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Lewis Hayden (National Park Service)


National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, “Lewis and Harriet Hayden House,” Boston African American National Historic Site – Lewis and Harriet Hayden House.

The Hayden’s routinely cared for self-emancipated African Americans at their home, which served as a boarding house. Records from the Boston Vigilance Committee, of which Lewis was a member, indicate that scores of people received aid and safe shelter at the Hayden home between 1850 and 1860. Lewis Hayden was one of the men who helped rescue Shadrach Minkins from federal custody in 1851 and he played a significant role in the attempted rescue of Anthony Burns. Hayden also contributed money to John Brown, in preparation for his raid on Harper’s Ferry.

William and Ellen Craft were among Lewis and Harriet Hayden’s most famous boarders. The Crafts had escaped from slavery by riding a passenger train to the north. Ellen, who was of light complexion, disguised herself as a southern gentleman and William played the role of a personal servant. The Crafts toured the United States, Canada, and Great Britain speaking against slavery, and they became celebrated public figures. While they were living and working in Boston, slave catchers were sent north to try to reclaim them. However, Lewis Hayden was determined to fight for their protection. Hayden threatened that two kegs of gun powder were kept near the entryway of his home. Should slave catchers come and attempt to reclaim their “property”, Hayden would sooner have blown up the house then surrender the Crafts. Eventually, the slave catchers were convinced to leave Boston.


How to Cite This Page: "Lewis Hayden (National Park Service)," House Divided: The Civil War Research Engine at Dickinson College,