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going from his home to the railroad station at
Springfield, to take the train for St. Louis, he was
assassinated upon the street by shooting, as sup-
posed for the pui-pose of robbery — his dead body
being found a few hours later at the scene of the
tragedy. Mr. Tyndale was a brother of Gen.
Hector Tyndale of Pennsylvania, who won a
high reputation by his services during the war.
His second wife, who survived him. was a
daughter of Shadrach Penn, an editor of con-
siderable reputation who was the contemporary
and rival of George D. Prentice at Louisville, for
some years.

history of Illinois would be incomplete without
reference to the unique system whicli existed
there, as in other Northern States, from forty to
seventy years ago, known by the somewhat mys-
terious title of "The Underground Railroad."
The origin of the term has been traced (probably
in a spirit of facetiousness) to the expression of
a Kentucky planter who, having pursued a fugi-
tive slave across the Ohio River, was so surprised
by his sudden disappearance, as soon as he had
reached the opposite shore, that he was led to
remark. "The nigger must have gone off on an
underground road." From "underground road"
to "underground railroad," the transition would
appear to have been easy, especially in view of
the increased facility with which the work was
performed when railroads came into use. For



readers of the present generation, it may Ije well
to explain what "The Underground liailroad"
really was. It may be defined as the figurative
appellation for a spontaneous movement in the
free States — extending, sometimes, into the
slave States themselves — to assist slaves in their
efforts to escape from bondage to freedom. The
movement dates back to a period close to the
Revolutionary War, long before it received a
definite name. Assistance given to fugitives
from one State by citizens of another, became a
cause of complaint akuost as soon as the Govern-
ment was organized. In fact, the first President
himself lost a slave who took refuge at Ports-
mouth, N. H., where the public sentiment was
so strong against his return, that the patriotic
and philosophic "Father of his Country" chose
to let him remain unmolested, rather than "excite
a mob or riot, or even uneasy sensations, in the
minds of well-disposed citizens." That the mat-
ter was already one of concern in the minds of
slaveholders, is shown by the fact that a provision
was inserted in the Constitution for their concili-
ation, guaranteeing the return of fugitives from
labor, as well as from justice, from one State to

In 1793 Congress passed the first Fugitive Slave
Law, which was signed bj- President Washing-
ton. This law provided that the owner, his
agent or attorney, might follow the slave into
any State or Territorj', and, upon oath or affi-
davit before a court or magistrate, be entitled
to a warrant for Jiis return. Any person who
should hinder the arrest of the fugitive, or who
should harbor, aid or assist him. knowing him
to be such, was subject to a fine of §500 for each
offense. — ^In 1850, fifty -seven years later, the first
act having proved inefficacious, or conditions
having changed, a second and more stringent
law was enacted. This is the one usually referred
to in discussions of the subject. It provided for
an increased fine, not to exceed 81,000. and im-
prisonment not exceeding six months, with
Uability for civil damages to the party injured.
No proof of ownership was required beyond the
.statement of a claimant, and the accu.sed was not
permitted to testify for himself. The fee of the
United States Commissioner, before whom tlie
case was tried, was ten dollars if he found for
the claimant: if not, five dollars. This seemed
to many an indirect form of bribery: clearly, it
made it to the Judge's pecuniary- advantage to
decide in favor of the claimant. The law made
it possible and easy for a white man to arrest,
and carry into slavery, any free negro who could

not immediately prove, by other witnesses, that
he was born free, or had purchased his freedom.

Instead of discouraging the disposition, on
the part of the opponents of slavery, to aid fugi-
tives in their efforts to reach a region where
they would be secure in their freedom, the effect
of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 (as that of 1793
had been in a smaller degree) was the very oppo-
site of that intended by its authors — unless,
indeed, they meant to make matters worse. The
provisions of the act seemed, to many people, so
unfair, so one-sided, that they rebelled in spirit
and refused to be made parties to its enforce-
ment. The la%v aroused the anti-slavery senti-
ment of the North, and stimulated the active
friends of the fugitives to take greater risks in
their behalf. New efforts on the part of tlie
slaveholders were met by a determination to
evade, hinder and nullify the law.

And here a strange anomaly is presented. T)ie
slaveholder, in attempting to recover his slave,
was acting within his constitutional and legal
rights. The slave was his property in law. He
had purchased or inherited his bondman on the
same plane with his horse or his land, and, apart
from the right to hold a human being in bond-
age, regarded his legal rights to the one as good
as the other. Fiom a legal standpoint his posi-
tion was impregnable. The slave was his, repre-
senting so much of money value, and whoever
was instrumental in the loss of that slave was,
both theoretically and technically, a partner in
robbery. Therefore he looked on "The Under-
ground Railway" as the work of thieves, and en-
tertained bitter hatred toward all concerned in its
operation. On the other hand, men who were,
in &1I other respects, good citizens — often relig-
iously devout and pillars of the church — became
bold and flagrant violators of the law in relation
to this sort of property. They set at nought a
l>lain provision of the Constitution and the act of
Congress for its enforcement. Without hope of
personal gain or reward, at the risk of fine and
imprisonment, with the certainty of .social ostra-
cism and bitter opposition, they harbored the
fugitive and helped him forward on every
occasion. And why? Because thej' saw in him
a man, with the same inherent right to "life,
liberty and the jiursuit of happiness" that they
themselves possessed. To them this was a higher
law than any Legislature. State or National, could
enact. They denied that there could be truly
such a thing as property in man. Believing that
the law violated human rights, they justified
themselves in rendering it null and void.



For the most ijait, the "Underground Rail-
road" operators and promoters were plain,
ohscure men, without hope of fame or desire for
notoriety. Yet there were some whose names
are conspicuous in history, such as Wendell
Phillips, Thomas Wentworth Higginson and
Theodore Parker of Massachusetts; Gerrit Smith
and Thurlow Weed of New York; Joshua R.
Giddings of Ohio, and Owen Lovejoy of Illinois.
These had their followei'S and sympathizers in
all the Northern States, and even in some por-
tions of the South. It is a curious fact, that
some of the most active spirits connected with
the "Underground Railroad" were natives of the
South, or had resided there long enough to
become thoroughly acquainted with tlie "insti-
tution." Levi Coffin, who had the reputation of
being the "President of the Undergroimd Rail-
road" — at least so far as the region west of the
Ohio was concerned — wna an active operator on
the line in North Carolina before his removal
from that State to Indiana in 1826. Indeed, as a
system, it is claimed to have had its origin at
Guilford College, in the "Old North State" in
1H19, though the evidence of this may not be

Owing to the peculiar nature of their business,
no official reports were juade, no lists of officers,
conductors, station agents or oi)erators preserved,
and few records kept which are now accessible.
Consequently, we are dependent chiefly upon the
personal recollection of individual operators for
a history of their transactions. Each station on
the road was the house of a "friend" and it is
significant, in this connection, tliat in every
settlement of Friends, or Quakers, there was
sure to be a house of refuge for the slave. Tor
this reason it was, perliaps, that one of the most
frequently traveled lines extended from Vir-
ginia and Maryland tlirough Eastern Pennsyl-
vania, and then on towards New York or directly
to Canada. From the proximity of Ohio to
Virginia and Kentucky, and the fact that it
offered the .shortest route tlirough free soil to
Canada, it was traversed by more lines than anj-
other State, although Indiana was pretty
thoroughly "grid-ironed" by roads to freedom.
In all, however, the routes were irregular, often
zigzag, for purposes of secm'ity, and the "con-
ductor" was any one who conveyed fugitives from
one station to anotlier The "train" was some-
times a farm-wagon, loaded with produce for
market at some town (or depot) on the line, fre-
quently a closed carriage, and it is related that
once, in Ohio, a mimber of carriages conveying

a large party, were made to represent a funeral
procession. Occasionally the train ran on foot,
for convenience of side-tracking into tlie woods
or a cornfield, in case of pursuit by a wild loco-

Then, again, there were not wanting lawyers
who, in case the operator, conductor or station
agent got into trouble, were ready, without fee or
reward, to defend either him or his human
freight in the courts. These included such
names of national repute as Salmon P. Chase,
Thaddeus Stevens, Charles Sumner, William H.
Seward, Rutlierford B. Hayes, Richard H. Dana,
and Isaac N. Arnold, while, taking the whole
country over, their "name was legion." And
there were a few men of wealth, like Thomas
Garrett of Delaware, willing to contribute money
by thousands to their assistance. Although
technically acting in violation of law — or, as
claimed by themselves, in obedience to a "higher
law" — the time has already come when there is a
disposition to look upon the actors as, in a certain
sense, heroes, and their deeds as fitly belonging
to the field of romance.

The most comprehensive collection of material
relating to the history of this movement has
been furnished in a rei^ent volume entitled, "The
Underground Railroad from Slavery to Free-
dom, ' by Prof. Wilbur H. Siebert, of Ohio State
University; and, while it is not wholly free from
errors, both as to individual names and facts, it
will probably remain as the best compilation of
history bearing on this subject — especially as the
principal actors are fast passing away. One of
the interesting features of Prof. Siebert 's book is
a map purporting to give the principal routes
and stations in the States northwest of the Ohio,
yet the accuracy of this, as well as the correct-
ness of personal names given, has been questioned
by some best informed on the subject. As
might be expected from its geographical position
between two slave States — Kentucky and Mis-
soui'i — on the one hand, and the lakes offering a
highway to Canada on the other, it is naturally
to be assimied that Illinois would be an attract-
ive field, both for the fugitive and his sympa-

The period of greatest activity of the system in
this State was between 1840 and 1861— the latter
being the year when the pro-slavery party in the
South, by their attempt forcibly to dissolve the
Union, took the business out of the hands of the
secret agents of the "Underground Railroad,"
and — in a certain sense — placed it in the hands
of the Union armies. It was in 1841 that Abra-


ham Lincoln — then a conservative opponent of
tlie extension of slavery — on an appeal from a
judgment, rendered by the Circuit Court in Taze-
well County, in favor of the holder of a note
given for the service of the indentured slave-
Kirl "Nance," obtained a decision from the
.Supreme Court of Illinois upholding the doctrine
tliat the girl was free under the Ordinance of
ITsT and the State Constitution, and that the
note, given to the person who claimed to be her
owner, was void. And it is a somewhat curious
coincidence that the same Abraham Lincoln, a.s
President of the United States, in the second
year of the War of tlie Rebellion, issued the
Proclamation of Emancipation wliich finally
resulted in striking the shackles from the limbs
of every slave in the Union.

In the practical operation of aiding fugitives
in Illinois, it was natural that the towns along
the border upon the Ohio and Mi.ssissiiipi Rivers,
should have served as a sort of entrepots, or
initial stations, for the reception of tliis class of
freiglit — especially if adjacent to some anti-
slavery community. This was tlie case at Ches-
ter, from which access was easy to Sparta, where
a colony of Covenanters, or Seceders, was
located, and whence a route extentled, by way of
Oakdale, Nashville and Centralia, in the direction
of Chicago. Alton offered convenient access to
Bond County, where there was a community of
anti-slavery jieople at an early day, or the fugi-
tives could be forwarded northward by way of
Jerseyville, Waverly and Jacksonville, about
each of whicli there was a strong anti-slavery
sentiment. Quincy, in spite of an intense hos-
tility among the mass of the community to any-
tliing savoring of abolitionism, became the
theater of great activity on the part of the
opponents of the institution, especially after the
advent there of Dr. David Nelson and Dr. Rich-
ard Eells, both of whom had rendered themselves
obnoxious to the people of Missouri by extending
aid to fugitives. The former was a practical
abolitionist who. having freed liis slaves in his
native State of Virginia, removed to Missouri and
attempted to establish Marion College, a few miles
from Palmyra, but was soon driven to Illinois.
Locating near Quincj-. he founded tlie "Mission
Institute" tliere, at which he continued to dis-
seminate his anti-slavery views, while educating
young men for missionary work. The "Insti-
tute" was finally burned by emis,saries from Mis-
.souri, while three j'oung men who had been
connected with it, having been caught in Mis-
souri, were condemned to twelve years' confine-

ment in the penitentiary of that State — partly on
the testimony of a negro, altliough a negro was
not then a legal witness in the courts against a
white man. Dr. Eells was prosecuted before
Stephen A. Douglas (then a Judge of the Circuit
Court), and fined for aiding a fugitive to escape,
and tlie judgment against liim was finally con-
firmed by the Supreme Court after his deatli, in
18.53, ten years after the original indictment.

A map in Profes.sor Siebert's book, showing the
routes and principal stations of the "Undergound
Railroad.'' makes mention of the following places
in Illinois, in addition to those already referred
to: Carlinville, in Macoupin County; Payson
and Mendon, in Adams; Washington, in Taze-
well ; Metamora, in Woodford ; Magnolia, in Put-
nam; Galesburg, in Knox; Princeton (the home
of Owen Lovejoy and the Bryants), in Bureau:
and many more. Ottawa appears to have been
the meeting point of a number of lines, as well
as the home of a strong colony of practical abo-
litionists. Cairo also became an important
transfer station for fugitives arriving by river,
after the completion of the Illinois Central Rail-
road, especially as it offered tlie speediest way of
reaching Chicago, towards whicli nearly all the
lines converged. It was here tliat the fugitives
could be most safely disposed of bj' placing them
upon vessels, which, without stopping at inter-
mediate ports, could soon land them on Canadian

As to methods, these differed according to cir-
cumstances, the emergencies of the occasion, or
the taste, convenience or resources of the oper-
ator. Deacon Levi Morse, of Woodford County,
near Metamora, had a route towards Magnolia.
Putnam County; and his favorite "car" was a
farm wagon in which there was a double bottom.
The pas.sengers were snugly placed below, and
grain sacks, fiUed witli bran or other light material,
were laid over, so that the whole presented the
appearance of an ordinary load of grain on its
way to market. The same was true as to stations
and routes. One. who was an operator, says:
"Wherever an abolitionist happened on a fugi-
tive, or the converse, there was a station, for the
time, and the route was to the next anti-slaverj-
man to the east or the north. As a general rule,
the agent preferred not to know anything beyond
the operation of his own immediate section of the
road. If he knew nothing about the operations
of another, and the other knew nothing of his.
they could not be witnesses in court.

We have it on the authority of Judge Harvey B.
Hurd. of ChicaKo. that runaways were usually



forwarded from that city to Canada by way of the
Lakes, there being several steamers available for
that purpose. On one occasion thirteen were
put aboard a vessel under the eyes of a United
States Marshal and his deputies. The fugitives,
secreted in a woodshed, one by one took the
places of colored stevedores carrying wood
aboard the ship. Possibly the term, "There's a
nigger in the woodpile," may have originated in
this incident. Thirteen was an "unlucky num-
ber" in this instance — for the masters.

Among the notable trials for assisting runaways
in violation of the Fugitive Slave Law, in addi-
tion to the case of Dr. Eells, already mentioned,
were those of Owen Lovejoy of Princeton, and
Deacon Gushing of Will County, both of whom
were defended by Judge James Collins of Chi-
cago. John Hossack and Dr. Joseph Stout of
Ottawa, with some half-dozen of their neighbors
and friends, were tried at Ottawa, in 18.J9, for
assisting a fugitive and acquitted on a techni-
cality. A strong array of attorneys, afterwards
widely known through the northern part of the
State, appeared for the defense, including Isaac
N. Arnold, Joseph Knox, B. C. Cook, J. V. Eus-
tace, Edward S. Leland and E. C. Larned. Joseph
T. Morse, of Woodford County, was also arrested,
taken to Peoria and committed to jail, but
acquitted on trial.

Another noteworthy case was that of Dr.
Samuel Willard (now of Chicago) and his father,
Julius A. Willard, charged with assisting in the
escape of a fugitive at Jacksonville, in 1843, when
the Doctor was a student in Illinois College.
"The National Corporation Reporter," a few
years ago, gave an account of this aflEair, together
with a letter from Dr. Willard, iu which he states
that, after protracted litigation, during which
the case was carried to the Supreme Court, it was
ended by his pleading guilty before Judge Samuel
D. Lockwood, wlien he was fined one dollar and
costs— the latter amounting to twenty dollars.
The Doctor frankly adds: "My father, as well
as myself, helped many fugitives afterwards."
It did not always happen, however, that offenders
escaped so easily.

Judge Harvey B. Hurd, already referred to,
and an active anti-slavery man in the days of the
Fugitive Slave Law, relates the following: Once,
when the trial of a fugitive was going on before
Justice Kercheval, in a room on the second floor
of a two-story frame building on Clark Street in
the city of Chicago, the crowd in attendance
filled the room, the stairway and the adjoining
sidewalk. In some way the prisoner got mixed

in with the audience, and passed down over the
heads of those on the stairs, where the officers
were unable to follow.

In another case, tried before United States
Commissioner Geo. W. Meeker, the result was
made to hinge upon a point in the indictment to
the effect that the fugitive was "copper-colored."
The Commissioner, as the story goes, being in-
clined to favor public sentiment, called for a large
copper cent, that he might make comparison.
The decision was, that the prisoner was "off
color," so to speak, and he was hustled out of the
room before the officers could re-arrest him, as
they had been instructed to do.

Dr. Samuel Willard, in a review of Professor
Siebert's book, published in "The Dial" of Chi
cago, makes mention of Henry Irving and Will-
iam Chauncey Carter as among his active allies
at Jacksonville, with Rev. Bilious Pond and
Deacon Lyman of Farmington (near the present
village of Farmingdale in Sangamon County),
Luther Ransom of Springfield, Andrew Borders
of Randolph County, Joseph Gerrish of Jersey
and William T. Allan of Henry, as their coadju-
tors in other parts of the State. Other active
agents or promoters, in the same field, included
such names as Dr. Charles V. Dyer, Philo Carpen-
ter, Calvin De Wolf, L. C. P. Freer, Zebina East-
man, James H. Collins. Harvey B. Hurd, J. Young
Scammon, Col. J. F. Farnsworth and others of
Chicago, whose names have already been men-
tioned; Rev. Asa Turner, Deacon Ballard, J. K.
Van Dorn and Erastus Benton, of Quincy and
Adams County; President Rufus Blanchard of
Knox College, Galesburg; John Leeper of Bond;
the late Prof. J. B. Turner and Elihu Wolcott of
Jacksonville; Capt. Parker Morse and his four
sons — Joseph T., Levi P., Parker, Jr., and Mark
— of Woodford County ; Rev. William Sloane of
Randolph ; William Strawn of La Salle, besides a
host who were willing to aid their fellow men in
their aspirations to freedom, without advertising
their own exploits.

Among the incidents of "Underground Rail-
road" in Illinois is one which had some importance
politically, having for its climax a dramatic scene
in Congress, but of which, so far as known, no
full account has ever been written. About 185,5,
Ephraim Lombard, a Mississippi planter, but a.
New Englander bj' birth, purchased a large body
of prairie land in the northeastern part of Stark
County, and, taking up his residence temporarily
in the village of Bradford, began its improve-
ment. He had brought with him from Mississippi
a negro, gray-haired and bent with age, a slave



of probably no great value. "Old Mose," as he
was called, soon came to be well known and a
favorite in the neighborhood. Lombard boldly
stated that he had brought him there as a slave ;
that, by virtue of the Dred Scott decision (then
of recent date), he had a constitutional right to
take his slaves wherever he pleased, and that
"Old Mose" was just as much his property in
Illinois as in Mississippi. It soon became evident
to some, that his bringing of the negro to Illinois
was an experiment to test the law and the feel-
ings of the Northern people. This being the case,
a shrewd play would have been to let him have
his way till other slaves should have been
brought to stock the new plantation But this
was too slow a process for the abolitionists, to
whom the holding of a slave in the free State of
Illinois appeared an unbearable outrage. It was
feared that he might take the old negro back to
Mississippi and fail to bring any others. It was
reported, also, that "Old Mose" was ill-treated;
that he was given only the coansest food in a
back shed, as if he were a horse or a dog, instead
of being permitted to eat at table witii the family.
The prairie citizen of that time was very par-
ticular upon this point of etiquette. The hired
man or woman, debarred from the table of his or
her employer, would not have remained a day.
A quiet consultation with "Old Mose" revealed
the fact that he would hail the gift of freedom
joyously. Accordingly, one Peter Risedorf. and
another equally daring, met him by the light of
the stars and, before morning, he was placed in
the care of Owen Lovejoy, at Princeton, twenty
miles away. From there he was speedily
"franked" by the member of Congress to friends
in Canada.

There was a great commotion in Bradford over
the "stealing" of "Old Mose." Lombard and his
friends denounced the act in terms bitter and
profane, and threatened vengeance upon the per-
petrators. The conductors were known only to a
few, and they kept their secret well. Lovejoy"s
part in the affair, however, soon leaked out.
Lombard returned to Mississippi, where he
related his experiences to Mr. Singleton, the
Representative in Congress from his district.
During the next session of Congress, Singleton
took occasion, in a speech, to sneer at Lovejoy as a

Online LibraryNewton BatemanHistorical encyclopedia of Illinois → online text (page 112 of 207)