According to Michael Paul Henson, author of A Guide to Treasure in Pennsylvania, the commonwealth is filled with many lost and hidden. Lancaster County is no exception.
Henson believes some can be found in Christiana hidden by escaped slaves. Here’s what he says:
Near Christiana is where, prior to the Civil War, several farms were located that were hiding places for runaway slaves. They were held here until they could be sent to Canada. Stories of slave hunters tracking slaves to this area and recapturing them have been told in the area for years. Locations of money hidden by these slaves to prevent the hunters from taking it are believed to be on several of these farms.
The Christiana Resistance
In addition to being a stop on the underground railroad, many historians consider the Christiana to be the first battle of the Civil War. It was here that the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was tested for the first time. Southern slaveholders believed that the federal law protected their right to apprehend fugitives. Northern abolitionists denounced the law and denied that the federal government had the right to enact a bill that ran contrary to human rights and the laws of God. A confrontation between the sides was inevitable; their opposing philosophies met at Christiana.
Edward Gorsuch, a wealthy landowner from Baltimore County, Maryland, discovered that grain and other items from his farm were missing, along with four of his slaves. With the law on his side, he set out to reclaim his property. Accompanied by a group of men, Gorsuch made his way to Christiana, where an informant had told him he would find his runaways.
The four escaped slaves had indeed made their way to William Parker’s home in Christiana. Parker was a fugitive who had established residence on the farm of Quaker Levi Pownall. Parker was a strong defender of fugitives and was known for assisting those traveling along the Underground Railroad.
On the morning of September 11, 1851, Gorsuch and his group made their way through cornfields to Parker’s tenant house on the Pownall farm. A marshal announced the group’s intention to apprehend Edward Gorsuch’s property.
The house’s inhabitants denied that any property belonging to Gorsuch was on the premises. Both sides fired shots. Eliza Parker, William Parker’s wife, sounded a horn for help, and between 75 and 100 people came to the assistance of those inside the little homestead.
By the end of the encounter, Edward Gorsuch lay dead, and his son lay seriously wounded.
Federal troops were called in to help with the ensuing investigation. Forty-five United States Marines descended on Christiana. With a posse of fifty civilians, they searched and terrorized the community’s white and black citizens. As a result of the investigation, 37 men were arrested and charged with treason for their defiance of a federal order. Heading the defense team was abolitionist Thaddeus Stevens. After three months of testimony, the jury returned a verdict of “not guilty” in fifteen minutes. The verdict sent a signal to the South that the Fugitive Slave Law would not be enforced in the North and further fanned the flames of distrust and discord that were spreading throughout the country.
Never miss a new post or article by signing up for email updates below and following Uncharted Lancaster on Facebook or Instagram.
Purchase a beautiful reproduction map from 1875 of Sadsbury Township, home of Christiana, PA.
1875 map of Christiana and (East) Petersburg, Lancaster County, PA$27.99 – $29.99
1864 Map of Sadsbury Township, Lancaster County, PA$24.99 – $25.99