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Twelve Years A Slave: The Road to Emancipation

On Your Own
Saratoga County Planning Department

The book Twelve Years a Slave is the true story of a man whose life before, and after, slavery was spent along Lakes to Locks Passage. Born a free black man in the Lake Champlain region, Solomon Northup spent much of his young life working on the farm and the Champlain Canal. He was considered a fine fiddler, and was able to earn a living playing. In 1841, Solomon was tricked into traveling to Washington DC from Saratoga, where he was sold into slavery and held captive for twelve years. Upon his return to his wife and family in Glens Falls, NY, Solomon lectured on behalf of the abolitionist movement, telling about his experiences and the evils of slavery. Solomon Northup Day is now celebrated in Saratoga, Fort Edward and Plattsburgh by the North Star Underground Railroad Museum. Explore the landscape, history and heritage of Solomon Northup and the Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad.

Click here for a Googlemap-based itinerary,introducing the traveler to a multi-cultural story about the rebirth of our nation.

Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence

Grave of Elmer Ellsworth

Solomon Northup Exhibit at the Saratoga Heritage Area Visitors Center

Solomon Northup Day at the Saratoga Heritage Area Visitors Center

New York State Military Museum

Grant Cottage State Historic Site

Quaker Meeting House (Easton)

Greenwich Underground Railroad Walking Tour (Mowry Park)

Old Fort House Museum

Baker Cemetery (Burial Site of Mintus Northup)

Hudson Falls Civil War Monument

Hartford Museum and Civil War Enlistment Center

Guide Board Sign

Stone Chair

Old Stone House Library

Skenesborough Museum

John Brown Farm State Historic Site

John Brown Farm (Video)

North Star Underground Railroad History Museum

Further reading:

Northstar Project

North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association

Tom Calarco, The Underground Railroad Conductor

Solomon Northup, Twelve Years a Slave

Henry C. Morhous, Reminiscences of the 123d Regiment

David Fiske, Solomon Northup: His Life Before and After Slavery

David Fiske, Solomon Northup: The Complete Story of the Author of Twelve Years a Slave

Best Times to Go

Spring, Summer, Fall

What About this Experience is Distinctive or Authentic to the Character of the Region?

To many runaway slaves of pre-emancipation United States, the area now known as the Lakes to Locks Passage was not just "The Great Northeast Journey," but also a pathway to freedom. A network of secret routes and safe houses, known as the Underground Railroad, drew freedom-seekers through shaded, and often treacherous, terrain to help thwart hunters looking to return the fugitives for profit. The following itinerary will take you through an experience unique to American culture and history. You will travel many of the same roads and see many of the same sites African-Americans encountered on their journey to liberation.

What You Should Know Before You Go

On July 4, 1827, under Gov. DeWitt Clinton, New York State emancipated all slaves born after 1799 as a plan for gradual emancipation of the slaves in New York State. Despite the early abolitionist sentiments of New York's citizens, secrecy was important to those who harbored runaways to avoid penalty under the Fugitive Slave Act. Many of the destinations listed in this itinerary have come from folk lore, local legend, oral histories, local histories, and personal documents because of the limitations inherent in researching a culture deemed "secret." Lakes to Locks Passage has relied on organizations dedicated to telling these secret stories for this itinerary.


Check the fee schedule for individual sites and attractions.