Amanda Berry Smith was a bit of a renaissance woman. She grew up in York County, Pa., and as an adult, she served as an evangelist. She’s remembered as a chronicler of the Underground Railroad movement in northern Maryland and York County. Also of interest: Shrewsbury’s Amanda Berry Smith: ‘God’s image carved in ebony’.
Two score years ago, a historical marker was firmly planted along the Susquehanna Trail near Grace United Methodist Church in Shrewsbury.
The 9-square-foot marker observed the site where Samuel Berry’s family secreted slaves to freedom before the Civil War.
That act was illegal in those days and identification as an Underground Railroad operator could have meant imprisonment.
So station masters posted no billboards, and the record on those sites is sketchy today.
But Samuel Berry’s daughter, Amanda, was skilled with the pen.
She left a record about her father’s prowess as a station master.
“Our house was one of the main stations of the Under Ground Railroad,” she wrote years later. “Sometimes the excitement was so high we had to be very discreet in order not to attract suspicion. My father was watched closely.”
The large Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission marker designates Grace Church, her church, for posterity.
But it’s time that this locale is designated an National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.
It’s time for a third. The area where Amanda Berry Smith’s spent her childhood has one advantage.
First-person written evidence that it was an Underground Railroad site.
Also of interest:
PMHC historical marker
Dedicated: Saturday, October 02, 1993
Location: 108 S. Main St., Grace U.M. Church, Shrewsbury
Marker Text: “A renowned evangelist and singer, born a slave in Maryland. Her father bought the family’s freedom, and they moved to a farm near here. While still a child she was converted at this church. She committed her life to missionary work and traveled in the U.S. and to Britain, India, and Africa. Published a monthly paper, ‘The Helper.’ Founder and superintendent, Industrial Home for Colored Children in Illinois.”
Check out these stories and photo about the Underground Railroad in York County.
*Drawing courtesy, Millersville University.