Jacksonville's Historic Underground Railroad
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
Underground Railroad Silent Auction Listing for 2009 Gala PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 13 April 2009 12:32

  1. Pair of large oil paintings with floral motif in gilt frames – circa 1875 – Size: 29”x17”.  (Apple blossoms and lilies)
  2. Hand-colored French fashion print in oval, gilt frame “Miroir des Modes” – Size:  16”x13”
  3. Small, footed mahogany box with linens and doilies and a lovely cut crystal cruet.
  4. 19th century plank seat, pine, spindle back rocker.
  5. One drawer, cherry finish wash stand with towel bars.
  6. American, pattern glass cake stand, circa 1880’s, a Reed and Barton sterling handled salver, and a pair of faceted, crystal candlesticks.
  7. Early, 19th century Imari bowl and stand with a pair of antique candlesticks.
  8. Pair of porcelain, demitasse cups and saucers with a “P.T. Bavaria” and shield mark, acorn and oak leaf motif with gold trim.
  9. Heavy, brilliant cut-glass pitcher with applied, cut handle.                                                   
  10. Large, blue and white transferware covered tureen, late 19th century, “Delftland” pattern with English registry mark.
  11. Hand-colored ornithological lithograph by J. Smit, published London 1882 – Subject:  Myiarchus Semirufus (Trinidad Rufus Flycatcher)
  12. Petite, rush seat, ladder back chair.
  13. Glass front, hanging, curio cabinet with 3 shelves and a cherry finish.
  14. Child’s red, Radio Jet wagon and early wooden sled.
  15. Round, silver-plated, engraved serving tray and 7 Spanish silver-plated goblets marked “Valero”.
  16. Sterling silver Mexican jewelry assortment:  Necklace with matching bracelet, drop earrings, pin, bracelet with inlaid stones marked “Topez-Taxco”.
  17. Steel engraving in deep, walnut frame, entitled “A Tranquil Hour” – Size: 13”x 11”, circa 1880.
  18. Wooden, 2-handled, tea or breakfast tray with textile under glass.
  19. 3 large, black and white photographs of  wilderness scenes.  Each is 20”x 26”.
  20. Lovely pair of upholstered, walnut, Eastlake side chairs.
  21. Large, artist-signed print:  “Study for Sue Alston, Guardian Angel of Hampton” by Larry K. Martin, 1983.  Custom framed with acid-free mount and additional, framed narrative describing the origins of the subject. Framed print size is 28”x33”.
  22. American pottery trio – Includes Haeger planter, Frankoma serving tray in a leaf shape, and double cornucopia planter.
  23. Set of 6 silver, demitasse spoons with sugar tongs in original silk and velvet-lined presentation box.
  24. Wine gift basket that includes Blue River Riesling, Blackstone Merlot, 2 wineglasses with charms, Ghirardelli chocolate, and Honeysuckle candle.
  25. Oval-top stand with shelf and lyre base – mahogany finish.
  26. Collection of first edition and first printing books, some with dust jackets. 14 in all, late 19th and 20th century dates.                                                       
  27. Pressed back, oak, youth chair, circa 1900, with bisque doll in a green, velveteen dress (not old)
  28. Pair of lovely, botanical prints with reference to the flora mentioned in various plays by Shakespeare.  Size 16”x12”.
  29. Pair of framed, acid-free mounted, limited edition lithographs signed  by the artist, P. Garbera.  Scenes are depicting the home of Beethoven and the Bach Church and are numbered 28/1000 and 32/1000 respectively. Included in the margin are brief, musical lines.     
  30. Framed sheet music for “Topsy’s Song”, featuring a hand-colored lithograph, circa 1852, of Eva and Topsy from “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.  Size 14”x  11” Lyrics and history provided on website print-out.
  31. Dinner for 6 at the historic General Benjamin H. Grierson home, 852 E. State Street, Jacksonville, IL.  Enjoy a catered repast in this lovely circa 1840’s dwelling listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  Homeowners Ron and Mary Gray will welcome you to their beautifully restored home in the tradition of gracious, 19th century entertaining.
  32. Two lucky couples will enjoy the company of President and Mrs. Steuer in the Illinois College President’s Home – Barnes House.  This sumptuous home will be the setting for a delectable meal provided by your hosts and graced by the spirits of IC presidents past.                                                  

Items for the auction were donated by Gary Morris of “Acorn Cupboard Antiques”, Dianne Silva of “The Dusty Muff Antiques and Collectibles”, Suzanne and Wyatt Stucker, President and Mrs. Steuer, Sue Fishback, and Ron and Mary Gray.  We thank them all for their generosity and support of The Underground Railroad Committee, Woodlawn Farm, and the Morgan County Historical Society.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 April 2009 13:13
State Grant Will Assist with Restoration at Jacksonville's Historic Woodlawn Farm PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 29 September 2008 00:03
A grant from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity will underwrite an extensive renovation project at historic Woodlawn Farm near Jacksonville.

Details of the grant were announced Wednesday (July 25) at a news conference held on the grounds of the Morgan County site. The award provides $75,000 toward tuck-pointing, a new roof and replacement of the soffit, fascia and gutters at the original home of Woodlawn Farm founders Michael and Jane Huffaker. The structure was built in the early 1840s and is in need of extensive repair, according to Loreli Steuer, co-chair of the UGRR Board of Directors.

The DCEO grant must be matched by $75,000 in funds raised by the not-for-profit organization.

An earlier DCEO grant provided $69,000 toward a comprehensive architectural and archaeological study completed by the Sangamon Researchers team of Edward Russo and Curtis Mann, both of Springfield. That study, done under the guidance of the Illinois State Museum, pointed out the structural issues that are being addressed by the second DCEO grant. The findings were also instrumental in the decision earlier this year to add Woodlawn Farm to the National Register of Historic Places.

The Morgan County Historical Society acquired the 19th century farm home and six acres of adjacent property in 2003. Mrs. Steuer said the Underground Railroad Committee intends to make Woodlawn Farm the centerpiece of Jacksonville's plans to celebrate its heritage as a focal point of Underground Railroad activity during the 1830s and 1840s. Documents collected by local researchers indicate that Woodlawn Farm served as a station for freedom-seekers who sought shelter along the network during their perilous journey north to Canada.

"The Underground Railroad Committee is both celebrating these two wonderful gifts and expressing our profound gratitude to the State of Illinois' DCEO and Bureau of Tourism," UGRR Committee co-chair Jim Muprhy said in announcing details of the latest grant. "We believe their show of confidence by awarding us nearly $150,000 to advance the development of Woodlawn Farm as a state and national Underground Railroad site and living history museum is extremely gratifying," he added.

Rand Burnette, president of the Morgan County Historical Society, echoed the sentiments of the committee co-chairs and said the DCEO grant will be a stimulus on the collective efforts to showcase the role that many of the region's early settlers had in sheltering runaway slaves.

"This latest grant will have a significant impact upon how we share and celebrate the story of the Underground Railroad in west central Illinois," Burnette remarked.

Jacksonville is home to nine sites that have documented ties to the Underground Railroad, and Mrs. Steuer said talks have been held with state tourism officials in an effort to call attention to the role Jacksonville and the surrounding area played during the height of the Underground Railroad. Another one of the group's goals, she added, is to establish Jacksonville as a center for research and further study on the Underground Railroad

"This has been a giant step toward preserving Woodlawn Farm and telling its beautiful story about one of the most courageous and principled movements for human rights and dignity in American history," the local UGRR leader remarked.

Jacksonville Mayor Ron Tendick said the work of the local historical society in preserving and restoring Woodlawn Farm has far-reaching implications, and the benefits will be felt by students, scholars, tourists and the local population.

"The Underground Railroad Committee has been and continues to be an asset to the growing number of educational and economic development opportunities taking place across downstate Illinois," the Jacksonville mayor said in remarks prepared for the grant announcement. "Their work is helping to identify Jacksonville as a center for the study of this important period in our state's history."

Woodlawn Farm is located three miles east of Jacksonville and is open for tours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoons through August.

    Welcome friends to Jacksonville, Illinois and our proud tradition of history, including that of the Underground Railroad. We hope you will make plans to visit the centerpiece of our many UGRR attractions, Woodlawn Farm, as well as the rest of the homes on our tour!

MISSION STATEMENT: The purpose of the Underground Railroad Cultural and Educational Committee is to provide research & educational opportunities on the history of the Underground Railroad in Morgan County.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 April 2009 13:14

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