Barbara F. Dyer: Underground Railroad quilts and their use in Maine, Canada

Tue, 09/05/2017 - 1:00pm

There is an old story that affected so many lives, but it was such a secret that it is a little difficult to research. It is about what was called the Underground Railroad, whereby, through secret codes, some abolitionists found ways to get the African Americans away from slavery to freedom in Ontario, Canada.

Africans were not allowed to be taught English, and the story was orally told from generation to generation. They were strong and determined people, as were the abolitionists, who wanted to help them.

Although the story is really long and complicated, I find a fascinating part is that they used secret African signs encoded in quilts that lead them to freedom.

Africans, who came to this new world, brought many memories. Symbolic elements were passed down and the quilts represent one of the most highly evolved systems making secret African symbols and Mason signs to run the Underground Railroad.

Many abolitionists were Masons.

Several patterns of quilts were made and hung on the railing of their houses.

It was not unusual because most people put quilts out to air or dry. A quilt with certain symbols told the Africans that there was a passage under that home. Many were on the coast, even Camden, where it would lead to water and a ship with the Captain waiting to take them to Canada, where they would be free.

Barbara F. Dyer has lived in Camden all of her life, so far.


More Barbara Dyer

Old Glory, the flag’s storied history, and proper etiquette

The Seaside Mountains of Camden

The story of the Barbie D, a little tug that has worked Camden Harbor for 60-plus years

Postcards and the way we communicated 100 years ago

Figureheads at sea

The Babbs:  A family integral to Camden history

Lighthouses of the coast

Garden theater

When Camden paid a fine for having no minister preaching in town

Goodbye Old Schools

Presidents’ Day

Tall ships we never saw

Another new year

Trolley transportation

More shipwrecks

The burning of the Annie L.

The demise of a Camden-built vessel

Camden’s wooden boat builders were perfectionists

Building wooden boats in Camden, many years ago

The Hub of Camden

Socializing and such, before television

The first years of the Camden Snow Bowl

Snow Bowl

Launching ‘Whimsey’

The many moods of Camden Harbor

Demise of the Camden steamboat wharf

Curtis Island Lighthouse - the sentinel of Camden Harbor

Camden Harbor: As old as the last glacier

Mr. Camden Harbor

Windjammer cruises in Camden

Memorial Day remembrances