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The African American Trail Project at Tufts University A Walking Tour

Stearns Estate College Avenue

161 College Avenue, Medford, Massachusetts

George Luther Stearns (1809 - 1867) was a wealthy industrialist and merchant who lived in his estate at the present location of Cousens Gym on College Avenue. Stearns was an abolitionist who provided financial support to a variety of causes to end slavery, including funding John Brown's 1859 raid on Harper's Ferry.

Throughout his public career, Stearns relied on a vast network of local African Americans to assist fugitive slaves and the Stearns Estate was a way station on the Underground Railroad- a network of safe houses and secret routes that slaves used to escape to free states in the North and Canada between 1850 and 1860. In the 1856 case of William Talbot, blacks on Beacon Hill led the southern fugitive to Stearns estate, where the black man hid in Stearns privy for weeks before he was shipped further north and eventually across the border into Canada.

View of the hill and Tufts College as seen from the Stearn's estate in 1875