coffin house was purchased in 1967 by the State of Indiana. The house was restored and then opened to the public in 1970. The site is a registered National Historic Landmark and is operated by the Levi Coffin House Association.