Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Finney, Seymour

Seymour Finney, a business owner and Underground Railroad stationmaster, was born in Orange County, New York, where he worked as a tailor. He moved to Detroit in 1834, where he became an active supporter of the abolitionist movement in the area. Starting in 1850, Finney ran a tavern near Capitol Park, followed by a hotel. He also owned a nearby stable at the northeast corner of State and Griswold streets where many freedom seekers hid before crossing to safety in Canada.

Finney was a key stationmaster on Michigan’s Underground Railroad route, in defiance of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. Fortunately, few people in Michigan were ever charged with aiding and abetting the formerly enslaved because prosecutors in Michigan could rarely get convictions. Detroit was one of the most important "stations" en route to Canada, being a short distance from the final destination of Canada. While freedom seekers hid in the stable, their pursuers would often find themselves in one of Finney’s establishments, unaware of their nearby targets.

In 1892, the stable was demolished to make room for the current Detroit Chamber of Commerce building. A plaque was installed on this site in 1926, marking it as the location of Finney’s Underground Railroad Station.