Part 1 - Prequel to Timothy Anderson Jr.’s Soldier’s Story

Go to Part 2

 

Robert Anderson was born in 1760 in Northern Ireland and was a member of the Presbyterian Church.  Family legend says that Robert Anderson was a “factor” on a slave ship, which made repeated journeys to the Ivory Coast of West Africa.  At some point during his involvement in the slave trade, the immorality of one of the most heinous times in American history became too much for Robert Anderson and he vowed that he would never again work on a slave ship.  On his last trip, it is said that he met “the tallest, most beautiful woman,” he had ever seen.  He proposed to this African woman (whose name is not known to the family), telling her he would give her freedom if she married him.  She accepted.  How the Robert Anderson family made their way to Franklin County is unknown.  Three of their sons are known to us at this time – William (born in 1792 in PA), Elias (born 1793 in PA), and Timothy Sr. (born in 1796 in Franklin County, PA).

 

Timothy Sr., Negro, is listed on the 1828 Pennsylvania Septennial Census, in Antrim Township.  He was a farmer.  Timothy and his wife Mary “Polly Croog” Anderson appear again two years later, during the 1830 US Census records, in Antrim Township. There were nine people living in the household.    Their eldest child Moses, born in 1829, was their only child.

 

Timothy and his brother William and their families lived next to each other in Antrim Township during the 1840 US Census.  Both families were recorded under the far right columns entitled “Free Colored Persons.”  Timothy, Negro, and a farmer, was again listed in the 1842 Septennial Census of Pennsylvania, as well as the succeeding US Censuses of 1850 and 1860.  He was listed as a farmer in 1860 and his real estate was valued at $4,000.  Timothy Sr. lived here until his death on January 23, 1878.  The Timothy Anderson property still exists today at 13831 Ridge Road, Antrim Township, about three miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  The property was included on the 1858 and 1868 Antrim Township maps.  On the 1868 map, an additional property is indicated just east off of Route 11, south of Greencastle, where the Anderson family owned a lumber mill and yard.  It was here that they employed former slaves.

Timothy Anderson

 

 

Timothy Anderson Sr. was born a free black man, a member of the Greencastle Presbyterian Church, and a strict Sabbatarian.   As a man of mixed race, Timothy instilled in his children self-worth, the principles of equality, and love for humankind, whether black or white.  He owned 58 acres of land, 12 animals, and raised 663 bushels of grain in 1860, according to the U.S. Agricultural Census.  If the Andersons employed escaped slaves and freed slaves post-Civil War, did they do more than just employ fugitives.

 

Traditionally, the Mason-Dixon Line has divided the Northern states from the Southern states and for thousands of slaves, the Mason-Dixon Line culturally bisected the United States into the land of freedom and the land of slavery.

 

The term Underground Railroad did not come about until after actual railroads were prevalent in the United States.  The U.S. railroad system also provided the vocabulary for the UGRR with terms such as depots, stations, conductors, station masters, stockholders, passengers, and engineers.

 

Charles Blockson, author of Hippocrene Guide to the UGRR, identified Franklin County as "a hazardous area of 100 miles, which contained the most secretive, tangled lines of the Underground Railroad."  From the Timothy Anderson application to the National Park Service for the Network to Freedom program, “Fergus Bordewich, author of Bound for Canaan:, the UGRR and the War for the Soul of America refers to the area of Franklin County and all the border counties east of Franklin all the way to Philadelphia as “Underground Zero.”  Bordewich writes that William Still, “… soon becomes the coordinator of one of the most important underground networks in the country, linking activists from Norfolk, Virginia to New York, and throughout southern Pennsylvania.”  “Author William Switala calls this same area the “Central Route.”  (Randolph J. Harris, January 2010.)

 

Timothy Sr. and Polly had ten children - Moses, Mary, Isabella, Timothy Jr., John, Sarah,  Mordecai, Matthew, Margaret Anna, and James Craig.  As a youth, on the family farm, Rev. Dr. Matthew Anderson (born January 25, 1848; died January 11, 1928), had a “craving thirst” and “longing desire” for an “opportunity to obtain an education - - - that we might be prepared to accomplish the very most possible for God and humanity, especially in lifting the standard of the race with which we were identified …”

Matthew Anderson

 

Matthew Anderson attended Iberia College and Oberlin College, Ohio, both known for their abolitionist sentiments.  After Oberlin, he went to Princeton Theological Seminary where he became the first African-American to live “on campus!”  It was here that Matthew received his divinity degree.  Following that, he did post-graduate work at Yale Seminary School in New Haven, CT.  Matthew was ordained by the Carlisle Presbytery in 1878 and in 1905, he received his doctorate from Lincoln University.

Caroline Virginia Still

 

While at Oberlin College, Matthew Anderson met his future wife, Caroline Virginia Still.  She became one of the first black women to graduate from the Women’s Medical College of Philadelphia.  Her patients were the black families who lived in northwest Philadelphia.  Matthew and Caroline were married in 1880.

 

In 1897, Matthew wrote the book Presbyterianism: Its Relation to the Negro.  Part One was about the establishment of the Berean Presbyterian Church, Berean Savings and Loan Association, and the Berean Manual Training and Industrial School in northwest Philadelphia.  Part Two was his autobiography.   Only paragraphs into Part Two, Matthew wrote the following:  “Among the earliest impressions made upon our childish mind were the tales of horror about the South told by the fleeing fugitive as he lay in the secret enclosure of my father’s house where he was concealed. It was during the great storm which burst forth with such rage and fury in the late Rebellion, which culminated in the abolition of four million of human chattels that we grew up into youth and early manhood.  The neighborhood in which we were brought up was the scene of some of the bitterest contentions and engagements both before and during the war.” (Anderson, 1897: p 155).  Within the first sentence, Matthew tells the reader that his father was an “Engineer on the Underground Railroad” in Antrim Township, Franklin County, PA.

 

Timothy Anderson Sr. was born a free Black man.  From at least 1828 (according to records) until his death in 1878, he owned property and lived in Antrim Township, just about three miles north of the Mason-Dixon Line.  Everything in Timothy Sr.’s life – from being the son of a white man and former slave trader; son of an African woman, who but for the marriage proposal, would have become a slave; his strict upbringing in the Presbyterian Church; to his knowledge that every human being is born with inalienable rights, led Timothy Sr. to make a conscious decision to break Federal laws and become an activist by harboring escaped slaves in a “secret enclosure” in his home – the same home in which he raised his family of ten children.  Contemplate the effects that Timothy Anderson Sr.’s actions had on his children and how they would their lives as adults.

 

continue to part 2

 

 

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