Maine’s Underground Railroad, Part One
Maine was the last stop before freedom, for many passengers travelling along the underground railroad.It’s believed there are about 75 “stops” in our state.Researching Maine’s role in the underground railroad is difficult, because not a lot of it is written down.And that includes the former Holyoke house in Brewer, now home to the Chamberlain Freedom Park.But local historians say enough oral history has been gathered, to prove this site played a pivotal role in the flight to freedom.Joy Hollowell begins a special report on Maine’s role in the freedom trail.+++++++++++++++++”This is our impression of what occurred here in Brewer, Maine concerning the freeing of the slaves. And the part that we’re quite proud of is that it was pivotal.”Dick Campbell was a key developer of the Chamberlain Freedom Park. He says the statue is strategically placed.”This was the location of what was reported to be the underground tunnel, and it was located in the summer kitchen basement,” according to Campbell.The home belonged to the Holyoke family. “they were early abolishionists. May or may not have been connected to Hannibal Hamlin, the first abolishionist under President Lincoln,” says Campbell.According to Campbell, the Holyokes owned a shipping pier under what is now the Penobscot bridge. “They were transported by water, by the river, through the horizontal and then the vertical piece of the shaft that we’re standing on right now. We found pegs in the construction of the shaft. And then, they were storied during the day, out of sight, in the eaves of this old real brick house, and then transported at night, again through the shaft and to the riverbank,” says Campbell.Campbell says he’s well aware of local folklore claiming the tunnel wasn’t part of the underground railroad, but instead used to transport whiskey during prohibition.”Well, I don’t think so. I think the Holyokes were very caring people and the societal connections from mid-Atlantic states to Brewer, no it is real,” says Campbell.Campbell also points to what is believed to be a slave shirt. It was found in the attic of the Holyoke house, after it was torn down. The shirt is now on display at the Brewer Historical Society.”We believe this is the high water mark of the slaves flee to freedom because the next step was Canada,” says Campbell.=================The state legislature has dedicated the Chamberlain Freedom Park in Brewer as an official site of the Underground Railroad in Maine.