A short drive east from Indianapolis on the old National Road is the tiny town of Fountain City. The community is full of antique shops and is also the location of a Federal style brick structure that was once a stop on the famous Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was the route used by slaves escaping to Canada prior to the Civil War.
The Levi Coffin house was built in 1839 by Levi and Catherine Coffin, Quakers who came from North Carolina. They were instrumental in the successful movement of over 2000 slaves. Levi Coffin was sometime referred to as the President of the Underground Railroad.
Several routes for the slaves seeking freedom led to the Coffin house. Normally slaves moved north through Madison and Jeffersonville, Indiana and Cincinnati, Ohio. The Coffin house was a logical direction to which the slaves would move.
Slaves would sometimes be hidden at the house for weeks at a time until they could be safely moved on north. A hidden room was in the attic space of the house. Beds could be moved so that headboards concealed the entrance to the stairway leading to the attic space.
The house has another interesting feature in the basement. There was a dug well inside. This was not a common practice of the day. However the well hidden in the basement enabled the drawing of enough water to supply the extra people in the house without raising the suspicion of an outside well.
Another interesting display at the house is a wagon used for hiding and transporting the slaves. Looking at this will really bring home what an escape plan entailed and the hardships the people had to endure.
The Coffin house was purchased in 1967 by the State of Indiana. The house was restored and then opened to the public in 1970. The site is a registered National Historic Landmark and is operated by the Levi Coffin House Association.
The house is open June 1 to August 31 Tuesday through Saturdays from 1:00 to 4:00 P.M. It is open only on Saturdays from September 1 to October 31. Admission is only $2.00 for adults and $1.00 for kids. Check the Wayne County website for more details including directions.