NJ’S UNDERGROUND RAILROAD: PETER MOTT HOUSE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD MUSEUM February 02, 2023
February is Black History Month! It is the time of year where we, as a nation, celebrate and remember the central role African Americans have had on the development of our country. Journey Through Jersey wishes to honor the legacy of notable African Americans with ties to the Garden State. This week, we would like to present the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum!
Frequent trips down the White Horse Pike in Lawnside, New Jersey presents drivers with various shopping opportunities and a lot of traffic. Hidden 500 feet away behind trees and commercial enterprises is a non-descript house, built in 1845. Featuring a one-and a half story, single pile building with a brick foundation, clapboard siding, and a gable roof, you may wonder why this house is considered the embodiment of national and state significance. Well…the house was a stop on the Underground Railroad!
Yes! New Jersey had significant ties with the Underground Railroad! In fact, Lawnside, New Jersey—previously named Free Haven and Snow Hill—is the only historically African American incorporated municipality in the northeastern United States. The town’s land was purchased by abolitionists in order to give free and escaped slaves a safe place to live, including the namesake of the house, Peter Mott and his wife Elizabeth. Peter Mott was a nineteenth century preacher, abolitionist leader, and a free black, himself. Research into the early life of Peter and Elizabeth is still ongoing; however, oral history, limited documentation, and modern genealogical work have allowed the legacy of abolition and resilience to be passed along to each generation.
We can also thank William Still for recording his efforts to aid fugitive slaves in a book called The Underground Railroad (1872). William Still, Dr. James Still’s brother (more on him later!), was one of the founders of the Underground Railroad! William managed a network of safe houses and sympathizers that stretched from Philadelphia to modern-day Southern Ontario, Canada! Peter and Elizabeth Mott’s contributions to this network are recorded in Still’s accounts.
Today, the Lawnside Historical Society—the very Society that was able to save the house from demolition in 1992—makes it their mission to educate the public about the Mott’s contributions to the Underground Railroad by conducting tours of the house and hosting online events. If you are interested in touring the house or attending a virtual event, check out: Peter Mott House, Events for more information!
Also, if would you like to learn more about NJ Underground Railroad sites, the Lawnside Historical Society will be coordinating a panel at the New Jersey History and Historic Preservation Conference in June! For more details, see UGRR Sites to be Spotlighted at Local NJ Conference and Fun and Fury.
Check out these resources for more information about the Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum and the Underground Railroad in NJ!
Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum, Journey Through Jersey
Peter Mott House, New Jersey Historic Trust
New Jersey’s Underground Railroad, Visit NJ
About Us, Borough of Lawnside New Jersey
Learn: The Story of Peter Mott, Peter Mott House
About the Underground Railroad—Peter Mott House, NPS
The Peter Mott House Underground Railroad Museum, PBS Special
Underground Railroad: The William Still Story, PBS Special
For more information about how to nominate a NJ historical site for Journey Through Jersey, check out the Guidelines page!