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Northeast / Massachusetts

In 1984, an interview was published in Spinner, an occasional historical publication focusing on southeastern Massachusetts, in which then Fall River Historical Society curator Florence Brigham cited five stations in Fall River on the Underground Railroad. One of which was the Bowen house, 175 Rock Street. I came across the interview while I was a free-lance correspondent for the New Bedford Standard Times and thought the topic would make an interesting article. I contacted the historical society and they mailed me photocopies of a series of articles published in February and March, 1939, written by Edward S. Adams, the son of a known conductor on the local branch of the Underground Railroad. From the articles, I was able to detemine that there were perhaps five stations here: the Fall River Historical Society house museum, when it was the residence of Andrew Robeson, Jr., the Abraham Bowen house 175 Rock Street, a "double House" on Pine Street, the Squire Canedy house in Steepbrook, in the North end of Fall River and the home of Dr. Isaac Fiske, at 263 Pine Street. The Isaac Fiske house interested me the most. After two articles published in the New Bedford Standard Times, I went on to other projects, but I was contacted in 2003 to devise a tour of Underground Railroad sites in Fall River, as part of Bristol Community College's Black History monthly observance. Since February, 2004, I have deepened my research and have given several tours and lectures on this subject. Recently, I have been concentrating on the history of the home of Dr. Isaac Fiske, 263 Pine Street. Guided by a Massachusetts Historical Commission Form B for that address, I learned the basics about the house, original and long-term owners, and date of construction. Through cemetery records, city directories, obituaries, and a database, "Ancestry Plus" etc. I was able to track the doctor's son, George, to Boston, and then to his final resting place at Mount Auburn Cemetery, Cambridge, Mass. I contacted the Cemetery and the staff provided me with enough information to track down a few living descendants of Dr. Fiske. I wrote the folks at Mount Auburn again, asking them to forward my letter to the Fiske descendants (the Cass and Howe families of Winchester, Mass.) Eventually, about two weeks ago, I received a call from a woman residing in Rye, New York who was a Fiske descendant (Lillian Howe's daughter, Barbara.) We had a very pleasant conversation and she revealed to me that she had discovered among family papers a "reminiscence" written by Dr. Fiske's daughter, Annie, that substantiated Mr. Adams's story that the Fiske house was indeed a station on the Underground Railroad. While not an original letter, or diary entry about the circumstances of the time, Annie Fiske's written recollections are stronger proof than Mr. Adams's second hand accounts. Barbara said she would send me a photocopy of the document, and I'd be excited to see it. I hope she doesn't forget! The Fiske residence still retains much of its architectural character, despite the fact that the structure now houses eight small apartments, and I like to see it preserved.

Submitted By:

Kenneth Champlin, Massachusetts,