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Loudon County Underground Rail Road Each year, I encounter people who have just moved into an old house and have been told that it was once a stop on the Underground Railroad, which was neither underground nor a railroad but instead an informal clandestine network of people who helped slaves escape by guiding them north to freedom.

From about 1817 to 1861, as many as 100,000 slaves fled bondage through the Underground Railroad, and hundreds of them passed through Fauquier and Loudoun counties, often en route to Pennsylvania, just 30 miles from Loudoun.

If Werner Janney’s supposition that his great-uncle harbored escapees were true, slaves would not have been hidden in a home.

Searchers for fugitives did not enter buildings but often had dogs, and slaves were directed to outbuildings, where the smell of livestock and fodder would mask their presence.

Though there are several accounts of slaves who escaped through Loudoun and Fauquier, the runaways never mention help from the Underground Railroad south of the Potomac River.There, abolitionist Quakers welcomed the fugitives, and, after 1847, a state law prohibited enforcement of federal fugitive slave laws.The federal laws, which mandated return of slaves to their masters and prison sentences and fines for those abetting escapes, dated to 17.As a teenager, Werner Janney lived near Lincoln at Springdale, Samuel Janney’s home and school for girls, built in 1832.Werner Janney told a Washington Post reporter in 1991 that wainscoting covered a hole in the wall near the dining-room fireplace.

As the helpers were often neighbors of the slave owners, only the owners’ accusations abound.

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