Ms. Bonine's Class
Underground Railroad Days 2022 was a happy occasion for over a thousand people who visited Vandalia and participated in the activities. Two years delayed because of Covid, there were smiles everywhere. Glorious weather continued the eleven year streak of no rain during the celebration. The Kentucky Raid guided tours were full, and the Bonine House, Carriage House and Bogue House saw a steady stream of visitors. Musicans at the "Ramptown Cabin" entertained their audience in an intimate setting under the tent, and the blacksmith and spinner demonstrated their skills. Presentations on Cass County and the 102nd USCT in the Civil War,the Kentucky Raid of 1847, and Network to Freedom photos, were well attended. Vendors on the Vandalia Village grounds offered a wonderful variety to shoppers. The Sunday morning community church service on the Vandalia grounds was filled with joyous congregations from several churches in Vandalia and Cassopolis. This unique annual festival draws from the region and the State to celebrate the legacy of the Underground Railroad in the area. See you next year the second weekend of July!
Take the UGRR 20-Site Driving Tour!
From 1840 to 1850 two lines of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) terminated in Cass County, MI. The Quaker Line started in Cincinnati Ohio, west to Wayne County Indiana, north to Bristol, IN and into Michigan to 'stations' in Porter, Penn and Calvin Townships, known as "Young's Prairie" at that time. The Illinois Line came north from St. Louis to Niles, MI and west to Young's Prairie. UGRR stations were homes, barns and other buildings where fugitive slaves, now known as freedom seekers, were given shelter until taken to the next station by "conductors." Freedom seekers were taken to Schoolcraft, then Battle Creek and to other stations roughly following I-94 to Detroit and Canada. It is estimated that over 1500 freedom seekers were helped on their journey to Canada. Most freedom seekers who came here were from Kentucky and came up on the Quaker Trail. Most UGRR stations in Young's Prairie were on Quaker farms--the names Bogue, Bonine, Shugart, Osborn, East and Lee are well known stationmasters, some of them targets in the infamous 1847 Kentucky Slave Raid. Henry Shepard was a self- manumitted (freed) freedom seeker who settled in Vandalia, became a stationmaster and conductor on the UGRR, and also was part of the Kentucky Raid.
Free black families and black churches, primarily in Calvin Township, were also active in anti-slavery activities and helping freedom seekers on their journey. In the mid to late 1840's free black families came here from primarily Virginia and North Carolina. Stewart, Allen, Ash, Wilson, Hawks, Byrd and Sanders are among several families who settled here during that time. They came here with money and skills. They purchased land and established prosperous farms, becoming valued members of the community. There are several sections owned by free blacks on the 1860 Cass County plat map. Chain Lake Baptist and Mt. Zion AME churches were founded and involved in helping freedom seekers and those wanting to settle here in this safe haven.
One historian says "The story of the Underground Railroad in Cass County is one of cooperation, respect and mutual trust to combat the hated institution of slavery. The interdependency of these groups created a unique environment that helped minimize racism, promote cooperation between the races and create an African American community unique to the North."
(no membership required)
The Underground Railroad Society of Cass County organized in 2009 with a mission " to provide a focal point for exploration into the origins and activities of the Underground Railroad; the unique role the people of Cass County and the surrounding area played throughout its existence, and how it impacted local, state and national history".
-- A Precious Memento Makes Its Way Home --
Press Release May, 2021
On June 3, 2020 URSCC members wrote to me about a photo album available on Ebay. It was African Americans from Calvin Township and Vandalia, MI dating back to the 1850's, including many tin types, a priceless album. (More)
Click on the poster to download a printable version.
Press Release-- 10/1/2021
Underground Railroad Society of Cass County wins Michigan Humanities Council "Outstanding Humanities Organization for 2021" Award
The Michigan Humanities Council recently presented the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (MI) the award for Outstanding Humanities Organization 2021 at their awards ceremony in Mackinaw City, MI. MHC presented the plaque and certificate to URSCC saying "Over the past ten years, URSCC has worked to fulfill its mission to research and educate about the Underground Railroad in Cass County, and to restore three UGRR related buildings as focal points for telling the compelling story. Over four hundred members and an eight member Board have brought to life the critical story of a central juncture in the Underground Railroad." URSCC president Mike Moroz, treasurer Cathy LaPointe and docent Cindy Yawkey traveled to Mackinaw City to accept the award. Mike thanked MHC for the great honor, for their support for Underground Railroad Days since 2013, and for their recent grants from H.O.P.E. funds which have helped so many non for profits keep their doors open during the pandemic.
The album as we originally received it.
Visitors can tour the Bonine House, Bonine Carriage House and Bogue House June through September, Monday-Friday, 2 pm - 5 pm. Docents will tell you the history of each site. Contact us to arrange private tours.
URSCC Annual Events are:
Cass County UGRR Wax Museum at the Bonine House -- Spring 2022
Underground Railroad Days -- second weekend in July 2022
Christmas at the Bonine House -- first and second weekends in December 2022
The Kentucky Raid
In 1847 black and white residents of Vandalia and Cassopolis stood up and stopped thirteen slave catchers from taking nine kidnapped slaves back to Kentucky. They showed great courage and determination in stopping what they saw as a grave injustice. Freedom seekers were allowed to testify in court and won.
When we encounter bigotry, intolerance and injustice we must find our own courage to do what is right --
Take a Stand! Testify!
Underground Railroad Days 2022
URSCC is pleased to announce that two of their programs have been accepted for listing on the National Parks Service Network To Freedom, a nationwide listing of nearly 700 Underground Railroad (UGRR) sites, with about forty sites in MI. The announcement was made by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, and Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland, in Washington D.C. on April 23, 2021. The URSCC listings are among sixteen nationwide.
Underground Railroad Society Honors Black History Month
"The Underground Railroad in Cass County"
The Stephen Bogue House at M-60 and Crooked Creek Rd.
URSCC is 10 Years Old! (2019)
Due to Covid concerns, URSCC decided to spread out Christmas at the Bonine House from November 15 to December 12, 2021. We were open every day from 2-6 pm and welcomed visitors who were fully vaccinated and wore a mask. Even under these circumstances, there was much holiday joy experienced by all. Here's a gallery of photos of the Bonine House and Carriage House. Here's to a healthy new year! URSCC
We've Come a Long Way!
Take the URSCC self-guided driving tour of 20 UGRR sites within four miles of Vandalia, MI. Click here or on the image. to view the tour and download a printable map. Maps are also available at the UGRR Historical Marker in MIlo Barnes Park on M-60 in Vandalia. The tour takes about an hour if you don't stop to explore.
Watch our URSCC Powerpoints
"The Underground Railroad in Cass County MI"
"The Bonine House--A Legacy of Freedom"
Tour the Bonine House, Carriage House and Bogue House
Christmas at the Bonine House 2021
Take a Stand! Testify!
James E Bonine Carriage House M-60 and Calvin Center Road, across M-60 from Bonine House. (Photo is from the back of the building.)
James E. Bonine House corner of M-60 and Penn Rd., Vandalia, MI
Preserve and restore the James E. Bonine House and Carriage House as outstanding examples of Victorian domestic architecture.
Create an education and community events center in the Bonine House as a focal point for understanding the role local Quakers, African-Americans and other abolitionist groups played in the UGRR. Restore the Carriage House as a period museum and station on the Underground Railroad. Preserve the Stephen Bogue House as a station on the UGRR and home of Young's Prairie Quaker Anti-Slavery Meeting.
Create a cultural tourism destination for Underground Railroad enthusiasts that will bring visitors and tourism dollars into the community.
The mission of the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) is to provide a focal point for exploration into the origins and activities of the Underground Railroad; the unique role the people of Cass County and the surrounding region played throughout its existence, and how it impacted local, state and national history.