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Levi Coffin House

Levi Coffin House - Click to view larger photo.

A part of the legendary Underground Railroad for fleeing slaves of pre-Civil War days, this registered National Historic Landmark is a Federal style brick home built in 1839.

Hidden Room - Click for larger view.
Escaping slaves could be hidden in this small upstairs room and the beds moved in front of the door to hide its existence.

Levi and Catharine Coffin were legendary in helping many former slaves escape to freedom in the North.  Levi is often referred to as the President of the Underground Railroad.

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 map and trying to avoid search parties. Often, escaped slaves would hide in homes or on the property of antislavery supporters. These stops to freedom were called Underground Railroad stations because they resembled stops a train would make between destinations. "Underground" refers the the secret nature of the system.

To the thousand of escaped slaves, an eight-room Federal style brick home in Newport (Fountain City), Indiana, became a safe haven on their journey to Canada. Undergound Railroad RoutesThis was the home of

Wagon with hiding place.  Click for larger view.
Escaping slaves were well hidden for their travels in this wagon when grain bags were piled around the hiding area.
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 and Jeffersonville, Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio. From these points, the fugitives were taken to Newport. African-American Rag Doll - Click for larger view.Once in the house, the presence of the runaway slaves could be 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, not a single slave failed to reach 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 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. Prior to 2016 the home was operated by the Levi Coffin House Association. In 2016, an Interpretive Center was built and the Indiana State Historic Site is now operated by the Indiana State Museum.

Levi Coffin - Click for larger view.
Levi Coffin
Catharine Coffin - Click for larger view.
Catharine Coffin

Recommended Links

Levi Coffin House

Quilt Square IconThe Levi Coffin House has been included on the list of the top 25 history sites in the nation by The History Channel!

Quilt Square IconThe Smithsonian names the Levi Coffin House Interpretive Center as one of twelve new museums around the world to visit in 2016!

Levi and Catharine Coffin
Underground Railroad in Indiana
Underground Railroad in Ohio and the Midwest
Underground Railroad: General Information

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Did You Know?

The first county seat in Wayne County was located in Salisbury, a town that no longer exists. The county seat was moved to Centerville in 1818 and finally to Richmond in 1873.