The Huntley Farmside
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untley 350 Volume 40 No. 46 Farmside Your hometown newspaper Thursday November 30,2000 © 2000 Press-Republican Newspapers McHenry's Underground Railroad connection by Susan Bohme Staff writer Gloria Urch's interest in the Underground Railroad started more than 20 years ago when her daughter spent the night at the Mansion Farm in Hebron. She told her mother of secret rooms and tunnels and said the house had beeri part the Underground RaUroad. Urch has spent the last two decades researching, writing about and giving lectures on the Underground Railroad. Last week she came to the Huntley Area Public Library and spoke about the houses in McHenry County that were part of the Underground RaUroad and how historians determine whether they were part of the network. The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad, Urch said. It was a network of houses that antislavery and abolitionist groups used to help runaway slaves escape. It was called the Underground Railroad because it had to be conduct¬ ed in secrecy and railroad terms were used, she said. Routes were called Unes; stopping places were called depots or stations; runaways were called packages or freight; and the people helping the runaways were called conductors. These terms were part of the everyday language of the time and were used because they wouldn't stand out. When deciding whether a house might have been part of the Underground Railroad, Urch said she first looks at when the house was buUt. K it was buUt after 1865, there was no need to have an Undergroimd Depot, she said. "Then we look at where it was built. A lot of the homes are elevated. They are built on hiUs. Many of them have cupolas. It was important to see if anybody was coming," she said. The Mansion Farm, on Highway 173 in Hebron, was buUt in 1850 on the highest point in the area. A person looking out of the cupola on the top of the house could see for mUes around. Legend has it that slaves hid in the cel¬ lar of the house while dignitaries danced upstairs. The Terwilliger House in Bull Valley was only the third house to be buUt in BuU Valley, so there was not a lot of other activity nearby. Urch also looks at what kind of person buUt the house. She looks at their religion - Quakers, Fresbj^erians and Methodists tended to be anti-slavery. "We look to see if they have con¬ nections to other abolitionists. We look at where they came from. U they came from Rhode Island—thaf s real¬ ly a big clue—^we know they were anti-slavery," Urch said. Rhode Island put a provision in its constitution in 1619 banning slavery. She also looks to see what kind of reputation the person had in the com¬ munity. Would they be willing to break the law because they thought they were doing the right thing? John James, the buUder of WindhiU Farm on Greenwood Road in Woodstock, had connections to known abolitionists in Elgin, he was involved in town politics and was known in town as "an overseer of the poor" A tiap door in the kitchen of this house leads to a concealed stair¬ way and a secret room where run¬ away slaves may have hidden. Many of these rooms, Urch said, were not originally buUt for the Underground Railroad, they were built for protection against Indian attacks. "It turns out we had very friendly Indians in this area, so they had noth¬ ing to be afraid of, but they didn't know that," she said. Urch said more is known about the Cupola House on West Grant Street in Marengo than any of the other Underground Railroad houses. Charles G. Hibbard buUt the house, an exact replica of his house in South Carolina, in 1846, and he announced that it was going to be part of the Underground Railroad. In 1968 home¬ owners Francis and Mary Muzzy found a tunnel and secret room under the front lawn after the ceiling of the tunnel collapsed under the weight of a piece of lawn equipment they were using. "It is rumored that there were as many as a dozen houses on Highway 20 that were part of the Underground Railroad, some connected by tun¬ nels," Urch said. The House of Seven Gables on Highway 14 in Harvard and the McMUBan Mill, which was located on Highway 31 in Crystal Lake before it was torn dovwi, also were used by the Underground Railroad. Runaway slaves are thought to have hidden in an outdoor room opposite the bam at the House of Seven Gables and in a Presbyterian chapel at the back of the McMiUian Mill house. When looking for different "lines" DO the Underground RaUroad, Urch Liberty photos by Sue Bohme Underground Railroad expert Gloria Urch, who has spent two decades researching and writing on the subject, addresses a huge crowd gathered to hear her speak at the Huntley Area Public Library. looks at a traveling distance of about 15 mUes a day. Starting from a known Underground Railroad depot on Route 72 in Dundee, Urch followed a line to the Terwilliger House, WmdhUl Farm, the Mansion Farm, the House of Seven Gables, and on into JanesviUe and Milton, Wis. Another line went through Marengo and Rockford to Wisconsin. Historians also look for accounts written in the letters or memoirs of people who either used or were part of the Underground RaUroad. The escape of a slave named Caroline Quarles from St. Louis, Mo. is very weU documented. Historians can fol¬ low her traU from St. Louis to Alton, m., north through McHenry County, where she stayed one night at the home of a man named Russell, on to Milwaukee and, eventually, to Canada. "She wrote two letters back [to people who had helped her] and everyone she stayed with all wrote memoirs, so there is a good record that this actually happened," Urch said. "We know that we did have some [Underground Railroad] activity through here and Caroline's story is one of the ways we know that." This Marengo home at Grant Street and Deitz Road served as a "station" or "depot" on the Underground Railroad.
|Title||The Huntley Farmside|
|Creator||The Huntley Farmside|
|Coverage||Huntley, Illinois, United States|
|Description||Weekly Newspaper from the Huntley Area Public Library Collection|
|Rights||This material may be protected by U.S. Copyright Law (Title 17 U.S. Code).|
|Publisher||This Collection was digitized and loaded into CONTENTdm by OCLC Preservation Service Center (Bethlehem, PA) for the Huntley Area Public Library.|
|Source||Reproduction of library's print newspaper archives|