In the early 1800s, York County, Pennsylvania, played an important role in the growing movement to abolish slavery. Many people in southern York County were ambivalent to slavery or tolerated it; others actively supported the trade by hiring slaves from their Maryland masters for temporary work. Along the Susquehanna River, people were more tolerant of former slaves, often taking in runaways into the growing black population of the southeastern townships such as Fawn and Lower Chanceford.
To the north, where a belt of thriving Quaker meetings stretched at intervals across the county and into Adams County, abolitionists and civil rights activists fought to assist runaway slaves and improve the lot of free blacks in Pennsylvania. Over time, York County attract the attention of some nationally known abolitionists and freedom workers, including Lucretia Mott, George Woodward, Harriet Tubman, and others, including Boston-based publisher William Lloyd Garrison.
He was friends with a number of leading Quakers in the Newberry-Lewisberry area, including Joseph Wickersham.