Underground Railroad in Rhode Island

Runaways Escaped to Freedom in Rhode Island

Station on the Underground Railroad
Image: Elizabeth Buffum Chace House
A station on the Underground Railroad
Valley Falls, Rhode Island

The Underground Railroad (UGRR) was a secret system of helping fugitive slaves escape to free states or Canada by hiding them in a succession of private homes by day and moving them farther north by night. In the 1830s, the small state of Rhode Island became increasingly involved in radical abolitionism. They were inspired by William Lloyd Garrison's newspaper, the Liberator, and his call for immediate emancipation. During this period, twenty-five anti-slavery societies were formed in the state.


Abigail Brooks Adams

wife of U.S. Minister to England

Wife of Charles Francis Adams

Abigail Brown Brooks was born April 25, 1808 in Medford, Massachusetts, the youngest of three daughters of Peter Chardon Brooks and Ann Gorham Brooks. Peter Brooks was one of the wealthiest men in Boston, and he and his wife were highly regarded in Boston society.

Image: Portrait of Abigail Brooks Adams
By William E. West, 1847

Third son of John Quincy and Louisa Adams, Charles Francis Adams was born August 18, 1807 in Boston. He spent most of his early childhood abroad, where his father had diplomatic appointments. Charles Francis, like his father and grandfather, attended Harvard College, graduating in 1825. He spent the next two years studying law in Washington DC while his family occupied the White House. Returning to Boston in 1827, Charles Francis studied in the law office of Daniel Webster; in 1828 was admitted to the bar.


Mary Clemmer Ames

Ames wrote fiction, nonfiction and poetry

Author and Newspaper Columnist

Mary Clemmer Ames gained national notoriety as a Washington correspondent by attacking politics in the Gilded Age (1870s-1900). Despite her success as a journalist, a mostly male occupation, Ames supported the nineteenth century ideal that a woman's proper place was in the home.

Early Years
Born May 6, 1831 in Utica, New York, Mary Clemmer was the eldest of a large family of children of Abraham and Margaret Kneale Clemmer. Her father's ancestors were Alsatian Huguenots and her mother emigrated to Utica from the British Isle of Man. In 1847 the Clemmer family moved to Westfield, Massachusetts where Mary attended the Westfield Academy, but her family's financial woes ended her education.


Margaret Reed

Member of the Tragic Donner Party

members of the Donner Party
James and Margaret Reed

In 1846, Margaret Reed and husband James left Illinois on their way to the promised land of California, where they hoped to begin a new life, but their migration did not go smoothly. An early snowstorm trapped the travelers in the treacherous passes of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is more the story of the Reeds than the Donners because the Reeds left diaries and letters about that tragic journey.

California Fever
James Frazier Reed was one of the organizers of the wagon train that would become known as the Donner Party. Born in Ireland, he came to the United States as a young boy with his widowed mother. Reed had made a fine life for himself and his family in Illinois as a farmer and businessman, but in 1846 James and Margaret Reed caught California Fever.


Annie Adams Fields

Writer, Philanthropist and Suffragist in Boston

Annie Adams Fields was a poet, philanthropist and social reformer, who wrote dozens of biographies of famous writers who were also her friends. She founded innovative charities to assist the poor residents of Boston and campaigned for the rights of women, particularly the right to vote and to earn a medical degree.

Image: Young Annie Adams Fields

Annie Adams was born June 6, 1834, the sixth of seven children of a wealthy family in Boston, Massachusetts. Her parents believed in progressive education for young women; as a girl, she attended a school in Boston that emphasized the classics and literature, which was run by George Emerson.