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Black History Month: History Of The LeMoyne House

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Throughout Black History Month, KDKA will feature local places of significance and talk to people who have made a big impact on African American history.

KDKA's Amy Wadas took a drive to Washington County to check out the LeMoyne House, which was once a stop along the Underground Railroad. The LeMoyne House was built in 1812 and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1997.

leMOYNE House
(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Francis LeMoyne is the man who opened up his home to freedom seekers in the 1830s.

"The house was a safe house. It was a place where, as freedom seekers were making their way up north from the south, there were different stops where they could stay overnight," said Executive Director of the Washington County Historical Society Clay Kilgore.

Kilgore said it was a place where people escaping slavery stayed for a night's sleep, a warm meal and even medical attention since LeMoyne was a doctor. Then, they'd leave and go to the next safe house farther north. LeMoyne wasn't the only one who stepped in to help people seeking freedom.

"Francis was like the organizer. We had a large, free African American community at that time here in the region. They were the ones doing the bulk of the fieldwork," said Kilgore.

Tom Milhollan said with that fieldwork came risk, because bounty hunters would sometimes be in the area searching for freedom seekers on the run.

"Unfortunately, that also put free African Americans at great risk because these people, didn't matter to them whether the person was legally free or not," said Milhollan.

Milhollan spoke of George Walls, a man born into freedom, but someone who also felt the need to lend a helping hand to the people in search of liberty. Just another man, Milhollan says, who deserves having his story told.

"We think it's wonderful and better in the future to show our younger people this history, which has been in the past under-documented," said Milhollan.

President of the Washington NAACP Andrew Goudy says under-documented and unaware.

"People in the community need to be aware of some of the contributions Blacks have made to the community and some obstacles Blacks have to overcome every day. I think if we are aware of what went on in the past, we can all learn from that," said Goudy.

Kilgore says the LeMoyne House has been closed for the last year because it's been under construction and going through some restoration projects. However, he says it's normally open to the public for tours, which he anticipates will be happening again in a couple of months. In addition to that, a new education center is being built across the street.

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