Tomlinson Lake Hike To Freedom

"North Americas Northernmost Route of the Underground Railroad"

Tomlinson Lake & the Underground Railroad​​

Without actual locomotives, the Underground Railroad consisted of a network of secrets that led many fugitive slaves to their freedom in Canada during the mid-1800's. The Underground Railroad left no tracks, but did have safe houses known as “Stations” or "Depots" and relied heavily on “Conductors” who aided those who were escaping slavery.

James Fitzherbert

James Fitzherbert

Born in 1818, James Fitzherbert was a blacksmith and farmer of Andover, NB, who later travelled up the Aroostook River and built a tavern in Plymouth Grant which is known today as Fort Fairfield, Maine.
The Fitzherbert Tavern was located approximately 1 km below where the US and Canada Customs office is located today. The building that once stood there had a connecting woodshed with a roll away wall that lead to a secret room. Fitzherbert used the room to hide British soldiers during the Aroostook War and later to hide fugitive slaves between 1850 and 1865. Those seeking freedom in Canada would travel up the Sam Everett Road by cart and dropped off at the Tomlinson Lake logging road that ran parallel to Tomlinson Lake Brook. They would continue on foot following the brook until they reached the landmark, Tomlinson Lake that indicated they had made it to freedom in Canada. It’s believed that from here they went on to previously established black communities within New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. 
Though their journey wasn't quite complete, when arriving at Tomlinson Lake they knew they were finally in a land that guarenteed their freedom, Canada. 

Can you imagin their relief?
Alem At Tomlinson Lake
Photo by Joe Gee

But, I am no slave!

But, I am no slave!

Because of the increase in persecution of all black persons, not only slaves or former slaves became passengers on the Underground Railroad. Many free-persons chose to flee the Northern States to Canada because there was a very real danger they would be accused of being a fugitive slave by anyone who didn't like them or trust them. There are several examples where this was done out of mere prejudice instead of actual evidence. The act of seeking freedom was a clear sign of 'guilt'.

Sgt. William Tomlinson

The Underground Railroad to Tomlinson Lake
By Joe Gee

Sgt. William Tomlinson

Although it remains a mystery who aided the new arrivals to the Tomlinson Lake settlement, it’s believed to have been the Tomlinson Family. Situated around both Tomlinson Lake and Blind Lake, the family was comprised of wood cutters and farmers. The oldest and first to settle in the area was Sgt. William Tomlinson of the Royal West India Rangers. He served in the Napoleonic Wars while stationed at a garrison in Trinidad. After being discharged from service at Saint John, NB in 1819, he was given the option of either 10 pounds or the equivalent of land and farming utensils. Sgt. William Tomlinson was age 62 at the time of the US Compromise Bill of 1850.

Who were the passengers who came to Tomlinson Lake?

were the passengers who came to Tomlinson Lake?


It is believed that most who came through Tomlinson Lake went further on before settling, but the fact is we simply do not know. There are no known records of Passengers of the URR. Much of what we know today is based on stories passed on from one generation to the next, and sometimes only because the younger asked the right question at the right time.  

Maybe your family has it's own secrets that could help unravel a mystery.  Or, maybe create one.  You may never know unless you ask.