Historic Plaque at Illinois College - Located Between Beecher and Sturtevant Halls
Proud, educated abolitionists like Jonathan B. Turner and Edward Beecher, brother to Harriet Beecher-Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, proved to be invaluable advocates for freedom. Edward Beecher was the first president of Illinois College, the first college in Illinois. Because of the strong views of many of the students and faculty, Illinois College was considered an engine of abolitionism.
Illinois College was founded by the "Yale Band" who left Connecticut to found a college and churches on the Western frontier. Julian Sturtevant arrived in 1829 and the college opened for instruction on January 4, 1830. His story is well described in Iver Yeager's book, Julian M. Sturtevant 1805-1886. The Rev. Edward Beecher was named the college's first President and arrived in December of 1830. You may want to look at the small historical marker near Beecher Hall which commemorates the student protest at the time of Elijah Lovejoy's murder.
The Illinois College Connection
llinois College in Jacksonville has long been known to have a connection to the Underground Railroad, dating back to the 1840's. Possibly three different UGRR routes criss-crossed their way through Jacksonville.
Illinois College was founded by New Englanders, who ardently opposed
slavery. The college's first president was Edward Beecher, (brother of
Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of the anti-slavery classic, "Uncle Tom's
Cabin"), who was an abolitionist and friend of renowned abolitionist Elijah
Lovejoy. Professor David Smith's house is believed to have been used for
secret meetings and planning sessions for Underground Railroad activity.
The Fayerweather House on the Illinois College campus is also believed
to have been a stop on the Underground Railroad. There has long been rumored
to have been an elaborate tunnel system connecting several of the UGRR
houses nearby to Illinois College - more research is needed to verify.
Smith House on Illinois College Campus
Fayerweather House on Illinois College Campus
In other notable instances, I.C. Professor Jonathan Turner led three escaped black women along the Underground Railroad route back in 1846. I.C. student Sam Willard pleaded guilty in 1843 to assisting in the escape of a runaway slave.
Today, new Illinois College First Lady, Loreli Steuer, is Vice-Chairperson of our Underground Railroad Committee. And, recently the Gillett House (very important UGRR home) was donated to the college. Illinois College also recently hosted a grand UGRR event on November 13, 2004. Plans are underway to make Illinois College the official Underground Railroad research center in Illinois.
Underground Railroad Committee
Morgan County Historical Society
|Loreli Steuer & Jim Murphy, Co-Chairmen
Liddy Stark & Gary Morris, Co-Vice-Chairmen
Kristan Becker Hoffman, Treasurer
Mary Hathaway, Secretary
Art Wilson & Abbie Templin, Founding Directors
1463 Gierke Lane
Jacksonville, IL 62650
e-mail: UGRR@woodlawnfarm.com website: www.woodlawnfarm.com / www.undergroundrailroadcommittee.org