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  • Writer's pictureRandy Reid

Park Church & the Underground railroad

Go to the steps of Park Church today and it still shows its inclusiveness and acceptance it displayed back in 1846. Today you could see the gay pride flag, a sign supporting Black Lives Matter and a welcoming message for all visitors. Back when the church, first known as The First Independent Congregational Church, later named Park Church, incorporated in their bylaws that No person shall be admitted to the church, or allowed to remain therein, who practices or approves of the buying or selling of human beings, or holding them in slavery. Today, Park Church remains a beacon for human rights and inclusivity in the region.

Park Church has stood up and filled the gaps for marginalized people in our community since 1846. The church is steeped in history from the Langdon Family to Thomas K. Beecher to those 42 brave people who decided to start this church.

My family remains grateful for Park Church. If it weren’t for their abolitionist thinking my Great, Great, Great Grandfather John Muldoon would not have been free. My relative escaped slavery in Virginia around the mid-1840s. He was pursued by his slave owner, with the last name Muldoon. Our family historian was our own Aunt Jennie Dunmeyer, who I video taped in 1991 during a family reunion. Hearing her tell the story of our family was enthralling and a bit sad at the same time. I’m glad John was able to outrun his slave owner and win his freedom.

When John made it to Elmira, using the Underground Railroad, members of Park Church found him a place to hide. The next stop for John was Canada where many freed slaves settled. John was taken in by a Livery Stable owner with the last name Reed. His stable sat at the foot of Church St across from Newtown Creek. After a few days passed and his overseer was gone John began working for Mr. Reed. After a few months John decided to stay in Elmira and take on Mr. Reed’s last name. Over time John decided to change his last name to Reid and the Reid Family history began. John met a woman who was a freed slave by the name of Betsy Lingue who he later married. The family still possesses her Manumission Papers. (See Below)

Park Church helped hundreds of slaves find freedom whether it was here in Elmira or on a train to Canada. Jervis Langdon one of the founding members of Park Church was a huge abolitionist in our area. Mr. Langdon also owned the railroad from Elmira to Ontario Canada.

Learn how Jervis Langdon and John Jones worked together to help escaped slaves.


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