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Friends, also known as Quakers, were pacifists by tradition. While some Southern Friends held slaves, most did not. Some were outspoken in their opposition and worked to end America's "peculiar institution".
In the decades leading up to the American Civil War (1861-1865), large numbers of Quakers in the New Garden community found it impossible to live in a state that condoned slavery. Many moved north and west, often settling in Indiana.
Among them was Levi Coffin, a founder of the Underground Railroad. This loose-knit, clandestine group assisted runaway slaves with food, shelter and transportation as they made their way north. Coffin, a native of the New Garden community who moved to Indiana in 1826, became known as the president of the Underground Railroad. He and his wife, Catharine, ultimately helped more than 3,000 slaves escape the South.
One of the safe havens, or stations, of the Underground Railroad was the deep woods of western Guilford County around New Garden Boarding School. There, aided by compassionate Quakers, runaway slaves found sanctuary as they made their way to freedom.
The Guilford College Woods today remain a sanctuary for wildlife, students, hikers and others who seek peace and solitude.