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Monday, 29 September 2008 01:28
Woodlawn Farm has already been featured in the Jacksonville Journal Courier, the Springfield State Journal-Register, and also featured on WAND-TV News, WICS-TV News, and WSEC's Illinois Stories program (the area PBS station).

Please contact Jim Murphy at 217-245-3048 or Geoff Ladd at 1-800-593-5678 for press information.

Click on the documents below to download various press releases.
(available in Microsoft Word format)

A Celebration of Prairie Life, August 12, 2006
Jacksonville Juneteenth Celebration, June 24th, 2006

Illinois College Newsletter: Tunnel System Connected Houses Surrounding College
Illinois College Newsletter: The Underground Railroad
Jacksonville Journal-Courier: Underground Railroad Thrived in Jacksonville

Online News Items:
Illinois College News Online: IC hosts Underground Railroad Symposium
Illinois College News Online: Benefit for Woodlawn Farm November 13

The 1872 “Atlas Map of Morgan County” features this sketch of Michael and Jane Huffaker’s Woodlawn Farm, where runaway slaves found food and shelter before the Civil War.

Morgan County Historical Society plans to turn Huffaker farm into living history museum

By Greg Olsen

Little Fannie Huffaker was awakened by a commotion in the downstairs hallway. She could hear a baby crying; she had to investigate.

“She jumped out of bed, crept to the head of the old walnut stairs and, clinging to the banisters, looked down into the hall,” wrote her daughter, Fannie Grassly, years later. “There were a colored man and two white ones whispering together and a mulatto woman with a little child in her arms.

“The woman’s eyes rolled with fright, and she tried to hush the child’s cries. The she saw a neighbor, Hess Craig, open a door and hussle the strangers into a room.

“The colored people were in a pitiful state, bedraggled and only half clothed. Mother thought they must be some new help, and, thinking she would see them in the morning, she went back to bed.”

     Miss Huffaker looked for them the next day, but she could not find them. The strangers at the Huffaker farm that night were fugitive slaves, and Miss Huffaker promised her mother that she would never tell of their stopover at the family farm.

    The Huffaker farm, located a few miles east of  Jacksonville and bordered on the south by the middle fork of Mauvaisterre Creek, was a haven for runaway slaves fleeing their Southern masters for freedom in the North.

     Fannie Huffaker’s parents were Michael and Jane Huffaker. Mr. Huffaker, a native of Kentucky, bought land east of Jacksonville in the early 1820’s, paying $1.25 an acre, according to the 1872 “Atlas Map of Morgan County.” Mrs. Huffaker, who was related to President James Monroe, was Mr. Huffaker’s second wife.

     Together, they operated one of many clandestine stations on the famous Underground Railroad, which was a network of households that helped runaway slaves escape to permanent freedom. It was established by abolitionists, particularly free blacks in the North.

     “Mr. Huffaker was a valuable man (on the Underground Railroad) because he was fearless, won everyone’s respect and never talked,” local historian Ensley Moore once said.

     “Michael, having been accustomed to Negro labor in Kentucky and needing good farmhands, built cabins on his farm and established colored families in them, the men doing the outside work and the women helping in the house when needed”, wrote Miss Grassly, one of Mr. Huffaker’s grandchildren.

     The fugitive slaves helped Mr. Huffaker run his extensive grain, cattle and horse farm, which he named “Woodlawn Farm”.

     “Michael’s farm was one of the safest stations on the route from Jacksonville to Springfield, due to the Negro cabins and the fact that he employed mostly Negro help,” wrote Miss Grassly. “Besides, if bloodhounds were being used, the refugees, once reaching Jacksonville, would be taken to the brook, sometime through the famous tunnels in town, follow the brook to the Mauvaisterre, leave the creek where it branched into Michael’s farm and there, sheltered by the orchard, reach the house or one of the cabins safely. If the danger was too great, they were rushed on to the next station.”

  The house was bought in December (2003) by the Morgan County Historical Society, which has plans to turn the Huffaker’s Woodlawn Farm into a living history museum highlighting the family’s involvement with the Underground Railroad.

Reprinted by permission, Jacksonville Journal-Courier, 2/9/2004.

Last Updated on Monday, 29 September 2008 01:30