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Levi Coffin House
Activities: High School, Grades 9 - 12

A visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site and the use of this packet will, in part, fulfill the following requirements from the Indiana Curriculum Proficiency Guide:


  • Select and apply effective strategies for reading, including reading from and understanding different points of view.
  • Comprehend developmentally appropriate materials, including a broad variety of literature, magazines, and newspapers written for a general adult audience.
  • Select and use developmentally appropriate strategies for writing, including choosing methods of organization appropriate to audience and purpose.
  • Write for different purposes and audiences producing a variety of forms, including synthesis and analysis of information from a variety of sources; and persuasive writing.
  • Communicate orally with people of all ages by speaking effectively to an audience; expressing and substantiation one's own ideas; and participating in interviews and formal and informal debates.
  • Recognize the interrelatedness of language, literature, and culture by reading some of the recognized masterpieces and authors; and explaining how history and culture are reflected in works of a given period.

U.S. History:

  • Citizenship and Government: Examine the fundamental principles which serve as the basis of our democratic form of government.
  • Historical Perspectives: hypothesize about future trends and their impact on our lives.
  • World Cultures: compare major events and movements in the U.S. with those in other parts of the world.
  • Individuals and Society: examine the roles of various immigrant groups in the development of American society.
  • Current Events: compare and contrast a historical incident with current situations.
  • Inquiry Skills: substantiate ideas using gathered data and logic.
  • Civil Ideals and Practice: analyze the relationship between citizens' rights and responsibilities.


  1. Before your visit to the Levi Coffin House, read Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Write a book review and include your impression of how slaves escaped and what stations on the Underground Railroad looked like. After your visit, compare your impression of what you learned from the book to what you saw at the Levi Coffin house and write a conclusion paragraph.
  2. Research the various immigrant groups in the United States in the early 1800s to answer the following questions:
    • From what countries did the immigrants come, and where did they locate in the U.S.?
    • Where these people discriminated against? Were some immigrants accepted and some shunned?
    • Where any of these groups involved in the Underground Railroad? Were these groups proponents or opponents of slavery?
  3. Since the Underground Railroad existed about 150 years ago, seeing houses like the Levi Coffin House and its furnishings make it possible for us to visualize and understand the culture associated with the time period. We also know that people whose great-grandparents were slaves. Through these items and people, we learn about the past.
    • After your visit to the Levi Coffin House State Historic Site write a short essay addressing the following issues:
      • In 150 years, how will people learn about the Underground Railroad?
      • Will there still be racial tension?
      • Will people in the future have a hard time understanding how slavery could exist?
      • What items from the 1800s didn't exist in the future?
      • How could people in the future completely understand the horrors and emotions of slavery?
      • How does history stay alive through tangible items, personal histories and human emotions?
  4. Write an essay addressing the following issues:
    • What are our human rights as stated in the Bill of Rights?
    • Do these clash with the idea of slavery?
    • What specific rights clash with slavery?
  5. Write a persuasive paper to convince others of your opinion of the following issue. There is a difference between our rights and responsibilities. Levi Coffin went against society's laws by helping to free slaves.
    • What are human rights?
    • What is our responsibility to society?
    • Was it a right or responsibility for Levi Coffin to help the runaway slaves?
    • Can responsibilities go against society's laws?
  6. Many people have gone against or protested laws in the 20th century. Levi Coffin was not the only person to break laws for a cause in which he believed that moral laws outweighed society's laws. Americans have done this throughout this century for reasons such as women's suffrage, civil rights movement and the protest of the Vietnam War. Research either one of these movements or another of your choice. Do a presentation for your class on your topic or a famous person from that movement. Compare and contrast it to Levi Coffin and his movement. Also include current local issues as examples of similarities with historic events.
  7. Research slavery and the Underground Railroad. Choose one former slave from history and explain the hardships he or she faced. Detail a day in his or her life.
    • Did the slave escape and find freedom?
    • How was this accomplished?
    • How did that person's life change as a free person?
  8. Define slavery in your own words.
    • What constitutes slavery?
    • Make a time line of slavery in all societies from ancient time to present day.
    • The United States is not the only country that has had slavery as a part of life. Identify what other countries have had slavery as well as if, and how, it was abolished?
    • Did those counties have an escape system such as the Underground Railroad?
  9. What today is similar to Free Labor Goods? Currently there is a controversial debate about foreign workers and products - sweat shops. Choose representatives to research and debate the following issues:
    • Anti Foreign Labor - Pro American Made
    • Pro Foreign Labor - Cheaper Labor Costs
      • Prepare arguments and research and then pit each team against each other.
    • Anti Fair Trade Act
    • Pro Fair Trade Act
      • Prepare arguments and research and then pit each team against each other.
  10. Prepare a present day interview with Levi and Catharine Coffin. Write a script for both the interviewer and the Coffins. The interviewer can ask questions such as:
    • Why did you take the risk to help free slaves?
    • Did you enjoy being a part of the Underground Railroad?
    • Why did you openly break the law?
    • Choose three students to conduct the interview for the class. Be even more creative and videotape the interview and use costumes for Levi and Catharine.

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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.