Underground Railroad History in Andover



The following links will be helpful for anyone researching the Underground Railroad and its history in Andover, MA. Many abolitionists lived in Andover, founding the Free Church, and helped aid in the underground railroad movement, including safe houses located in town. 

The William Jenkins House at 89 Jenkins Road, Andover, was a link on the "Underground Railroad" that helped slaves escape to freedom in Canada in the 1800s. From 1786 to 1830, Massachusetts residents from Plymouth to Andover helped more than 30,000 slaves escape to Canada. The Jenkins House had a secret room in the attic, beneath the floorboards next to the chimney, which was large enough to hold a man.

The William Jenkins House: by Bessie P. Goldsmith

This house situated in the Cape District just off the direct road from Boston to Haverhill, was in the time of the anti-slavery agitation used by William Jenkins and his good wife, Mary, who were strong Abolitionists, as a station of the "Underground Railroad". This was the popular designation given to those systematic and cooperative efforts by means of which slaves, fleeing from the slave-labor states for their liberty, escaped through the northern states into Canada, and such secret aid played an important part in the great drama of slavery and anti-slavery.

Mr. and Mrs. Jenkins were both much interested in the question of slavery from its first agitation and were prompt in attendance on the anti-slavery meetings held in Boston an Lynn. Mr. Jenkins sympathized with William Lloyd Garrison in all his aims and methods, standing practically alone for years as far as his fellow townsmen were concerned. He was of course a reader of the "Liberator". Garrison was many times a visitor at the Jenkins home as well as many other sympathizers.

Once when Frederick Douglas, the celebrated orator, and Garrison were among the guests, and sleeping quarters were taxed to capacity, William Jenkins said to Garrison that he didn't quite know where to put Douglas. Garrison replied, "Put him with me. I shall be proud to sleep with Fred." Douglas had fine regular features but dark skin, and Mr. Jenkins once heard him say he would willingly submit to being skinned if only he would come out white.

The Stowes after their arrival in Andover from Brunswick, ME., where Mrs. Stowe had just finished writing "Uncle Tom's Cabin," often used to drive down to the Jenkins Farm.

The "Hutchinson Family" that famous quartet of musicians from the granite hills of New Hampshire, made the old house ring with their songs composed and sung for the cause. Judson, John, Asa and Abby were their names. they sang for freedom, for temperance, for peace, for moral and social reform. Men and women who heard the Hutchinson's and who had heard other great singers, said that in all their experience they had never heard human voices purer and sweeter tan those of his family. The house harbored various fugitive slaves, the late Mrs. E. B. Butterfield, Mrs. Jenkins daughter, remembering the visits of several when she was a child. The one who had the most claim on her fancy, she being then about five yeas of age, was George Latimer, a fugitive from Norfolk, Virginia, who had been arrested and held in Boston. There was much correspondence, discussion and agitation about him. Wendall Phillips spoke in his behalf in Faneuil Hall and caused a tremendous uproar, and finally as a result the Personal Liberty Act was passed in the Massachusetts Legislature, March 24, 1843. While at the farm, he was in constant dread of being taken. He once stood Mrs. Butterfield on a table, and illustrated how a slave girl was sold. From an anti-slavery fair held in Boston, he brought her a beautiful doll elegantly dressed by some of the May family of that city.

Only a few years ago, loose boards were discovered in the attic floor, which, when lifted, disclosed a space next to the chimney in which a man might stand. Doubtless this was often the niche where a fugitive slave found a safe place of concealment. 

Mr. Jenkins had Negroes about the place until his death. There were several there at the time of Mrs. Butterfields marriage in 1863, one of who, Alfred, made the ice cream which was much praised by Mrs. Stowe. Another one known as "Mr. Brown" an old man past his usefulness lived and died in a little cottage located on the farm within the memory of those now alive.

The house itself was built ten years before the Revolution by Samuel Jenkins and was the second house to be occupied by him on this site. HE came to Andover from Reading and was the first of the name to settle here. Samuel's son, Benjamin, inherited the home place and he in turn bequeathed it to his youngest son, William. It was here that William brought his bride, Mary Saltmarsh Farnham from North Andover.

Samuel and his descendants acquired much of the territory in the extreme southern part of the town as well as adjacent land in North Andover and Middleton. 

(Beginning of paragraph torn off- unreadable) was one which Samuel gave to his son, Joel, and some time later a Gould married a Jenkins daughter.

The Jenkins house at the four corners, now occupied by Mr. Roberts, was built in the early part of the nineteenth century by Benjamin Jenkins, son of Samuel, for his eldest son, Benjamin.

Samuel was of the acquisitive type, and while living in Massachusetts Bay Colony as far separated as Leicester and the region lying between the Kennebec and the Sheepscot rivers. His grandson, William, was of the same mind and acquired much woodland from which he sold ship timber and other lumber, some of which he sawed in his own saw mill.

Some of this land still remains in the family; some of the woodland has become a part of the State reservation, the old house itself is now owned and occupied by Paul Hill.

Copied from a news clipping located at Memorial Hall Library, in the historical files. No date or source of the paper was included. Photos will be added at a later date. 



Jenkins Farm on National Register of Historical Places

The History of underground railroad stations in Essex County

Andover Historical Society holdings about the anti-slavery movement

Andover's South Church Web Site essay on its history includes Underground Railroad Facts

Andover's official web site, includes history of town, anti-slavery movement

Underground Railroad Research Forum - Includes databases of African Americans, past and current, slave databases, slave records, census records, message boards and much much more. Great site!

The African American - a Journey from Slavery to Freedom - History of Slavery and historical figures in the movement to freedom.

Harriet Beecher Stowe Center web page

Harriet Beecher Stowe - grave location & history




Copyright 2004-2012. Jodi Salerno