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Marker shows Quakertown man’s role on the Underground Railroad


Nearly 170 years after Richard Moore helped the last of more than 600 slaves escape to freedom via the Underground Railroad, a plaque outside his Quakertown house will recall his compassion and courage.

Dozens of people gathered outside the former Moore residence – now an apartment building – on Main Street Saturday morning for the unveiling of a long-awaited Pennsylvania Historic Marker. Among those on hand for the ceremony were members of the Quakertown Historical Society and the African American Museum of Bucks County. Sen. Robert Mensch and Rep. Craig Staats presented state citations commemorating the event.

“It was a long time coming,” said historian Robert Leight, who spearheaded the effort to recognize Moore. “This marker is a lasting tribute to his legacy.”

In addition to the marker unveiling, activities included a presentation at Richland Friends Meeting by students from the United Friends School on Quaker efforts in the fight against racism and slavery, displays at the Richland Library Company and McCoole’s Arts and Events Place, tours of the Burgess Foulke House and Liberty Hall, and a self-guided tour along Main Street.

But the focus was on Moore, a well-respected citizen in the mid-18th century who lived in the Upper Bucks area that would eventually become Quakertown. A former school teacher, he owned and operated a successful pottery business, served as Bucks County auditor, and lived in what was described as “the largest, most extravagant home in the township.”

Moore was also a man of principle who put his comfortable lifestyle on the line to help freed slaves make their way north by way of the Underground Railroad between 1833 and the Civil War. Moore documented at least 600 slaves who made their way to Canada or other points north after stopping at his stone house on Main Street. The number is actually quite a bit higher, according to historians.

Steven Papernik, who has owned the house for 17 years, called the sign a symbol of “the struggle between right and wrong.” He said Moore was an example of a man “who put his Quaker beliefs into action.”

Leight, who spent 15 years researching Moore and writing a book (“Richard Moore and the Underground Railroad”), said it was important to document the historic nature of what happened in Quakertown, the northernmost station on the escape route for slaves coming from Chester County or Lower Bucks County. It took three applications to the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission before the marker was approved.

“We have history right here on these very grounds,” said Leight. “I’m just so pleased that we’re being recognized by having a way for people traveling along Old Bethlehem Pike – the same way those slaves came 150 years ago – to understand the significance.”

Quakertown Borough Councilman Dave Wilsey, who grew up on Main Street, recalled riding his bike to deliver papers in the neighborhood some 50 years ago, including to the Moore. He said he had no idea then of the house’ connection to history.

“Little did I think I would stand here some day being so honored to be part of the community,” he said.