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Posts Tagged ‘Abolition in New Hampshire’

12 Years A Slave, Lyme And The Underground Railroad

March 17th, 2014 by donnanandersen

Lyme Center Academy Building

Lyme Center Academy Building – Home of the Historical Society

John and I recently saw the Academy Award Winner for Best Picture, 12 Years A Slave.  I had purchased the book on one of our numerous trips to Civil War battlefields.  You know how you always worry that if you have read the book you will be disappointed in the movie – filmmakers have a tendency to produce a movie for one overriding reason “Show Me The Money” (as in the memorable words from another movie).  Not so with 12 Years A Slave – the book is powerful but the movie more than adequately displays the brutality and the dark side of so many southern plantation owners and their overseers.  With that backdrop , I was delighted to learn that the Balch House in Lyme was an Underground Railroad safe house.  Lyme Underground Railroad agents had heavy fugitive slave traffic because of its proximity to Canaan, New Hampshire.  Once a month, fugitive slaves were taken from Canaan to Lyme and then across the Connecticut River into Vermont towns.  The story is told that one night slaves arrived at Samuel Balch’s house just a short time ahead of agents in pursuit.   When the agents arrived Samuel  Balch gave them permission to search the house with Mrs. Balch giving them a stern admonition not to wake the children that were sleeping upstairs.  The agents opened the bedroom door and found the children asleep tucked underneath the quilts.  They left empty handed.  But cleverly tucked under the bedroom covers and out of sight was a slave woman.  When it was safe Samuel Balch moved that slave woman and the others to the next stop on the Underground Railroad.  Lyme, NH has a wonderful historical society housed in the refurbished Academy Building where you can learn more about its past.  Breakfast on the Connecticut is proud to be located in Lyme where so many past residents not only “Talked the Talk” but “Walked the Walk”.