Undocumented Slave Hideaway

Seventy-eight School Street in Manchester is a rare find. Within its walls there can be found a board-and-batten back door, original paneling, plaster walls, possibly a ghost, and an undocumented slave hideaway.

The current owners of the house are John and Sally Huss, who have been living there since 1979 when they bought the house from John and Sally Gibson.

The house itself is basically the same since its creation in the early 1720s, provided a few newer details and an addition in the back.

“We do everything we can to preserve the house,” John Huss said.

The entrance to the hideaway is found in what was the parlor but now is a dining room. The door to the hideaway is about a foot and a half to two feet long. The inside is just as small except it goes back a couple feet. There area is currently used as storage.

The hideaway actually contained stairs, no longer there, that led up to a hidden room on the second floor. Markings of where the stairs were can be clearly seen on the wall.

Sally Gibson, the previous owner of the house, wrote a document that states, “In the 1840s the house’s owner, John Lee, was an ardent anti-slavery man and is said to have hidden escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad with the help of the ‘secret’ staircase.”

On the opposing wall to where the stairs were, is newspaper from the 1840s which is believed to have been used for insulation purposes. ,

The whole house was built around its large chimney. The front door was made to face south, which was done in the 18th and 19th centuries so that when someone walked out of his or her house, the sun was facing the front door.

Sally Gibson created a painting that shows what the house and its surroundings would have looked like in 1850.

“Mrs. Gibson said there was a ghost in the house, and do not be surprised if you smell apple pie baking,” John Huss said. The Husses said that they have not encountered any ghostly activity recently, but they believe that if there is a ghost, it is friendly.

“We feel that we are stewards of the house and that we belong to it. We are just taking care of it for the next family,” Sally Huss said.