By: Richard L. Smith
NJ, did you know that Old First Presbyterian Church, located at 810 Broad Street, Newark, NJ, was part of the Underground Railroad?
Church officials said a tunnel was built in Old First to help transport slaves to freedom. The tunnel is located inside Old First and leads to Port Newark.
According to a published report written in New Jersey City State University journal "Past and Present," some escaped slaves traveled to Newark and used the Belleville Turnpike to get to Jersey City. From Five Corners (Newark and Summit Avenues), they were driven, hidden in wagons, to the Jersey City waterfront.
The tunnel still exists in Old First, but because of its unsettling infrastructure, Old First officials no longer give tours.
There, and at the Morris Canal basin, abolitionists hired ferry boats and coal boats to take the fleeing slaves across the Hudson River, called the "River Jordan," to go to Canada, New England, or New York City, according to "Jersey City Past and Present Journal."
The latter had a sizable number of free blacks offering some anonymity. They also exited from Harsimus Cove near the foot of Washington Street or at the foot of Montgomery Street (today, Exchange Place).
Local historians claim the fleeing slaves may have exchanged services to unload cargo from the New York City vessels for their transportation across the river.
The ferryboats arrived at the Hudson River Passenger Station at the corner of Church and Chambers Streets in New York City.
IMAGE/INFORMATION CREDIT: Old First Presbyterian Church, Newark, NJ, Jersey City Past and Present Journal
SPONSORS: Metro Media Institute of Harrison, Nino's Pizza, Bergen Street Harrison, NJ, and William Paterson University