Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tour Offered of Underground Railroad Network Helped Runaway Slaves

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Tour Offered of Underground Railroad Network Helped Runaway Slaves

Article excerpt

Mysterious figures crouched in the corn fields and ran for miles in the shadows. Lanterns shining in windows and quilts hanging on clotheslines guided them.

Citizens, at their own peril, secretly fed, clothed and sheltered them and helped them move on to the next safe haven in their long journey.

This was the underground railroad, an informal system that helped runaway slaves escape to the northern states and Canada in the mid-1800s.

The Metro East area was part of it - including routes through Belleville, Alton, Carlyle, Alhambra and Jerseyville.

On Saturday, the Greater Alton/Twin Rivers Convention and Visitors Bureau will sponsor an Underground Railroad Tour to show homes, schools and other sites in Alton, Otterville, Jerseyville, Brighton and Godfrey that were part of the undercover network or played a role in the abolitionist movement.

"Some people may think the underground railroad involved an extensive series of tunnels from safe house to safe house," said Georgette Walker, sales manager for the bureau. "It wasn't underground, and it wasn't a train. It was a vast network of courageous, ordinary citizens who mounted a grass-roots effort to help their fellow man."

The slaves moved mostly at night on foot or hidden in wagons. They and those who aided them used railroad terms as code - hiding places were called stations, slaves were passengers, their helpers were conductors.

Although Illinois was a free state, runaway slaves could be recaptured and returned to slavery, and those who helped them could be fined or imprisoned.

Included on Saturday's bus tour will be:

The Rock House at 2705 College Avenue in Upper Alton. Elijah Lovejoy met with other abolitionists and harbored runaway slaves in this two-story white stone house, across the street from College Avenue Presbyterian Church, where Lovejoy was pastor.

The Enos Apartments at 325 Third Street in Alton overlooking the Mississippi River. …

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