Tracks of History Stories of Millburn's Underground Railroad Connection Still Told

Article excerpt

Byline: Natasha Rotstein Daily Herald Staff Writer

Millburn's connection to the Underground Railroad is a strong part of the community's history.

Folk tales of men washing horses to hide their night time assistance with transporting runaway slaves have been passed down from generation to generation.

Buildings still stand in the community that may have been stops on the Underground Railroad, but no one knows for sure. The only certain proof of the town's involvement in the Underground Railroad is Millburn Congregational Church, which was the center of the abolition movement in Lake County during the 1840s.

The church is a small building on the corner of Grass Lake Road and Route 45. The sun's rays illuminate the building. It's still the center of the community as it had been years ago.

It all started when William Bradford Dodge, the "length and shadow" of the congregation, became the minister of the church in 1844. According to "The Story of The Millburn Congregational Church," temperance and abolition were his causes. His home, or the homes of the church's members, may have been stops on the Underground Railroad - a secret network of routes escaped slaves used to reach freedom with the help of abolitionists.

Its supporters were sought after and punished; therefore, no written records of the activities were kept. Some church records, according to the Rev. Paul R. Meltzer, indicate the church was active in the Underground Railroad.

"It's our one written indication they were involved," he said.

On the evening of Dec. 2, 1859, congregation members met to set aside a day of remembrance for John Brown, martyr to abolition. They adopted a resolution that encouraged to "do good to those who have escaped from bondage as we have opportunity, by supplying their present wants and aiding them in their flight. …