301 W Camden St, Baltimore, MD 21201

Camden Station circa 1848

Map of the railroads and rail yards in and around Baltimore
General Rochambeau

Camden Yards was a witness site of the 1781 Yorktown Campaign during which runaway slaves from Maryland entered the French army lines at their nearby camp at Ridgely’s Delight (Camden Yards). General Rochambeau received only a lukewarm welcome from some of Baltimore’s prominent citizen slave owners because he hesitated to return these early African Americans freedom seekers to their owners.

The B&O Railroad completed the rail line into Camden Yards in 1852-1853 and Camden Station, in 1857. Runaway slaves escaping north on the B&O Railroad could have used the Camden Yards and Camden Station route up through 1860.

Abolitionist and historian William Still

Historian William Still’s records at least four escapes he documented using the B&O Railroad between 1848-1860. 

In September 1856, Emeline Chapman, alias Susan Bell, aided by a Mr. J. Bigelow, escaped her owner, Emily Thompson of Washington, D.C., and went to Philadelphia by the “regular” B&O Railroad “underground railroad train”. 

In October 1857 John Thompson escaped from Huntsville, Alabama riding atop railroad cars. He was captured in Richmond and sold but escaped again by B&O Railroad train to Philadelphia. 

The B&O Railroad razed the former home of abolitionist William Watkins to make way for the completion of Camden Station in 1857.  Francis Ellen Watkins Harper and her Uncle William Watkins would leave Baltimore, she to teach in Ohio, and he to Toronto Canada to avoid being arrested for his work with the Underground Railroad. He had moved to Toronto in 1852 after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was passed because he wanted to be buried in a free country.

Francis Ellen Watkins Harper