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Monday, 29 September 2008 01:24


Art Wilson, pictured far right, conducts a tour of Woodlawn Farm with members of the Board of Directors of the Jacksonville Area Convention & Visitors Bureau (Fall, 2004).

For Woodlawn Farm tours, see “Woodlawn Farm” on menu on Home page.

Tours of eight other Underground Railroad sites in Jacksonville are often held in conjunction with Fund raising bus tour events held in the Spring and/or Fall by The Underground Railroad Committee. Watch for listings with newspapers and The Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, and on this website. Three or four of the sites can be entered currently. Costumed docents ride the buses and present historical anecdotes and tell insightful stories.

For more information, contact The Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau at 217.­243.­5678.

Woodlawn Farm
This Farm, five miles east of town, was established in 1824 by Michael Huffaker. Michael and his wife, Jane, rode by horseback from Kentucky, bought land east of Jacksonville, and built a cabin for their growing family and four cabins for free black families who helped Michael raise cattle, horses and crops. In 1841 he built the two story brick home which stands to this day on the property. Michael and his family were members of the Antioch Christian Church founded by Barton Stone. As you visit this home you will meet Mrs. Huffaker and Lily, a freedom seeker, who was helped on her journey by the Huffakers.

The Grierson Mansion
A small brick home stood on this property before the Griersons bought it. It was owned by Garrison Berry, a southern man. One night he provided shelter for Emily Logan who had escaped from. her owner, Mrs. Porter Clay. The property was later purchased by the Grierson family and it is believed that the small brick house has been incorporated into this mansion.

The Asa Talcott Home
Asa and Maria Talcott were founding members of the Congregational Church and were anti-slavery in their beliefs. This home located at 859 Grove Street was built in parts beginning in 1833 and was added onto in 1844 and 1861. Benjamin Henderson, a free black man and important conductor of the UGRR, reported that Asa Talcott was among those he could count on for help when he needed supplies for the fugitives. Asa Talcott was a brick layer and plasterer and it was reported that he provided refuge for runaways in his barn.

The Gillett House
This home at 1005 Grove St. was purchased by Bezaleel Gillett in 1838. There was a partially finished home on the property built somewhere between 1833 and 1836. Dr. Gillett finished the home shortly after buying it. The Gillett family had moved to Jacksonville around 1830 after Dr. Gillett treated many during the cholera epidemic of 1833. He helped found Trinity Episcopal Church and was one of the trustees of the Female Academy. Dr. Gillett was an abolitionist and assisted freedom seekers as they sought freedom in Canada. This home was recently given to Illinois College.

The Clay House
This home at 1019 State Street was built around 1834 and sat on 6 acres of land. The home was owned by Elizabeth Hardin Clay and her husband Porter Clay, a half-brother of Henry Clay. Mrs. Clay came from Kentucky with two slaves, Emily and Robert Logan, brother and sister, to whom she had promised freedom if they worked for her for four years. After living awhile in Jacksonville, the young people learned that Illinois was not a slave state so they should be free. Fearing that Mrs. Clay intended to send them back to Kentucky to be sold, they fled the home and sought refuge among friends. Robert was recaptured and sent by river back into slavery. Emily's story continues when you visit the Congregational Church.

The Congregational Church
On December 15, 1833, thirty-two men and women founded the Congregational Church. They were all anti-slavery in belief and the church was soon called "the Abolition Church", not a compliment in the divided community of Jacksonville. When the UGRR became active in town, Deacon Elihu Wolcott was known as the chief conductor. Many members of this church bravely risked prison and fines by actively providing shelter, clothing, food, and transportation as the freedom seekers followed the North Star to Canada. At this stop you will meet Julia Wolcott Carter and learn more about Emily Logan as well as other stories of the UGRR.

Illinois College
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.
Last Updated on Sunday, 27 April 2014 02:29