Lewis and Harriet Hayden House
66 Phillips Street
Lewis Hayden was born a slave in 1816 in Lexington, Kentucky. After escaping
slavery via the Underground Railroad to Detroit, he moved to Boston with his wife Harriet
and soon became a leader in the abolitionist movement. In Boston Hayden's political
activities were based in the clothing store he owned on Cambridge Street, and in his home
here on Phillips Street (then Southac Street).
The house was built in 1833. Hayden moved in as a tenant around 1849. Francis Jackson,
treasurer of the Vigilance Committee, a radical abolitionist organization, purchased the
house in 1853, possibly to assure that Hayden would not be harassed in his Underground
Railroad activities. (Jackson's estate sold the house to Harriet Hayden in 1865).
In 1850, Southern slave owners were given legal sanction by the Fugitive Slave Act to
retrieve their runaway slaves. Boston ceased to be a haven for escaped slaves. Hayden and
his wife, Harriet, turned their home into an Underground Railroad station. William and
Ellen Craft, a fugitive couple who masqueraded as master and slave, were sheltered here as
were countless other fugitive blacks.
The Haydens reputedly kept two kegs of gunpowder under their front stoop. They greeted
bounty hunters at the door with lit candles, saying that they would rather drop the
candles and blow up the house than surrender the ex-slaves in their trust. Harriet Beecher
Stowe visited the Hayden's home in 1853:
"When, in 1853, Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe came to the Liberator Office, 21
Cornhill, to get facts for her "Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin," she was taken by Mr.
R.F. Wallcutt and myself over to Lewis Hayden's house in Southnac Street, thirteen
newly-escaped slaves of all colors and sizes were brought in into one room for her to see.
Though Mrs. Stowe had written wonderful "Uncle Tom" at the request of Dr.
Bailey, of Washington, for the National Era, expressly to show up the workings of the
Fugitive Slave-Law, yet she had never seen such a company of 'fugitives' together
During the Civil War, Hayden was a recruiting agent for the 54th Regiment. The Hayden's
only son died serving in the Union Navy. In 1873, Hayden was elected to the state
legislature. From 1859 until his death in 1889, he held the position of Messenger to the
Secretary of State. Harriet Hayden survived her husband. In her will she established a
scholarship fund for "needy and worthy colored students in the Harvard Medical
Image of Lewis Hayden: The Bostonian Society