Washington Gardner.

History of Calhoun county, Michigan : a narrative account of its historical progress, its people, and its principle interests (Volume 1) online

. (page 13 of 74)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

Repiibliean party, which destroyed slavery. Similar intiuences were at
work in other states, and similar organizations were speedily formed.
Mr. Gorham was elected a delegate to the Philadelpihia convention in
1856, the first national convention of the party, but by mutual agree-
ment, Zachariah Chandler, his alternate took his place. History has
its curiosities and its paradoxes. From the same exciting cause, ^lich-
igan took a bold stand against slavery and organized to destroy it while
Kentucky had become the leading state to extend the curse and to
preserve its existence, iliehigan would nuike freedom national, and
slavery sectional, while Kentucky would make slavery national and
freedom sectional. ^Michigan men advocated and formulated a platform
to limit and destroy the evil, while Kentucky senators introduced and
advocated the Fugitive Slave Law, and the act to repeal the IMissouri
Compromise. Michigan was the first state in the union to fonii ;iu
effective organization for the destruction of slavery, and Kentucky was
the last state in the Union to abolish it. ^lichigan was the second
state in the Union to ratify the Thirteenth Amendment, '•'■■ and Kentucky
was the first to reject it.

The state ticket nominated ubder the oaks at Jackson and a Reimbli-
can legislature was elected in 1851. Erastus Husse.y, then of ]\Iarsliaii,
was elected to the senate. P"'ederal officers were accustomed to detiiin
federal prisoners in the different jails, prisons and penitentiaries of the
various states, and fugitive slaves were sometimes thus detained. The

32 James A. VanDyke was born in Franklin Co., Pa., a few miles north of the
Maryland line. He graduated from Madison College, Uniontown, Pa., at the age
of nineteen and after studying law at Chanibersburg, Pii., uiid n:ii;i'istnun, .Md.,
came to Detroit in 1834. He wa.s adniittiM I,. tl»> li;ir tli;it \..,i mi! ,: I-:;:, fiuioi'd

a partnership with Charles \V. Wlii|,|.l,'. Tlir s; • \r:ii' li, „ili |i, -

noyers, who died .July 10, IStlli. He \v;is in |Mrl iirrslii|', willi i:. I ' . I I ' i ■ .i ■,. Ihilinar
H. Emmons and was general i/ounsel uf llic .MiL-hijiuu I'ciiU.il li.ali.i.n i oiii|iany
until the date of his death, May li", 1S55. See Karly Bench and Bar of Uetroit,
by Robert Ross, p. 20.5.

»:' Thirteenth amendment. Pep. T. "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude
except as a punislnn. i ' 1' n whereof the parly >hall li;nc \trr,i duly con-
victed, shall exist in i ■ l -iirs or any place snl.ici-i t.j tlirir jni i-diction. "

"See. II. CouLi' I' II 'I ' Phil. H. Sheridan was commissioned by Ciuv. Blair, eolouel of the Second Michi-
gan Volunteer Cavalry, May 25. 1862.


it trained him to make ^lichigan a citadel of strength of Abraham
Lincoln in the great crisis. It educated the fearless Zach Chandler to
defy the arrogant repi-esentatives of the slave power in the Senate before
the war, it nerved him to sustain the immortal Lincoln in his super-
human task, it inspired him to wield a mighty intluenee for liberty and
union during the war. These men, and men of their type, after the
Democratic party had surrendered to the slave power, in 1854, took is-
sue on the slavery question, and organized a party to restrict slavery,
and in due time to remove the dangerous and irritating curse from the
land. This organization first made Kansas and Nebraska free, in Spite
of the broken pledges of the slave power and the repeal of the Missouri
Compromise. It paralyzed the force of the fugitive slave law, defying
the despotic* demands of the master, following the impulse of Christian
brotherhood, championed the cause of the slave. It grappled with the
hydra-headed moster of secession, and preserved the Union. It throt-
tled rebellion and emancipated a race, it removed the irritative curse of
slavery from American policies, and the whole world is glad. Now no
hostility exists between ilichigan and Kentucky, the apple of discord
had been removed and both remain under the old ilag in fraternal amity,
as members of the same, but a regenerate Union. Truly on that winter
morning at ^Marshall. Adam Crosswhite "tired the shot Jieard around the


Time will not permit of a sketch of other Marshall men and mea.sures
of historic value, in the progress and evolution of the State and nation.
Pre-eminent among our influential citizens, I recall the names of J.
Wright Gordon,^" senator, lieutenant-governor, governor and diplomat,
Edward Bradley,^" senator and member of Con>iii.ss ; (ii'orge C. Gibbs,
representative and supreme court reporter; Alnici' Piiilt.'"* representa-
tive, senator, judge of the supreme court and iliiilomat; Heni-y W.
Taylor, representative, .judge and publicist; Ilovey K. Clarke, repre-
sentative, political organizer, supreme court reporter; Oliver C. Com-
stoek, Sr., divine, member of congress and superintendent of public
instruction ; Francis W. Shearman, journalist, superintendent of public
instruction and historian of our public school system; Jabez S. Fitch,
the pioneer anti-slave advocate : Charles Dickey, representative, senator
and United States marshal during the war; John P. Cleaveland, the
eloquent divine and earnest educator; Nathaniel A. Balch, the inspiring
teacher, lawyer and legislator ; Thomas B. Church, the gifted advocate
and moulder of constitutions; Jabez Fox, journalist and anti-slavery
leader and organizer ; Parsons Willard, legislator and governor of Indi-
ana, Morton C. Wilkinson, United States Senator from Minnesota, who
have been influential actors in forming and fostering our public school
system, our exemption laws, abolition of the death penalt.y and im-
prisonment for debt, securing the rights of married women, the aboli-

sh See sketch, Vol. XI, p. 274, this series.

9' See sketch. Vol. XI, p. 275, also Vol. XXXV, p. 472, this series.

98 See sketch, Vol. XI, p. 278, this series.


tion of slavei-y and other reforms of the day. I am not able to name
all who are worthy of mention. Hoping that some more efficient worker,
and more eloquent pen may record their worth and work and rescue their
names from oblivion, I leave them now.

Battle Creek as a Station on the Underground Railway ^
By Charles E. Barnes -

There is an institution now only known in history as the Under-
ground Railway. This society, or system, as it should be more properly
called, came into existence in 184:0 in the midst of the famous Harrison
campaign, and was organized by Levi Coffin, of Cincinnati, a Quaker.
It was a league of men, almost all of whom were Quakers, who organ-
ized a system for spiriting away and conducting runaway slaves from
Kentucky, Tennessee and other slave states, through to Canada. These
men were enthusiastic Abolitionists, who devoted their time to watching
for fleeing bondsmen, ferried them in rowboats in the night-time over
the Ohio River, and then started them to the first Underground Rail-
way station, thence from station to station until they arrived in Detroit,
where they were ferried over the river in rowboats to Canada — and
freedom. The workings of the Underground Railway were a great
mystery to the people because of the secret manner in which everything
was conducted. Slaves strangely disappeared and nothing was heard
of them until reported to have been seen in Canada. None of the
methods was known to the public. These slaves were conducted from
the Ohio River to Canada as it shot through a hollow tube. This imag-
inary explanation of how the fugitives reached Canada is what gave
origin to the name "Underground Railway."

The main route, known as the Central Michigan line, passed through
Battle Creek. There was another route through Michigan via. Adrain.
Mrs. Laura Haviland had charge of the latter line. She resided either
at Adrain or Tecumseh, and conducted a school for colored girls. The
station at Battle Creek was one of the most prominent centers of the
work in Michigan, and was in charge of that famous old Quaker, Erastus
Hussey,'^ who spent his time and money freely in assisting the colored
people to Canada. There was no graft in those days. The work was
done because of a love for mankind, and a sense of duty from a moral
purpose. Like all Quakers, he would not recognize laws that sanctioned
slavery — they were man-made laws; he ooeyed only divine laws. Dur-
ing the existence of the Underground Railway, which was continued
from 1840 to the issuing of the Emancipation Proclamation by Lincoln,
i\Ir. Hussey secreted and fed over 1,000 colored persons, and then sent
them through to the next station, which was at IMarshall.^

Realizing that the history of this institution, particularly of the

1 Bead at midwinter meeting, Albion, January, 1909.

2 Charles E. Barnes died at his home in Battle Creek, Oct. 17, 191:
Hussey. Sketch, Vol. XIV, p. 79, this series.

'Marshall Men and Marshall Measures," preceding article.


work in Battli' Creek, was oi' more tlian loeal iiii]K)rlMiire, and sliDuld
be preserved, the writer visited ilr. Iliissey iu ^lay, 1885, and made a
record of his story, which is reproduced in his own words :

"One day in 1840, when I was in Detroit on a business trip, a man
by the name of John Cross, from Indiana, called at my house in Battle
Creek and inquired for me. He was very anxious to see me, but would
not tell even my wife what he wanted. My wife sent for Benjamin
Richard, who worked for Jonathan Hart, but neither would he confide
the object of his visit to him, and so departed. I was in Detroit three
or four days. After my return home I received a letter from Cross.
He wrote me that he was establishing a route from Kentucky and Ohio
to Canada through which escaped slaves could be conducted without
molestation and wanted me to take charge of the station in Battle
Creek. This was the first time that I had ever heard of the Under-
ground Railway. I preserved Cross's letter for many years as a relic,
but it is now lost. This is how I commenced to keep the station liere.
At that time there was only five anti-slavery men in Battle Creek be-
sides myself: Silas Dodge who afterward moved to Vineland, N. J.;
Abel Densmore, who died in Rochester, N. Y. ; Henry Willis, Theron II.
Chadwick and a colored man by the name of Samuel Strauther. The
colored ^Masonic lodge was named after him — Strauther lodge No. 3.
Other anti-slavery men came afterward to this place among them Dr.
S. B. Thayer and Henry J. Cushman, who built the old fiouring mill
opposite tiart's mill. He was an earnest worker. He moved to Plain-
well. There was Charley Cowles, a young man who was studying medi-
cine with Drs. Cox and Campbell. Also that good worker, Dr. E. A.
Atlee, and his son-in-law, Samuel S. Nichols, in Jonathan Hart's store.

In Battle Creek township were Harris, William McCullom, Edwin

Gore and Herman Cowles ; in Penfield, David Boughton, and in Emmett,
Elder Phelps.

"Our work was conducted with the greatest secrecy. After crossing
the Ohio River the fugitives separated, but came together on the main
line and were conducted through Indiana and Michigan. Stations were
established every fifteen or sixteen miles. The slaves were secreted
in the woods, barns and cellars during the daytime and carried through
in the night. All traveling was done in the dark. The stationkeepers
received no pay. The work was done gratuitously and without price.
It was all out of sympathy for the escaped slaves and from principle.
We were working for humanity. When I first accepted the agency I
lived in a wooden building on the present site of the Werstein & Halla-
day block (now Larkin-Reynolds-Boos block) opposite the Williams
house (now Clifton house). Before the present block was built the
old building was occupied as a livery stable by J. L. Reade, and be-
fore him by Parcel Brinkerhoff as a second-hand .store. There was the
Underground Railway station. This building was constructed l)y
August P. Rawson in 1836 or 1837, and when I bought it, it was occu-
pied as a cabinet shop by John Caldwell, our villag(> marshal, father
of James T. Caldwell, the undertaker. I repaired the Iniilding and oc-
cupied the front as a store and used the upstairs and the rear lower
end for my dwelling. Here I secreted tiie runaway shivcs. After tlie


Union Block was built, just adjoining this building on the west (the
first brick block erected in Battle Creek) I frequently secreted them
there. In 1855 I moved to my new home on the present site of the
Seventh Day Adventist College. It was reported that the cellar under
this house was built with secret places expressly for the purpose of
hiding the fugitives. This was not strictly true. I will guarantee,
however, that if anj' slaves were secreted there that they were never cap-
tured. We did not assist as many of them as formerly, because a
shorter route had been opened through Ohio, by way of Sanduskj' and
thence to Fort Maiden and Amherstburg.

' ' I can 't tell about the stations in Indiana. The route came into Jlich-
igan to the famous Quaker settlement near Cassopolis. The leader was
that good old Quaker, Zachariah Shugart,^ also Stephen Bogue and Joel
East. At Cassopolis, Parker Osborn was the agent. The next station was
Schoolcraft, iu charge of Dr. Nathan Thomas. Then came Climax,
with the station a little ways out of the village. I think the man there
was called William Gardner. Battle Creek came next. Jabez S. Finch
was the agent at IMarshall and was a gentleman with plenty of means
and stood high in the community and the first nominee on the Liberty
ticket for governor. Of course, he was not elected, but we always there-
after called him governor. Then came AUiion and Edwin ]\I. Johnson.
I have forgotten the name of the agent at I'arma, liut I think that it
was Townsend E. Gidley." He was not strictly identified with the
Liberty Party, but always rendered assistance in furthering the escape
of the slaves.

"At Jackson were three agents: Lonson Wilcox, Norman Allen and
one that I cannot remember. In the large places we had more than one
man, so that if one chanced to be out of town another could be found.
At ^liehigan Center, Abel F. Fitch ' was the man. He was one of the
men involved iu litigation many years ago with the Michigan Central