Fort Wayne was once a big railroad town in more ways than one. More than 200 years ago in addition to standard train travel there was another kind of railroad that helped African American slaves on the road to freedom. It was called the Underground Railraod and the Alexander T. Rankin House in Fort Wayne was linked to it.
“This house which is two houses put together into one, was the home of the Reverend Alexander Rankin,” said Connie Haas Zuber, Executive Director of ARCH Inc “He was an abolitionist and an activist on the Underground Railway in the early 1800’s in Fort Wayne, Indiana and Ohio. He came from an abolitionist family. His wife came from an abolitionist family and he was a key part of the end of slavery at that time.”
“He was hired to be the pastor of the then very new First Presbyterian Church,” said Zuber. “He was hired in 1830 to come here. There’s conversation about there’s a half wall in the basement and that could have been easy to hide people there. I can’t look you in the eye and say yes, people were hidden in this house and moved through but I can say Levi Coffin who is Indiana’s most well known Underground Railway operator has been quoted as saying that there were times he recommended that people who were being led on the railyway to safety, he recommended they come through Fort Wayne because he belieed that was one of the safest routes at the time.”
“The Alexander T. Rankin House was the only standing structure in Fort Wayne that is known to be connected to the abolitionists movement or the Underground Railroad and that retains the integrity and the historical significance to show what it really looked like then. We even have the map that shows Fort Wayne in 1850 which is the time when all this was very current. This structure is located on it. You can come here to the house and you can see for yourself what it was like. It makes history seem real.”
The Alexander T. Rankin house is located at 818 Lafayette Street in Fort Wayne. Contact ARCH for more information or call (260) 426-5117.