Genevieve Earle Moffit Rowland confirms story of James Wells in Leon NY

Genevieve was born on Earle Hill Road in the town of Leon, December 17, 1912.  Her parents were Merritt Jay and Anna J. Eddy Earle.  Grandparents, Thomas and Eva (Miranda) Eddy Earle, Jay Enos and Anna Mary Bush Eddy.  The farm was the home of the first settler James Wells and history claims this farm was used as a station for the Underground railroad.  This "railroad" crossed the state line near Sugar Grove, passed through Busti, Jamestown, Falconer, Ellington and then Leon.  There were two lines of this "railroad" from Leon. 

One branch led to Fredonia and the other to Buffalo.  The operation was secretive and no records are available except those handed down by one generation to the next and recorded by later histories, such as this story fromk Genevieve.  The stations were open day and night as most of the operations were carried on at night, and in spite of a penalty of $1000 fine and imprisonment for giving a meal or help to a slave on his way to Canada and freedom. 

The operation began about 1830 and reached its high point after 1850.  The men and women who operated the underground railroad denied the validity of the Fugitive Slave Law.  Their belief was that a man, though colored, had the same right to life, liberty and happiness as a white man enjoyed. 

The Ellington station was oeprated by Joseph B. Nessle.  When he heard the proper signal at his door at night, he would open it and admit the conductor and party.  After the slaves were fed, he would harness his team and deliver them to the next station, in Leon, conducted by James Wells on Wells Hill on Lot 24 in the northeast part of town.l This was later called Earle Hill.  This station was a secluded location on a road of little travel.  Wells then owned the large farm, a large house and other buildings.  It is reported that he had a secret room walled off in the cellar where slaves could be secreted as well as in other buildings, or in warm weather, hidden in the woods.  With the safety afforded at the station, slaves would stay over during the day to rest, and the next night Wells would arrange for their transporation to Buffalo or to Fredonia. 

Source: Summer Oakes took this oral record.  She is a Leon Historical Society Member. 

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