County Was a Hotbed for Underground Railroad

Article excerpt

Byline: Diana Dretske

In 1846, an anti-slavery society was formed in Lake County with Seth Paine of Lake Zurich as its president and Henry Blodgett of Waukegan as its treasurer.

Long before the Civil War began in 1861, abolitionists promoted the abolishment of slavery and aided escaped slaves in reaching freedom in the north. This secret network of people and safe houses was called the Underground Railroad. It was illegal to aid runaway slaves, but that didn't stop people from helping one another; it only meant that their activities had to be kept a secret and "underground."

Areas of active abolitionism and Underground Railroad activity in Lake County included Deerfield, Gurnee, Ivanhoe, Millburn and Waukegan.

Because of the secretive nature of the Underground Railroad, stories of its existence were passed verbally, rather than in writing. However, in a bold move, the Rev. William Dodge of the Millburn Congregational Church encouraged his congregation to put into writing their commitment to assisting escaped slaves. The English and Scottish settlers of the Millburn area were strongly abolitionist in their views.

With the abolishment of slavery following the Emancipation Proclamation of 1862, and the end of the Civil War in 1865, stories of the Underground Railroad were more openly discussed and subsequently written down. In 1918, grade school students documented two places on the Underground Railroad: Kuhn's Rock in Newport Township, and the Blanchard farm in Waukegan Township. …