Local History

Christiana History

A major episode in African-American history, along with John Brown’s raid, was the Fugitive Slave Rebellion in Christiana.

This event was a harbinger of the Civil War.  Frederick Douglass referred to the Christiana Riot,  as “… the battle for liberty.”   On September 11, 1851, a Maryland slaveowner named Edward Gorsuch, along with a U.S. Marshall and several relatives, made his way before dawn to the home of William Parker, two miles south-west of Christiana, with the expectation of capturing four runaway slaves.  Gorsuch was killed when a group of armed men resisted his efforts.  The conflict and the trial which followed sent shock waves across the nation.

An historical resource page about the Underground Railroad in Lancaster County including curriculum information is available at the Lancaster County Historical Society. A resource page specific to information on the Christiana Resistance is here.

William Parker wrote about his experience in the February, 1866 issue of the Atlantic Monthly.

You can read his entire account here:

The library has reproductions of this Atlantic Monthly publication available for sale.

You can learn more about our local history at the Christiana Historical Society’s webpage.

Books About the Riot

The following books are in our collection:

Related books available for sale at the Library: (Also available for check out.)

  • Kendall, Harry W. Truth Crushed to Earth, Morris Publishing, 1999
  • Rettew, LaVerne D. A Charge of Treason or A Fight For Freedom, locally published, 2000

Related books available at Amazon.com: (Also available for check out.)

  • Slaughter, Thomas P. Bloody Dawn: The Christiana Riot and Racial Violence in the Antebellum North
  • Rosenburg, John M. William Parker: Rebel Without Rights, Millbrook Press, 1996