Facer Park - Freedom Coming
Eliza Prepares to Cross into Freedom
Regardless of the exact route that Eliza Harris and her child traveled on their journey to escape slavery, there is evidence that they made it to Canada. There are several possibilities to how that happened. If Eliza continued through Indiana then she most likely crossed into Canada via the Detroit crossing into Windsor, Ontario. But if she continued straight north through Ohio then she most likely crossed in Sandusky, Ohio, similar to how Harriet Beecher Stowe’s fictional character made her escape in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Sandusky was another Ohio town where many citizens were involved in aiding freedom seekers. Homes, churches, and other buildings in the city have been studied and named as Underground Railroad sites. Facer Park was chosen by the city to recognize the area’s long history with the Underground Railroad with the creation of a sculpture and other educational displays where visitors can better understand how residents stepped up in aiding freedom seekers.
Sitting along the waterfront overlooking Lake Erie, the park is a space where one can imagine the feeling or thoughts freedom seekers may have had knowing that they were just miles from true freedom. One individual where we can get some insight of this feeling is Josiah Henson, another person Harriet Beecher Stowe modeled one of her characters after. Stowe created the character Uncle Tom based on freedom seeker Josiah Henson. Henson wrote an autobiography about his escape. He mentions his surprise when he and his family were welcomed on board a ship in Sandusky Bay, expecting to find more challenge than help.
For Eliza, she may have felt that safety and freedom was just miles away. But what would a new life in Canada be like? Henson notes that upon learning he was in Canada he rolled in the sand where his family landed. For many this was the first time their life was in their own hands. The risk of traveling through unknown lands and making decisions that could either lead to freedom or capture was a constant fear.