The day after our adventure into Pittsburgh to visit the Heinz History Center we had another field trip 1 1/2 hours south of us to visit the LeMoyne House. This field trip was with our old cyber school which we were invited to attend with our friends, the Caylors. It is a rare occurrence to have two fieldtrips in one week but the timing of this fieldtrip couldn’t have been better, given we had just learned all about the LeMoyne house the day before at the Heinz History Center in their Underground Railroad exhibit.
We were thrilled to stumble across this display at Heinz History Center that really set up the story of the next day’s fieldtrip. It was beneficial to all the kids but really important to Tyler who needed that point of reference to be engaged and get anything out of this upcoming historical home tour.
There at the Heinz History Center they had a 3D computer replica of the LeMoyne house that you could “tour” and read some of the firsthand accounts of the stories of the underground railroad that occurred there.
The kids were able to listen to the historical account of one of the LeMoyne sons being sent up to the second story balcony where he was instructed by his father to drop the beehives, that were kept there, on the heads of the slave catchers if they tried to force their way into the house.
We also read the account of Mrs. Lemoyne’s quick thinking when she faced slave catchers pushing their way into her home to search the house while her husband was out of town. She quickly ran upstairs, put on her nightgown, and climbed into bed, pretending she was sick. When the slave catcher came to her bedroom door she scolded him for trying to enter the bedchambers of a married woman. Shamed, the slave catcher left without ever discovering the seven slaves she had hidden beneath her bed.
Tyler’s response to the story: “That is one smart, tricky lady!”
The next day we drove to Washington county to tour this beautiful and historical home that is now part of the National Park Service.
“The stately stone house, located at 49 East Maiden Street in downtown Washington, Pennsylvania, was built in 1812 by John Julius LeMoyne, the father of Francis Julius LeMoyne. Both father and son were practicing physicians, but it was the courageous Francis Julius LeMoyne who, despite the strict Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, risked his personal freedom and fortune to do what he knew was morally right — take a stand against the institution of slavery. This successful 19th Century doctor, reformer and builder of the first crematory in the western hemisphere, opened his home and properties as stops along the Underground Railroad, the series of safe hiding places for runaway slaves as they trudged north on their precarious journey to Canada and freedom.
The father of five daughters (and three sons), he also believed in and promoted education for women, specifically helping to found the Washington Female Seminary. Always a supporter of education, this successful physician funded several chairs at Washington College (now known as the prestigious Washington & Jefferson College), started Citizens Library, a free public library for the people of Washington and neighboring communities, and founded LeMoyne College (now known as LeMoyne-Owen College) in Memphis, Tennessee, predominantly for the education of the newly freed slaves. The LeMoyne House is now a museum filled with period artifacts and dedicated to Dr. LeMoyne’s memory.” – Washington Historical Society
As the first confirmed underground railroad station in Pennsylvania, and now one of only six registered underground railroad homes in Pennsylvania, the Lemoyne home tour was a fascinating way to spend our day. It was amazing to step back in time and witness the affect one man’s life and the choices he made had on hundreds of others. It truly stands as a testament to the far reaching affect we can each have when we stand for what is right.