Before and during the Civil War, the Underground Railroad in Illinois played a major role in guiding runaway slaves from the states where they were governed by the whip and gun to the states where they were governed by their free will. To share that story in detail, the Sangamon County Historical Society is sponsoring a guided bus tour that will visit historical sites involved in the Underground Railroad movement. Limited seating is available.
The tour will leave the parking lot of the Stratton Building, on Edwards Street between Pasfield and Spring streets, at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, May 21. A brief stop in Griggsville will give riders a chance to sample the home-style cuisine found only in the purple-martin capital of the nation before proceeding to the Quincy home that belonged to Connecticut-born abolitionist Dr. Richard Eells. Just a few blocks east of the Mississippi River, this house was the first haven on the trek north from Missouri. Often slaves and guides would arrive in the middle of the night and stay just briefly before being escorted to other homes farther into free territory.
The tour will walk a block to the Gardner Museum of Architecture and Design, where a local historian will further describe the role Quincy played during those troubled years. Special arrangements have been made with nearby O’Grigg’s Irish Pub and Restaurant for lunch and as a meeting point for those who simply want to wander the area shops around the town square.
Jacksonville played a major role in the Underground Railroad. Several historic homes in the city still show evidence of their vital service. The Woodlawn Farm house, east of the city, is being restored as a memorial to the Underground Railroad. A nearby creek bed is the same one traveled in the early 1860s by runaways trying to remain hidden from view by local citizens, whose reactions were not always helpful. The restoration of the house into a true museum is well under way, and the volunteer staff promises to shed much light on almost forgotten days.
The bus will return to the Stratton parking lot by 5: 45 p.m.
The Underground Railroad Tour starts at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, May 21, at the parking lot of the Stratton Building. The cost is $30 for Sangamon County Historical Society members, $35 for nonmembers. Call 217-522-2500 before 4:30 p.m. Friday, May 20, to learn about seat availability or, if you feel lucky, arrive early Saturday with fare in hand.