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William Ingersoll Bowditch House
NPS photograph
An important stop on the Underground Railroad outside Boston, Massachusetts was the William Ingersoll Bowditch House. The Bowditch House is a modest example of mid-19th century wooden cottages, L-shaped with Gothic Revival elements. Built in the planned suburban community of Brookline in 1844, the house was purchased shortly thereafter by Bowditch. Bowditch, a conveyancer with an office in Boston, owned the house from 1845 to 1867 during the height of Underground Railroad activity. He was extremely active in local Brookline politics, serving as a selectman and moderator of Town Meetings for a number of years. Before the Civil War, he was an avid abolitionist, active in Brookline and Boston efforts. Besides trying to sway public opinion through meetings, lectures and membership in the Boston Vigilance Committee, Bowditch used his house to shelter fugitive slaves.

The most well-known slaves to find shelter at the Bowditch house were William and Ellen Craft. In December 1848, the Crafts began a dramatic escape from their different masters in Macon, Georgia. Ellen, the daughter of her master and enslaved mother, was light-skinned and posed as an ailing white man, traveling to Philadelphia for medical treatment with her attending servant, William. Throughout the tense journey, which led to Savannah by train, Baltimore by steamer, and by train again to Philadelphia, the Crafts were in constant danger of being discovered. From a suspecting free black man on the train, William received the name of a Philadelphia Quaker who sheltered the couple upon their arrival. Their journey ended in Boston, where they arrived in early 1849, and after speaking at the Brookline Town Hall, stayed at the Bowditch House and other Brookline Underground Railroad stops. The Crafts fled once again to England after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, but eventually returned to Georgia after the Civil War and converted a plantation to a freedman's school. Another well-known guest at the Bowditch House during this tumultuous time was the son of abolitionist John Brown. The young man was hidden by Bowditch after Brown's execution for his involvement in the Harper's Ferry raid. Bowditch is also known to have driven a slave, who arrived on the brig Cameo, from Boston to Concord.

The William Ingersoll Bowditch House is located at 9 Toxteth St. In Brookline, Massachusetts.

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