SPRINGVALE — Maine’s crucial role in helping slaves escape to Canada over the Underground Railroad in the mid-1800s included a number of Sanford- and Springvale-area residents who put their lives and fortunes in peril by breaking the law of the day, called the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, historians say.

Author Mark Alan Leslie will talk about the Underground Railroad at 7 p.m. April 25 at Sanford Springvale Historical Museum at 505 Main St. He is shown here at a similar talk in Biddeford in March. Journal Tribune photo by Benjamin Levesque

History books focus on the prominence of Harriet Beecher Stowe and Hannibal Hamlin when recounting Maine’s connection to the Underground Railroad. But residents of Alfred, Berwick, Waterboro, Parsonsfield, Porter, Newfield, Eliot, Kennebunkport and Biddeford were among those who formed a network of illegal “safe houses” to hide slaves from slave hunters and get them to freedom, according to author Mark Alan Leslie.

Leslie, whose historical novel “True North: Tice’s Story,” has been named a Publishers Weekly Featured Book, will speak on the Underground Railroad at 7 p.m. April 25 at the Sanford-Springvale Historical Museum at 505 Main St., Springvale.

“Underground Railroad homes have been identified in Alfred, Eliot, Waterboro, Newfield and Biddeford,” Leslie said in an email.

He said anti-slavery societies were formed in Springvale, Waterboro, Lyman, North Buxton, East Buxton, Limington and other parts of York County, and in  Cumberland and Oxford counties.

Leslie said Hannah Farmer of Eliot was a conductor on the Underground Railroad, which meant she transported slaves from safe house to safe house.


“Because helping slaves escape was a crime carrying both fines and jail time, people in the Underground Railroad tried to keep their secrecy,” Leslie said. “This makes it pretty difficult to pinpoint the heroes and heroines of the UR.”

“True North: Tice’s Story” weaves a tale of the dangers of this time in history, introducing a number of real people who were conductors and station managers on the Underground Railroad.

“(Harriet Beecher) Stowe’s book ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ was instrumental in raising awareness of the scourge of slavery, but it took scores of people here in Maine to make the dream of escape a reality,” Leslie said.

The winner of six national magazine writing awards, Leslie first entered the literary scene in 2008 with his novel “Midnight Rider for the Morning Star,” based on the life of Francis Asbury, America’s first circuit-riding preacher. Since then he has written “The Crossing,” an action-thriller about the Ku Klux Klan in Maine in the 1920s, and four contemporary action adventures: “Operation Jeremiah’s Jar,” “The Last Aliyah,” the “Three Sixes” and “Chasing the Music.”

Leslie said he included a number of real people as characters in “True North: Tice’s Story.” He noted more than half the book takes place in Maine and includes Mainers from Portland to Augusta, China and Bangor-Brewer.

“It took quite awhile to research and write, partly because it had two previous lives: first as part of a much larger two-part novel, and then was rewritten to include Tice’s story in flashbacks of a modern-day story. In its current form it stands alone,” said Leslie. “The descendants of several of its characters are key to my contemporary book, ‘The Last Aliyah,’ published in 2018. In this book they help form a future Underground Railroad to help Jews escape a highly anti-Semitic America after the United Nations bans Jewish immigration to Israel. Quite a twist.”

A book signing will follow the presentation.

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