Was This Pennsylvania’s Best-Kept Secret?

For more than a half-century leading up to the Civil War, the Susquehanna River town of Columbia served as a beacon to thousands of Freedom Seekers.

Individuals fleeing from slavery in Virginia, Maryland and points south knew that—if they could make it across the river—what awaited them was a town like no other in America.

Columbia was more than the “first stop” on the Underground Railroad. 

It was populated by hundreds of people whose collective effort created that noblest of human endeavors: A Conspiracy of Good.

Everyone in Columbia played a role—either through their active involvement, quiet support or measured silence—in a scheme so stunningly audacious, so utterly preposterous as to defy logic or reason.

And yet, thousands of Freedom Seekers who reached Columbia took that first exhilarating step toward a life free from human bondage. By some estimates, more than a quarter-million people in North America can trace their family histories back to that first exhilarating step on the eastern bank of the Susquehanna.

It was a “criminal enterprise” that stretched across generations, the details and complexity of which are still being unraveled today. The stakes were high from the start, and only grew higher after 1850, when Columbia’s crimes became federal crimes.

Yet no Columbian was ever caught and no Columbian was ever prosecuted. 

The Underground Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania brings this incredible story to life in 8,000 square feet of multimedia exhibit space. Visitors will get to know the clever, courageous men and women who risked everything to perfect this remarkable system—and answer a question that touches the deepest part of the human soul:

What would I have done?

URCC's Organizational Members:

The individuals who currently make up the URCC’s organizing group represent a confluence of diverse skills and experience:

The individuals who currently make up the URCC’s organizing group represent a confluence of diverse skills and experience:

• Donna L. Kreiser is a public finance attorney and member-in-charge of the Lancaster office of McNees, Wallace & Nurick LLC, a multistate firm that handled the URCC’s 501(c)3 work and continues to provide pro bono services.

Ryan Moore, a litigator with Klehr, Harrison, Harvey, Brazenberg LLC in Philadelphia, is also providing pro bono legal services.

• Carole Bitts, in her dual career as a television producer and educator, has interpreted the Underground Railroad for adults and children for more than 25 years.

Mark Stewart, a non-fiction author who purchased the William Wright home in 2021, has written and edited more than 100 books and has also worked on museum design projects.

Roche FitzGerald owns Roche Design in Lancaster, a company specializing in interior surface design.

Daisy Pagan is a longtime Columbia business owner who brings decades of retail and event-coordination to the table.

Kimberly Fletcher is a Human Resources and Talent Development VP, as well as an experienced voice actor.

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