Jacksonville's Historic Underground Railroad
Children Tours Woodlawn Farm June 2008--May 31, 2009 PDF Print E-mail
Friday, 29 May 2009 13:08

Children Tours Woodlawn Farm June 2008--May 31, 2009

We have many school groups who come out to the Farm for tours.  Some of these tours are for most of the day.  We divide the group into groups of 15-20 and send them around the Farm for activities which would have happened in the midst of the 19th century.  For example, we take one group up from the creek as runaway slaves (freedom seekers), another group goes to the parlor where they learn about the Huffaker family and their willingness to risk their fortune and their reputation by being a safe house on the UGRR.  A third group would go to the kitchen and listen to Mammy Blue’s tales of her escape and work on the Farm.  She would teach them some songs and show them some plantation food.  The archaeologists might be there and show the children how they did their work and discovered the site of the first cabin.  Another group might go to the medical tent where a nurse would treat common illnesses.  Another group would make a craft such as yarn dolls or whirly toys while another group played games which were common in the 19th century.  Upstairs the children would see the children’s bedroom including games they played with and see the teacher’s room and talk about their education. In the basement the children would see where the Huffakers fed and clothed the freedom seekers before sending them to the workers cabins.

During the 2008-2009 year we had about 993 children who visited the Farm during our tours, some of these for a couple hours, others for most of the day.  We are fortunate to have members of our UGRR Committee who are willing to give their time to provide this experience for children.



---Mary Hathaway, Education Chair and Tour Director 

Last Updated on Friday, 19 June 2009 19:44
UGRR Committee will conduct benefit auction at a later date PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 April 2009 23:27
The Underground Railroad Committee of the Morgan County Historical Society has postponed plans to hold a benefit auction and dinner on Saturday, April 18, and will reschedule the event for later this year.

          Organizers said a later date will provide additional time to contact prospective bidders and assure greater participation in the event.

          “We have a marvelous list of superb antiques for sale, and we feel it makes sense to conduct the auction at a time when more people will have the opportunity to bid,” said Loreli Steuer, co-chairman of the not-for-profit group that operates historic Woodlawn Farm near Jacksonville.

          The group plans to proceed with a scheduled tour of Underground Railroad sites across the Jacksonville community on Sunday, April 19. Tickets for the tours cost $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12. There is also a $25 ticket price for families. The tours will begin at Beecher Hall on the campus of Illinois College at noon and continue until approximately 3:30 p.m.

          Advance tickets are available at Festival Foods and All Occasions in Jacksonville, and will be sold at Beecher Hall prior to the start of the event. Additional information is available by contacting Jim Murphy of the Underground Railroad Committee at 473-9734.
Last Updated on Friday, 29 May 2009 13:10
Underground Railroad will be focus of weekend events PDF Print E-mail
Tuesday, 14 April 2009 13:10
Jacksonville will celebrate its ties to the Underground Railroad Friday, Saturday and Sunday, April 17-19, with a series of events for the public that will benefit the ongoing restoration of historic Woodlawn Farm.

            The events include a dinner party and silent auction of antiques, guided tours of the city’s nine documented Underground Railroad sites, and a performance by the National Underground Railroad Theatre that tells the story of Harriet Tubman.

            The Underground Railroad Committee of the Morgan County Historical Society is sponsoring the three-day celebration, which they hope will support efforts to preserve the 165-year-old dwelling that reportedly provided safe haven for runaway slaves seeking freedom in the north. The group purchased Woodlawn Farm in 2003 and has made great strides in their efforts to turn the entire site into a living history museum.

            Loreli Steuer, co-chair of the not-for-profit group, said efforts continue to restore the two-story farm house build by Michael Huffaker in the 1840s. The site was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2008, and Mrs. Steuer said the group is hopeful of completing an extensive window and front entrance replacement project that will greatly enhance the building’s structural integrity. More importantly, she said the renovation work will further preserve the site as a landmark, and enable greater number of visitors, including area school pupils, to learn how early Morgan County residents played important roles in helping runaway slaves during their perilous journey to freedom.

            The public events actually begin Friday, April 17, with an wine-and-cheese preview of fine arts and antiques. Admission to the preview in Illinois College’s Cummings Hall is free, and the public is welcome to view the various items and submit bids. The auction will feature oil paintings, prints, lithographs, various furniture items, dinnerware, jewelry, books, and even framed sheet music for “Topsy’s Song,” taken from Harriett Beecher Stowe’s “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” written in 1852. The public can also bid on dinner parties that will be served at the residence of the Illinois College president at Barnes House, and the historic home on east State Street once owned by Civil War hero Benjamin Grierson.

            The winning bids will be announced Saturday, April 18, at the conclusion of a gala benefit dinner in IC’s Cummings Dining Hall. Tickets are priced at $40 and will include a four-course meal and a program of musical entertainment.  The event will feature two performances from the recent Ken Bradbury and Roger Wainwright musical, “Spirit of Lincoln,” by Jacksonville’s Tim Chipman as Carl Sandburg and Sylvia Burke as Mary Hathaway. Springtime and Lincoln inspired music will be provided by soloists Addie Gramelspacher and Kristin Jamison along with the Illinois College Concert Choir and Renaissance Singers. Dinner tickets are priced at $40 and can be reserved by calling 479-4035.

            Sunday’s guided tours of Jacksonville’s Underground Railroad sites will begin at 12 noon with a presentation in Illinois College’s Beecher Hall, the oldest college building in Illinois. From there, buses will transport ticket-holders to four other sites: The Dr. Bazaleel Gillett House at 1005 Grove St., the Congregational Church at 520 W. College Ave., the General Grierson Manson at 852 E. State St., and Woodlawn Farm, east of the city. Guided tours will take place at each site. The buses also plan to stop at the ASA Talcott House at 859 Grove St. and the Porter Clay House at 1019 W. State St. Tour guides on each bus will also explain the significance of the “Africa” community in Jacksonville and the Henry Irving House at 711 W. Beecher.

            Tickets for the tour of the Underground Railroad sites are priced at $15 for adults and $5 for children ages 6-12, and can be purchased in advance at Festival Foods, 1255 W. Morton, or All Occasions, 635 E. Morton. Organizers said they can guarantee 60 seats on the buses. Others have the option of driving from site to site. Tickets will also be sold at Beecher Hall on the morning of the event.

            The weekend events conclude Sunday, April 19, with a performance at 4 p.m. of “Are You Ready, My Sister?” by the National Underground Railway Theatre in Illinois College’s Rammelkamp Chapel. The performance is part of the 2008-2009 Illinois College Fine Arts Series, and admission is $15. Students of all ages, regardless of where they attend school, will be admitted free.

            “Are You Ready, My Sister?” tells the story of famed Underground Railroad conductor Harriet Tubman and the Quaker women who helped escort several hundred slaves to freedom. The historical adventure will be told by two actress/puppeteers using a giant patchwork quilt. As the plot unfolds, each square of the quilt comes to life with shadow-puppets and painted back-lit scenery.

            Information on each of the events planned as part of the weekend celebration is available by contacting Jim Murphy at Illinois College, 245-3248.

Last Updated on Thursday, 16 April 2009 23:28

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