The Freedom Trail in Farmington:
Underground Railroad & Amistad Sites
In the Amistad case, a group Mendi Africans led by Cinque (Sengbe Pieh) revolted aboard a Spanish slave ship while being transported from Havana to another Cuban port in 1839. The Africans took control of the Amistad and forced the owners to return to Africa, using the sun as a guide, but the Spanish navigator sailed northward toward the American coast at night. An American naval brig captured the Amistad off Long Island, and the 53 Africans were imprisoned in New Haven. After a two-year legal case, they were declared free by the U.S. Supreme Court.
In 1841, thirty-six Amistad survivors lived in Farmington while they raised funds for their return home to what is now Sierra Leone. One of the men, Foone, drowned in the canal basin of the Farmington River. His gravestone is in Riverside Cemetery in Farmington.
Other Amistad sites in the town include:
● First Church of Christ, 75 Main Street, where the freed Amistad survivors were welcomed to Farmington and where Cinque gave a farewell address;
● Deming Store, 2 Mill Lane, where the Africans attended classes on the second floor;
● Austin Williams Carriage House, 127 Main Street, which was built as a dormitory for the Africans;
● Deming House, 66 Main Street, owned by Samuel Deming, an abolitionist who supervised the Africans’ stay in Farmington;
● Art Guild at Church and Hart streets, where church women sewed clothing for them;
● Pitkin’s Canal Basin, where the Africans swam after working across the river in the Meadows and where Foone drowned.
Underground Railroad sites in Farmington include:
● First Church of Christ, where the Rev. Noah Porter was a prominent abolitionist and where the Rev. J. C. Pennington, a former slave, preached;
● Norton (or Barney) House, 11 Mountain Spring Road, home of abolitionist John Treadwell Norton;
● Elijah Lewis House, 1 Mountain Spring Road, where fugitive slaves were hidden in a space at the base of the chimney;
● Horace Cowles House, 27 Main Street, a station on the Underground Railroad and where Samuel Smith Cowles published an abolitionist paper;
● Art Guild on Church Street, the site of abolitionist and anti-abolitionist meetings;
● home of Noah Porter, an abolitionist, at 116 Main Street;
● home of Austin Williams, the leader of Farmington’s abolitionists, at 127 Main Street;
● Timothy Wadsworth House, 340 Main Street, possibly an Underground Railroad station.
The Farmington Historical Society conducts tours of Freedom Trail sites in the town once a month from April until October or by appointment. For the latest information check out our Facebook page:
Call (860) 678-1645 or write to the society at P.O. Box 1645, Farmington, CT 06034.
Brochure published by the Farmington Historical Society. Graphic design by Tony Fons for Jos. Amaral & Co.
“Underground Railroad and Amistad Sites” Map and Key adapted from “Speaking for Ourselves, African American Life in Farmington, Connecticut,”
The Farmington Historical Society, P.O. Box 1645, Farmington, CT 06034