Leonard A. Grimes Residence – Boston, Massachusetts - Atlas Obscura

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Leonard A. Grimes Residence

The Boston home of a conductor on the Underground Railroad. 


Among the many apartments located on Boston’s historic Beacon Hill, there is a plaque on Grove Street commemorating the residence of a prominent figure in mid-19th century Boston and the abolitionist movement.

Leonard Andrew Grimes was born on November 9, 1815, in Leesburg, Virginia to free Black parents. He was orphaned around age 10 and sent to live with his uncle but being unhappy there he eventually moved to Washington, D.C. and worked as a hackney carriage driver. Witnessing the horrors of slavery firsthand, he became a conductor for the Underground Railroad and helped transport escaped slaves from Virginia into Washington, D.C. In 1839 he was arrested after being caught assisting slaves and sentenced to prison in Richmond. There he learned of the Baptist faith and after being released in 1840, he was baptized and licensed to become a minister.

He moved to Massachusetts in 1846 and became associated with the American Baptist Missionary convention in New Bedford and Boston. In 1848 he became pastor of the Twelfth Baptist Church and held the position for 27 years. In 1853, escaped slave Anthony Burns arrived in Boston from Virginia. After his former master learned of his whereabouts, he was arrested and tried in accordance with the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Burns was sentenced to be sent back to Virginia but abolitionists in Boston including Grimes, were able to raise enough funds to purchase his freedom shortly after he returned south.

During the American Civil War, Grimes helped establish the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry Regiment which was one of the first African-American regiments in the US military. He helped recruit for the regiment including many members from his church. Grimes passed away on March 14, 1873, in East Somerville close to Boston.

The Leonard Grimes residence is definitely a very important location for the history of mid-19th century Boston, the abolition movement in the United States, and Black history. Absolutely worth a visit if you are interested in the time period and would like to pay respects to a man who dedicated his life to securing freedom for those suffering under slavery and involuntary servitude.

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February 18, 2022

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