20 September 2011

September 11th -- Remembering the Christiana Riots

September 11th was the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The nation remembered the images forever burned into our minds from that fateful day when the Twin Towers fell and planes crashed in Shenksville, PA and into the Pentegon. Another anniversary was noted quietly that day.

That day was also the 160th anniversary of the Christiana RiotsThis Saturday, September 24, The Coatesville Historical Commission will be hosting a lecture and book signing from 10am-12pm noon at Coatesville City Hall. The topic will be The Christiana Riots, with guest author and speaker Bud Rettew. The Christiana Riot is one of the better-known stories from the days of the Underground Railroad and runaway slave resistance.

Rettew is a member of the Christiana Historical Commission and served as an advisor on the research and contents at the Underground Railroad Center. He wrote the Center’s overview of the Resistance. He is the author of the new book, Treason at Christiana, published in 2006.

The Underground Railroad Center at Historic Zercher's Hotel in Christiana. Located at 11 Green Street in the Borough of Christiana in the former Zercher’s Hotel, the site is Lancaster County’s first, free, publicly accessible visitor center that describes this area’s role in the Underground Railroad and anti-slavery activities within a building that is associated with this chapter in U.S. History.

The Center’s exhibits, according to a 2006 press release from the Afrolumens Project, explain the role of Zercher’s Hotel in the Resistance at Christiana and the strident Anti-slavery sentiments held by the larger community. This community sentiment created the backdrop for the fatal confrontation. For the first time in one exhibit, the homes and farms of 24 Underground Railroad Stationmasters, located in seven municipalities in two counties, are documented. Many of these stationmasters’ homes still exist and can be seen from public roads, but none is open to visitors. Several other historic sites in Lancaster and Chester counties also are featured. These include churches, cemeteries and some private buildings that have been documented as having played roles in the anti-slavery movement in the early to mid-19th century.

The building will continue to serve as the offices of the Charles Bond Company, a maker of industrial gears and gear boxes at the site since 1915. Manufacturing began at the site in about 1830 with the advent of the Philadelphia to Columbia Railroad, one of the first railroad lines in the nation. This heritage is believed to give the property the distinction of being the oldest continually operating manufacturing site in Lancaster County. The Center is located in one room within the building and is accessible directly from the outside. The Christiana Underground Railroad Center is a joint project of the Charles Bond Company, the owners of the site, and the Christiana Historical Society.

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