Underground Railroad Museum Finds New Life in Historic Smithville

Photograph by David Michael Howarth

For decades, Louise Calloway has collected artifacts from African-American history – enough to fill a museum. And that’s exactly what she did.

Calloway displayed her exhibition of photographs, iron shackles and more in her coffee shop, neighboring the oldest pharmacy in New Jersey. The Burlington Pharmacy, formerly Wheatley’s Pharmacy, also had ties to the Underground Railroad.

In 2013, financial issues forced Calloway to close the shop and move the collection to her basement.

After requests to house the collection from townships and colleges, Calloway chose the Burlington County Board of Chosen Freeholders. Their offer: a restored historic building formerly used as mill workers’ housing.

This weekend, the re-opening of the Underground Railroad Museum was celebrated at its new home, Historic Smithville Park in Eastampton.

The space allows Calloway, now 87, to share her collection and teach visitors the history behind it. Visit the museum Thursday through Sunday, and Calloway will be there to tell you each object and photograph’s story, including the branding iron taken from the plantation where Michelle Obama’s great-great-grandfather was enslaved.

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