The History of Wayne Township, Pennsylvania
Wayne Township is a small city located in Erie County on the Western side of Pennsylvania. It is a town that is well known for the tranquility of its surrounding forests, as well as the relaxed pace of life. In the modern era, property in Wayne township is largely valued for its proximity to the cities of Erie and Pittsburgh, making it the ideal place for those who work in the city but desire a quiet and safe place to return home to or raise kids in. What many are not aware of is the fact that Wayne Township is a place with a fascinating history in its own right, a heritage filled with intrigue and historical value.
Wayne Township was first founded in 1809. The residents of the area were mostly farmers and hunters, families who depended on the fish and clear waters of the nearby Sugar Lake and the geese, deer and other game of the surrounding woods. The area was also home to a collection of Native American tribes, who lived off the bounty of the sandstone banks the same way they had lived for many hundred years prior. Relationships between the white settlers and Native American tribes were largely positive, with both parties benefiting from frequent trade and cultural exchange.
The quiet and serene atmosphere of the small settlement hid a well protected secret. As the national debate about the ethical and political grounds for the legality of slavery raged on in the cities, Wayne township was involved in the conflict in a more personal way. Many residents of the township were opposed to slavery, in large due to the fact that the settlers in Pennsylvania were mostly of the Quaker religion, which opposed the concept of forced bondage of men in any context. As the tensions over the legality of slavery escalated, abolitionist groups began to form with the intent to take the liberation of slaves into their own hands.
One of the most famous anti slavery efforts was the Underground Railroad. This term refers to the ferrying of slaves from the South the the North, a voyage that was conducted largely at night and in rushed legs. Many members of Wayne Township assisted in the effort by becoming “conductors” on the Underground Railroad. This meant that they offered their homes up for the lodging and protection of escaping slaves. This job was often dangerous, as bounty hunter style slave catchers were rarely far behind the slaves as they traveled in the dark of night. Conductors hid the slaves in their houses when slave catchers came calling, well aware that they were in danger of being harmed for their efforts. While only a minority of Wayne Township residents were actively involved with the Underground Railroad, it was nonetheless enough people so that the township has gained a permanent reputation for its role in abolition.
Life continued at a pastoral rate for few decades, with populations remaining fairly dispersed and sparsely populated. Things slowly began to change when parcels of the land were awarded to veterans of the civil way. As the land became more populated, the modernization of the area began to accelerate in pace. By 1850, Wayne Township was home to a dedicated school house and numerous mills. People began to live in the center of town, and were less loosely distributed.
Today, Wayne Township is still largely rural. A visit to the town yields images of beautiful rolling farmland and untouched forest. It remains a perfect place to live for those who value integrity, serenity, and the beauty of nature.