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Leominster, Massachusetts

Frances H. and Jonathan Drake House

This unassuming Massachusetts residence was built with a trap door to hide escapees on the Underground Railroad. 

Sitting in the middle of an ordinary neighborhood just outside of downtown Leominster, Massachusetts sits a former home of a well known abolitionist couple who purpose built a hidden trap door in their front room as a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Frances and Jonathan Drake, well known abolitionists, built their unpretentious house in Leominster in 1848. As fairly open supporters of abolition, the couple could not simply use their home as a safe house along the Underground Railroad, without suspicion. Thus the couple, when constructing their home, built a secret trap door into the floor of the front parlor where they could hide escaped slaves as they made their way to the North and Canada.

The Drakes harbored a number of slaves who were on the run, but likely their most well-known charge was Shadrach Minkins, a slave in Virginia who escape in May, 1850. Minkins would be one of the first slaves to be recaptured under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. However he was famously rescued right from the courthouse when 200 people stormed the room and helped Minkins get away. He would stay with the Drakes for four days before being finally secreted to the freedom of Canada. The Drakes also hosted such anti-slavery luminaries as William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips and Frederick Douglas.

After falling into disrepair in the 20th century, the Drake House was finally included on the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, and purchased in 2012 by the Leominster Historical Society and the city. An official stone marker has been erected outside of the site which is hoped to be converted into a museum devoted to the Drakes and the Underground Railroad.