With its treasured stories preserved in rustic homes and historical attractions, Christiana welcomes visitors to discover a unique aspect Lancaster County's past. The town is known for its prominent involvement during the Civil War, especially in conjunction with the Underground Railroad. In fact, many historians consider the Christiana Resistance as the first battle of the Civil War, for it was in this small town that the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 was tested for the first time.
In short, the Fugitive Slave Law stated that law enforcement officials were to arrest runaway slaves, and that anyone who aided a runaway was subject to imprisonment and fines. Southern slaveholders believed that the federal law protected their right to apprehend fugitives. Northern abolitionists, however, denied that the federal government had the right to enact a bill that was contrary to human rights.
The law's test came to life when Edward Gorsuch, a wealthy landowner from Baltimore County, Maryland, discovered that four of his slaves were missing, and he traveled to Christiana on a tip. Here, he found his slaves at the home of William Parker, a fugitive known for his assistance to slaves traveling along the Underground Railroad. Gorsuch immediately confronted Parker, which resulted in 75-100 people descending upon the homestead. Shots were fired, and the encounter left Gorsuch dead.
Federal troops were called in to help with an investigation, which resulted in 38 men being arrested and charged with treason for defying the Fugitive Slave Law. The ensuing case ended with a "not guilty" verdict. This decision sent a signal to the South that the Fugitive Slave Law would not be enforced in the North, building upon the distrust that was already spreading throughout the country.
In addition to being a notable historical town, Christiana is also a great spot for sightseeing. Explore the sprawling farmlands and beautiful covered bridges of the surrounding area by using the Southern Amish Countryside Trail, which also stops in Strasburg.
- Christiana Bike Race, mid August
- Soap Box Derby, early May