Ms. Bonine's Class
Take a Stand! Testify!
Ms. Duebner's Class
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". The organization had no money, no property, no membership to speak of. Now, ten years later, URSCC owns and is restoring three Underground Railroad related buildings, and is acquiring a fourth. Membership tops 400 and volunteers are abundant. URSCC has raised and spent about $750,000 on purchasing and restoring the James E. Bonine House and the Bonine Carriage House, the Victorian home of UGRR stationmasters James E. and Sarah Bogue Bonine.
There is a 19 site self-guided driving tour of UGRR sites around Vandalia. Three annual events-- Cass County UGRR Wax Museum, Underground Railroad Days, and Christmas at the Bonine House-- draw thousands from all over the region. Visitors from all over the world tour the Bonine House, Carriage House and the Stephen Bogue House, another UGRR station owned by URSCC, June through September. Docents often get on tour buses and tell the story of the Kentucky Slave Raid of 1847, pointing out sites as they go.
The Bonine House Research Library tells the story of Quakers, free blacks and other abolitionists that were part of the local UGRR. It tells the story of the Kentucky Raid, Ramptown, the 102nd USCT in the Civil War, and Calvin Township, a prosperous black community in the middle of slave times. It houses the research of six Cass County UGRR historians, as well as that of URSCC. Much of the research is digitized and on the URSCC award winning website www.urscc.org Powerpoints that tell the story of the UGRR in Cass County as well as the story of the Bonine House restoration can also be found on the website, and much, much more.
URSCC treasurer, Cathy LaPointe, says there was a sense of destiny about this project. "We were naïve and jumped in with both feet, somehow knowing it would be ok. This is a story that wanted to be told. The URSCC Board has been together since 2011, docents and volunteers are steadfast. URSCC members support us every year with donations from $25 to $10,000, and we receive several grants. As with so many organizations in Cass County, The McLoughlin Family Foundation has been a strong supporter. They took a chance when we had little but a broken down Bonine House. Their first donation allowed us to put on the porches, their current donation will allow us to complete the kitchen and pantry. We plan to finish the Bonine House this year, and the Carriage House in 2020."
LaPointe continues "this community took a stand against slavery. Quakers, free blacks and other abolitionists helped over 1500 freedom seekers on their journey to Canada between 1830 and 1860. They did what was right under very dangerous circumstances. You can download a free ' Take A Stand--Testify!' poster on www.urscc.org. Descendants of these families still live here, children portray their own ancestors in the Wax Museum. URSCC is thrilled to have fulfilled its mission of ten years ago, and looks forward to many more years of celebrating the story and legacy of the Underground Railroad in Cass County, Michigan."
Click on the poster to download a printable version.
Below are some photos from the Bonine House and the Carriage House.
Click the little arrow to start the slide show.
(no membership required)
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The album as we originally received it.
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!
-- A Precious Memento Makes It's Way Home --
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)
Our 10th Annual Underground Railroad Days was fun, interesting, educational, and historical with something for everyone. Vandalia expanded their offerings to include a Gospel Fest on Saturday night that was well attended with wonderful talent. Over 200 were under and outside the tent for the Sunday morning community church service. The soul food dinner sold out, and kids of all ages were entertained with family events. Kentucky Raid guided tours were full. Hundreds toured the Bonine House, Carriage House and Bogue House, meeting Mary Charlotte Bonine, and loving her stories of growing up in the Bonine House. Larry Collins demonstrated his fantastic woodburning portraits outside on the lawn. The 102nd Colored Troops living history encampment were a highlight as always. Visitors enjoyed watching a blacksmith and spinner as well as talking to a Michigan frontiersman, while listening to various musical acts in the "Ramptown Cabin." Presentations in the Youth Center were well attended, and Von Washington's "Opening Night" play drew an appreciative audience.
URSCC thanks Michigan Humanities Council for their support of Underground Railroad Days. See you next year--second weekend in July!
Ms. Struble's Class
Visitors can tour the Bonine House, Bonine Carriage House and Bogue House June through September. Docents will tell you the history of each site.
URSCC Annual Events are:
Cass County UGRR Wax Museum at the Bonine House -- Cancelled
Underground Railroad Days -- second weekend in July Cancelled
Christmas at the Bonine House --first and second weekends in December
June 7, 2019
Ms. Pike's Class
The Bonine House was host to hundreds of smiling visitors enjoying the lovely rooms decorated by members of URSCC. Santa, Mrs. Claus and Jingles the elf were busy greeting kids of all ages. Many come every year to see the progress on the Bonine House. This year the highlights are the c. 1845 fireplace opened in the kitchen, and the lovely downstairs bathroom remodel. The Bonine Family dining room furniture returned home in September, thanks to 6th generation descendant Jane Bonine Reilly of St. Charles, MO.
Click on the links below and the video will take you on a tour - each about 10 minutes long.
Enjoy the tour and Merry Christmas from URSCC!
We've Come a Long Way!
The Stephen Bogue House at M-60 and Crooked Creek Rd.
December 7, 8 and 14, 15
URSCC Is Ten Years Old!
The Bonine House is closed for the present.
We will see you when things open up again.
Click on the icon above to see a larger image.
Click on each icon above to see a larger image.
Our 10th Annual Underground Railroad Days 2019
April 30, 2019
Stacey Bonine's 4th Grade class at Lake Center Elementary in Portage MI presented their UGRR Wax Museum--Cass County and Beyond-- on June 7th. Fellow 4th graders who participated in the program but did not present, also attended. All the students toured the Bonine House and Carriage House, then boarded a bus for the Kentucky Raid Tour that included a stop at the Stephen Bogue House. Stacey's 4th graders have been presenting their UGRR Wax Museum since 2012. They are always well prepared and delightful, and this year followed true to form.
Lake Center Elementary 4th Grade Cass County UGRR Wax Museum
The UGRR Wax Museum is cancelled for this year. You are welcome to use the resources on this website to learn about the Underground Railroad in Cass County.
The Carriage House
A rainy day didn't dampen the spirits of Sam Adams Elementary School 5th graders as each class jubilantly jumped off the bus, and gathered on the front steps of the Bonine House, home of UGRR stationmasters James E. and Sarah Bogue Bonine. They entered the house and sorted into six groups in various rooms-- The Kentucky Raid, Freedom Seekers, Pioneer Black Families, Civil War/102nd USCT and Connecting Lines. Characters in each group were in costume and stood silently in their 'wax' pose. Family and other visitors were welcomed to the house and given a program that gave an overview of each group, noted each character's name, and the name of the student playing that character. They visited each room, and pressed a 'button' on each character, who came to life and gave a one minute speech about who they were and how they were a part of the Underground Railroad in Cass County, then went back to their 'wax' pose. Each class presented for 1-1/2 hours. The Bonine House rang with the chatter of UGRR characters, and shone with the smiles of those learning about them.
Sam Adams has presented the Cass County UGRR Wax Museum since 2013, but this is the first year it became part of the 5th grade curriculum, with all students participating,
Sam Adams 5th Grade Cass County UGRR Wax Museum
Click on the icons above to read our letter to Santa and the Bethlehem Room poem
Christmas at the Bonine House 2019
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.