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F E ATU RE S
Underground Railrond left mark on eampus
BY RENEE DEHART
Sam was a slave in Guilford County nearly 200 years
ago. His master, Osborne, was so brutal that even other
slaveholders took sympathy on Sam. He decided it was
time to run away, and with the help of Quakers Levi and
Vestal Coffin, he began his escape.
The trail he took, hoping to reach Indiana, took him
through the woods of what is now Guilford College.
The Guilford woods played a key role in aiding
runaway slaves to the safe haven of Richmond, Ind., with
the help of the Coffin family.
According to Guilford College's Manager of Prospect
Research M. Gertrude Beal, in "The Underground
Railroad in Guilford County," Addison Coffin, son of
Vestal, wrote that the Underground Railroad began in the
New Garden woods.
"(Addison) asserted Vestal Coffin originated and
operated the first station of the Underground Railroad
in America," wrote Beal. "The first passenger on the
Underground Railroad, according to Addison, was John
Dimrey of New Garden."
Dimrey had been emancipated by his master, but upon
his master's death his heirs tried to force him back into
"Runaway slaves used to frequently conceal themselves
in the woods and thickets in the vicinity of New Garden,
waiting opportunities to make their escape to the North,"
wrote Levi Coffin in the compilation "Reminiscences of
Levi Coffin," edited by Ben Richmond.
Slaves would hide in the woods for one to two days
and soon become friends with the Coffin family.
"I often went out to feed them," wrote Coffin. "Many
a time I sat in the thickets with them as they hungrily
devoured my bounty and listened to the stories they told
SOY UN LIDER
The “Underground Railroad Tree” dates back to before abolition
of hard masters."
lifted many spirits.
"The glorious hope of freedom animated their spirits in
the darkest hours and sustained them under the sting of
the lash," wrote Coffin.
The path of the Underground Railroad winding through
the woods may explain the moniker "Underground
Railroad Tree" for the second-largest heritage tree in the
state growing in the woods on campus. However, this
300-year-old tree is merely one of many trees that were
present in the woods during the time of the Underground
While this tree did not play a known role in the
Underground Railroad, it is nevertheless significant.
"It was present when the historical events in the woods
took place," said Director of the Friends Center and
Campus Ministry Coordinator Max Carter. "It is a silent
witness to history."
"The Underground Railroad Tree" actually received its
name over 100 years after slavery was abolished.
"It was nicknamed that when we began taking tours
back to the woods in the 1990s to educate students about
the history of the woods and the Underground Railroad,"
I The tree's size alone makes it a significant tree as well.
^ "It is five feet in diameter," said Carter. "It fakes four
to five adults circling its base to go clear around it and is
I 148 feet high."
g The Underground Railroad did travel through the New
^ Garden woods, which adds to the College's already rich
Upon visiting the tree during an interview with The
Guilfordian, Frank Massey, IFP Gifts Discernment
Not everyone who the Coffins tried to help made it to Coordinator, shared a personal sentiment,
freedom, though. "This is sacred ground for me," said Massey before
Eventually, Sam was caught and resold to a slave approaching the tree. "I can feel the spiritual presence of
owner in Salisbury, N.C. However, the attempted escape the past."
Soy un Lider conference shows increasing attendance, helps young students
CONTINUED FROM PAGE I
sense then what my counselor had
been (saying and) I met Irving
Zavaleta... who today is still a great
friend. He inspired me to say 'Yes,
it is possible'... SuL gave so much.
how (couldn't) I ... help today? I
am (a) result of the conference."
"I would have loved something
like this," said volunteer and
senior Adriana Vazquez. "I've been
working with SuL for the past few
years, and I really believe in it."
"It's something Guilford should
be proud to host," said volunteer
and sophomore Teresa Bedzigui.
"It gives (students) a platform to
ask questions they might not have
the ability to ask (elsewhere)."
Talking to the students who
attended the conference was a
very powerful experience. They
all want the same thing: a chance
Soy un Lider prepares Latino high school students for college.The conference
hopes to increase the number of Latino students attending college in the area.
"It will help me in the future
with picking colleges," said Aron
Escalero, who attended the SuL
Attendee Zeke Gutierrez said
he wants "to become aware (of)
"I want to learn about colleges
... costs and scholarship," said
Jasmine Vivar, another attendee of
The programs run during the
conference taught just that. One
workshop entitled "Making the
Right Choice" was designed to
help the students decide what
they were looking for in a school.
Taught by high school teacher
Ashlea Hitchcock, the workshop
made students question what they
were looking for.
"You never know what will
happen," said Hitchcock.
Hitchcock also encouraged
undocumented students, letting
them know what they can do
to go to school without fear of
deportation. For a lot of these
students, knowing how to do that
is a huge weight off their shoulders.
What does this conference mean
for the Latino community?
"For many Latino families, to
see their children graduate high
school and college is a big deal,"
said Oliva. "(It) makes them proud
as any other parents ... Many
Latino families coming from third
The number of students participating in the conference is steadily increasing.
world countries did not have the
opportunity to have (the) education
we do in America. For them to see
their children achieve what they
on(ce) wished to achieve is even a
bigger deal (than for most)."
So what makes this conference
"By the end of the day, (the kids)
feel equipped with knowledge and
prepared to begin the application
process," said Tejeda. "The
increasing number of students
participating in the conference
each year is a good indication that
the conference is successful."