My Contribution: I was one of the youngest and most significant conductors of the Underground Railroad. I worked hard to found the Harrisburg Fugitive Society, the Capital Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg, and the Household of Ruth of the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows, which I founded in 1847. I also was one of the first African Americans to instruct school in Harrisburg from 1850-1862, and I worked with Judge Mordecai McKenny to found Sunday school for a collective of churches.
My Legacy: I assisted freedom seekers in Harrisburg by supporting the work of the Underground Railroad, and my contribution is memorialized with a marker at the site of the former Tanner’s Alley in the Eighth Ward. I served as an ambassador for Black education and activism in Pennsylvania and beyond. Capital Presbyterian Church, which I founded, still stands today.
About Me: “He was always a polished writer and convincing speaker. He unstintingly gave his time and talent to every good cause. He was the youngest member of the remarkable Underground Railroad, being only seventeen…. Like Paul, he was ‘a citizen of no mean city’ — a Philadelphian of the Philadelphians — and was able to add to its honor and glory.” Anna Bustill Smith, “The Bustill Family”, The Journal of Negro History, vol. 10, no. 4. Chicago University Press, October 1925.
Full Name: Joseph Cassey Bustill
Birth Date: ca. 1822
Death Date: August 19, 1895
Place of Birth: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Race: “Mulatto” (1850 and 1970 Federal Censuses), Black (1860 and 1880 Federal Censuses), English, African, and Native-American heritage (according to family history and Harrisburg Telegraph, August 23, 1895).
Places of Residence: Tanner’s Alley, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania (ca. 1853-1863); 403 S. 6th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (1864-1874); Lincoln University, Oxford, Pennsylvania (ca. 1874-1895).
Connection to the Old Eighth Ward: Resident on Tanner’s Alley; led Underground Railroad operations with William Jones; founded Capital Presbyterian.
Family Members: Father: David Bustill. Mother: Elizabeth Hicks Bustill. Wife: Sarah Humphrey Bustill. Daughter: Anna Amelia Bustill-Smith.
Education: Educated in the “best schools” of Philadelphia (The Journal of Negro History 10.4 (1925), 641).
Occupations: Teacher. Wigmaker.
Church Membership: Capital Presbyterian Church
Activism: Harrisburg Fugitive Aid Society (co-founder); Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (Grand Treasurer, Most Venerable Patriarch, committee speaker); Household of Ruth in the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows (founder); Pennsylvania Equal Rights League (leader of Philadelphia delegates); Fourteenth Amendment protest convention (presenter); American Moral Reform Society (member); Philadelphia Union League (Fifteenth Amendment parade chairman); Banneker Institute (trustee); and Montana Agricultural Emigrant Aid Association (co-founder).
Connections: William Jones, George H. Imes, Joseph Thomas, John Gaitor, Josephine Bibb, John W. Simpson, William Howard Day, and Cassius M. Brown.