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Visiting New York's Lewiston: the Freedom Crossing Monument and Murdoch's Landing

Updated on April 21, 2011
State flag of New York
State flag of New York | Source
The Freedom Crossing Monument, Lewiston, New York
The Freedom Crossing Monument, Lewiston, New York | Source
Murdoch's Landing, on the Niagara Riverfront, Lewiston, New York.
Murdoch's Landing, on the Niagara Riverfront, Lewiston, New York. | Source
Map location of Lewiston, Niagara County, NY
Map location of Lewiston, Niagara County, NY | Source

Remembering the Underground Railroad, the War of 1812 and a well-known, local figure

The Niagara Riverfront at New York's Lewiston affords much of interest to the historically aware visitor. Close to the Riverfront location known as Murdoch's Landing is a remarkable, commemorative monument on North Water Street.

The Freedom Crossing Monument

The work of the sculptor Susan Geissler, the Freedom Crossing Monument, depicting African Americans crossing the nearby river in a boat, is a major work which commemorated the Underground Railroad, by which many fugitives sought refuge in Canada.

This monument was dedicated by the Historical Society of Lewiston in 2009.

As a background to the events to which the monument poignantly refers, after President Millard Fillmore signed the 1850 Fugitive Slave law, one effect of this unlamented legislation was to confer slave status on African Americans from south of the Mason-Dixon line, when previously all African-Americans north of this line had been considered free, whatever their status might have been south of the line. Thus began the marauding presence of slave-catchers in the northern United States. Even African-Americans from north of the Mason-Dixon were subject to harassment and the danger of legalized abduction, since slave-catchers were often left to carry out racial profiling at will. Conscientious people from Lewiston refused to cooperate with the slave-catchers, however. First Presbyterian Church, Cayuga Street and the former Episcopal Church (now a museum) on Plain Street were used to harbour fugitives on their journey to Canada.

One of the figures depicted in the monument is Josiah Tyron (1798-1886), known as the unofficial, local 'station master' of the Underground Railroad at Lewiston, who, at night, rowed many African Americans to safety in Canada.

Murdoch's Landing

Murdoch's Landing is named for Ernest Murdoch, a well-known local figure in Lewiston, who served for 40 years as Superintendent of Public Works in this town with many historic structures. In 1999 a plaque was erected in honour of this location's naming.

The Landing, on the Niagara riverfront, is historically important both for its association with the Underground Railroad and for its significance as the location from which American forces left the United States's side of the Niagara River in their attempt, as they saw it, to liberate Canada in the War of 1812. A historical panel nearby gives some of the main details relating to the War of 1812 and its significance to the immediate vicinity.

It is interesting to reflect also, that in the intervening two centuries American-Canadian relations developed with the result that this international boundary gradually gained the reputation as the most peaceful border in the world.

Also worth seeing

First Presbyterian Church, Lewiston (distance: 0.9 kilometres); this 19th century, Greek Revival, structure on Cayuga Street also has Underground Railroad associations.

Frontier House , Lewiston (distance: 0.6 kilometres) is probably Lewiston's most well known historic property. The former hotel dates from 1824.

Former Episcopal Church , Lewiston (distance: 0.7 kilometres); this building, which originates from 1835, situated at the intersection of Plain and Niagara Streets, serves today as the Lewiston Historical Museum. It also has Underground Railroad associations.

Broderick Park , Buffalo , New York (distance: approx. 36.8 kilometres) has poignant memories of the Underground Railroad.

The US Post Office, Niagara Falls , New York (distance: approx. 12.5 kilometres); a striking building dating from 1904-1907, it was designed by James Knox Taylor in French Neoclassical style, with Beaux Arts details. The building is situated at the intersection of Main Street and Walnut Avenue. The American Falls themselves are of course an outstanding visitor attraction.

Niagara Falls, Ontario , Canada (distance by road: approx. 14.9 kilometres); the Canadian Horseshoe Falls may be viewed to profit from the particularly suitable location known as Table Rock Point.

Bergholz , New York (distance: approx. 18.3 kilometres), at Wheatfield, became a German settlement in 1843; the Das Haus historical museum here.


How to get there:

A number of airlines fly to Niagara Falls International Airport (distance from Lewiston, NY: 15.4 kilometres) from various destinations in the Southern United States. Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Buffalo Niagara International Airport (distance to Lewiston, NY: approx. 48.7 kilometres). I-190 is the nearest Interstate to Niagara Falls, New York, linking near Buffalo, NY with I-290 and I-90 to Albany, NY. From Canada, accessible via the Rainbow Bridge, the QEW links Niagara Falls, ON with Hamilton and Toronto. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information. Please refer to appropriate consular sources for any special border crossing arrangements which may apply to citizens of certain nationalities.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


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    • MJFenn profile image

      MJFenn 3 years ago

      lions44: As Canadians living in nearby Ontario, my wife and go to Upstate New York so often that for us it's almost like home. The history of the Underground Railroad and the American Civil War deeply impacted Canadian history also; indeed, Confederation cannot be understood independently from the American Civil War era. Thank-you for your comment.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 3 years ago from Auburn, WA

      My home state and I never knew about these places. It's a must see when I get back to upstate NY. Thx for the info.