Missing Journal Reveals Underground Railroad Site

Lebanon NH Underground Railroad

DroughtJune 1, 1862 Fugitive Slave Journal Entry
June 1, 1862 Fugitive Slave Journal Entry

Discovery of 1862 Journal Proves Lebanon, New Hampshire
as an Underground Railroad Site

James Wood During the Civil War

Rebecca Wood, wife of James Wood
Rebecca Wood, wife of James Wood

Oldest Photo of Wood House Before the War
Oldest Photo of Wood House Before the War

James Wood House During the Civil War
James Wood House During the Civil War

Wood house today
James Wood House Today off Route 120, Lebanon NH

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The discovery of a journal written in 1862 by a prominent New Hampshire farmer has shed new light on the highly secretive Underground Railroad and its existence in a small New Hampshire community.
According to Charles Blockson of Temple University and a noted authority on the Underground Railroad, "there are no previously known New Hampshire sites that habe been documented."
The journal's owner, Steve Restelli of Vermont who made the discover said, "I was browsing in a New Hampshire antique shop through some stacks of old books and papers when I uncovered it.  The year 1862 was penned on the cover and as I read the first few pages which seemed fairly detailed, well written and fascinating.  I then skimmed to the June 1st entry and immediately bought the book.  It was this entry that proves to be of profound importance in documenting that the journals writer harbored a fugitive slave."
This entry boldy states, "A fugitive slave? Came here abt 10 O'clock this eve to stay all night.  I fixed him a bed in the wool room...."
Unfortunately a cover to cover search did not indicate who owned and authored the handwritted text in this book.  I then realized I now held the evidence to a federal crime.  A crime of passion which at the time violated the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.
I then set out with a quest to determine who had writted this journal.  I made enquiries to New Hampshire libraries, underground railroad historians and the Shaker Village at Enfield, NH.
About a month went by before I was contacted by an Enfield, New Hampshire historian named Richard Henderson.  He was familir with many of the names and places detailed in this journal.  It was through his efforts and knowledge that the authorship of the journal was determined.
From my very first meeting with Mr. Henderson I could see he would indeed solve this mystery.  He would do more than that, he would actually take me to the very site and introduce me to the decendants of this mysterious New Hampshire abolutionist.
James Wood, was born on March 2, 1823 in Lebanon, New Hampshire.  He married Rebecca Pillsbury of Boscawen on October 24, 1855 and operated the James Wood & Son farm.  This was a bee, hay and sheep marketing business in Lebanon. 
James was a quaker, who donated some of his land for a "Town Farm" to assist his neighbors that needed financial assistance.
He was also a member of the Constitutional Union Party and ran for office under that banner before the start of the Civil War.
James would also do surveying work within the community and served for many years with the Lebanon NH schools, until his death on February 12,1895.
James Wood kept diaries probably every year as his family decendants have quite a few of them, along with all the images I have except for the 1862 journal.
The old Wood Homestead still stands on Rt. 120 before the East Plainfield town line.  This structure faces gable end towards the road and passed from the family following the1938 hurricane which blew down most of the valuable standing timber.  The last family owner was George Wood, the youngest son of James Wood.
It was a few years later that I discovered a book written in 1898 by Wilbur Siebert called The Underground Railroad.  James Wood is listed as a station conductor for a county just below where he lived.  This further strengthens the evidence for his indictment for violating federal fugitive slave laws.  And this is obvioulsy why he didn't write his name as the owner of this 1862 journal.
It would be nice some day to have a memorial placed at the James Wood home memorializing his brave and secretive work helping his fellow man.

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