The First National Bank Museum is one of the few banks in the United States still preserved within its original setting, and among its original records are books of accounts from the antebellum period providing a rare view of the degree of wealth of two prominent African American businessmen who also acted as Underground Railroad conductors. During the Bank’s years of operation in the early and middle nineteenth century, Stephen Smith and William Whipper used their own financial resources and the actual railroad cars in which they shipped lumber to Philadelphia to secretly forwarded freedom seekers onto the next station in their hazardous journey. Whipper is recorded in William Still’s seminal book on the Underground Railroad to have given at least $1000 a year to freedom seekers in the years leading up to the Civil War. They were the wealthiest members of an African American community in the place where most historians recount, albeit anecdotally, that the Underground Railroad received its name.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: Second and Locust Streets, Columbia, 17512
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: Nora and Michael Stark
Location Type: Facility
UGRR Operatives: Stephen Smith,William Whipper