Slaves Found Refuge in Lake County

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 8, 1996 | Go to article overview

Slaves Found Refuge in Lake County


Byline: J. Hope Babowice

For further reading

The Fremont Library in Mundelein suggests the following books on the Underground Railroad.

- "Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt" by Deborah Hopkinson.

- "Aunt Harriet's Underground Railroad In The Sky" by Faith Ringgold.

- "Harriet Tubman: The Road To Freedom" by Rae Bains (cassette kit).

- "The Story Of The Underground Railroad" by R. Conrad Stein.

- "Escape From Slavery: Five Journeys To Freedom" by Doreen Rappaport.

Many Lake County residents helped slaves to freedom before the Civil War more than 130 years ago.

Homes, barns and churches were stops on the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was the name given to the hiding places throughout the 14 northern states, including Illinois, that were used to shelter runaway slaves as they sought their freedom in Canada.

In 1845, Libertyville hosted an abolitionist, or anti-slavery, convention sponsored by local Congregationalist churches.

Not much is documented about the times, from the 1820s through the beginning of the Civil War in 1861, when hiding slaves was a secret business. Anyone caught helping slaves could be fined or even imprisoned. Code words were devised that were used in the railroad business. "Freight" was slaves, "conductors" were those who aided slaves, routes to freedom were called "lines."

Gary Schiappacasse, a fifth-grade teacher at Gurnee's Woodland Elementary School, and James Dorsey, a College of Lake County professor, make the Underground Railroad come alive for children.

Dorsey, author of "Up South, Blacks in Chicago Suburbs," is an expert on the people and places in our country that brought slaves to freedom.

Schiappacasse takes the students to a few of the well-documented sites where slaves traveled as they made their way to freedom.

Although the slaves probably entered Lake County through Lake Zurich, where abolitionist Seth Paine is said to have helped slaves, the students' first taste of the Underground Railroad is at the Ivanhoe Congregational Church in Ivanhoe.

Church records dating back to the 1850s show a strong anti-slavery stance. …

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