Friday, July 8th  "Opening Night"


Hope you're having a wonderful summer.  The Bonine House is open for tours Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday through September from 1-4 pm.  We have docents to show you the house.  Come and visit us!
Our self-guided Cass County UGRR Driving Tour has been enlarged to 19 sites!  Click here to see new additions to this amazing story.  The tour takes about an hour and is a great way to get an overview of the Underground Railroad in Cass County.  You can download the tour (4 pages), or pick it up at the first stop--Milo Barnes Park in Vandalia.  

We're starting to plan Christmas at the Bonine House 2016, December 9, 10 and 11.  Mark your calendar, you don't want to miss it!

Paul Lawson is a 7th generation descendent.  He and his wife, Sara, retraced the family’s journey from Chain Lake Church back to Cabel Co Virginia in 2015.  They met and got to know Carrie Eldridge, and Paul was honored by Marshall University.  Sara created these boards to explain the family tree, and commemorate their journey

Synopsis of the Sanders Family Journey--

Sampson Sanders was a wealthy plantation owner in Cabel County,  Virginia, where Kentucky and Ohio meet.  He was raised with slave children on the frontier and grew to love and respect them.   He inherited slaves from his mother, but wanted to ‘manumit’ them, which means set them free.  The only way to do this was in his will, which he did when he died in 1849.

He provided money and legal assistance for 51 freed slaves to come to Cass County and purchase land.  They were five family groups, who arrived here in 1850.  They built giant rafts that held what they needed to start a new life in Cass County.  They rafted to Cincinnati, then took a train to Elkhart, IN.  From there wagons to Chain Lake Baptist church, where they camped for the winter.  They purchased land on arrival and started clearing in the spring.  All were on the 1850 census,  keeping the Sanders name, farming in Calvin and Porter townships.

This is an amazing story of members of our community and their roots.  The Sanders family today is large and close knit, reflecting the values of their ancestors. Carrie Eldridge’s book is available on 

Note: See below for Sam Adams UGRR Wax museum video.

The Bonine House will be open for tours Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday 1 pm - 4 pm through September 2016.  We look forward to seeing you.  

Contact us for information about tours for groups of ten or more. 

​​Christmas at the Bonine House 2015 

"Christmas at the Bonine House full of smiles"

​ Press Release 12/15/2015
The 4th Annual Christmas at the Bonine House December 11, 12 and 13 was full of smiles.  Balmy weather drew over 1200 people  to tour the historic Victorian home of James E. and Sarah Bogue Bonine on Penn Rd and M-60 in Vandalia, MI, each room decorated for Christmas by members of the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC).  Toy soldiers greeted visitors at the back entrance where the latest construction showed progress on the restoration of the house connected with the Underground Railroad (UGRR).  They marveled at the new front porches recently added and the new library upstairs, showcasing families involved in the UGRR.  Santa and Mrs Claus and their elf spread Christmas cheer to children of all ages, and singers filled the house with carols. 
URSCC has been restoring the Bonine House and the Carriage House across the street for five years.  Spokesperson Cathy LaPointe said many people return year after year to see the unique decorations as well the progress on the house.  "They have changed from saying we have a long way to go, to saying how far we've come."  "There were many new people from around the region that came this year, word has spread."

Lake Center Elementary, Portage MI
Underground Railroad Wax Museum--Cass County and Beyond
The James E. Bonine House
June 7, 2016

Sam Adams Elementary, Cassopolis MI
Cass County UGRR Wax Museum
The James E. Bonine House
June 2, 2016

Anna Leach,  Sam Adams 6th grader, reads her "Young Authors" award winning book that she wrote and illustrated.

Carrie Eldridge talks about her book

Cabel County: An Empire for Freedom The Manumission of Sampson Sanders Slaves at historic Chain Lake Baptist Church


Underground Railroad Wax Museums 2016

Mark Kelly talks about the 102nd US Colored Troops (USCT) in the Civil War.


Cathy LaPointe presented a talk on "The Myths and Mistakes of the UGRR in Cass County".  

Click here for a PDF summary of her talk.

We've Come a Long Way!

Saturday, July 9th Community Center Presentations

Mark Kelly as a member of the 102nd Colored Troops in the Civil War.

We introduced "They Have My Shoes  I Have My Freedom"  written and illustrated by Cindy Yawkey. 

Sam Adams Michigan History Day State Champions perform their play "The Orphan Train" (filmed at the state competition in April 2016).

UGRR Days 2016 a great event!

Five local churches gathered to worship in the park on Sunday morning, and a community choir sang the good news.

Some more photos of UGRR Days.


A Bird's Eye View of the Bonine House!  
Thanks to Capitol Drones of Grand Ledge MI for sending us this amazing footage they took recently.  Enjoy!

Click on the Facebook Symbol above.  After you start it by clicking the triangle button, click the small square button in the lower right to see it full screen.

Dr. Von Washington talks about creating a play from Carrie Eldridge's book that focuses the Sanders family and their journey to Cass County in 1850.

This was a presentation by author Carrie Eldridge at Chain Lake Baptist Church on Friday, July 8 to celebrate “Opening Night” of Underground Railroad Days 2016.  There were 25 Sanders family descendants in the front pews, representing the 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th generations of Sanders in Cass County and the surrounding region.  They are descendants of Solomon Sanders, shown on the board.  Many Sanders are buried in Chain Lake Baptist Church cemetery. 

Happy birthday Mary Charlotte Bonine Roberts.  Welcome Home!

Sunday, July 10

The seventh generation of the Sanders Family celebrate their history at UGRR Days Opening Night with author Carrie Eldridge at Chain Lake Baptist Church.  Left to Right:  Marshall Sanders, Sandra White, Carrie Eldridge, Maurice Sanders and Paul Lawson.

Press Release  7/14/2016

The 7th Annual Underground Railroad Days in Vandalia Michigan  had something for everyone.  The Village of Vandalia sponsored games for kids, a car show, vendor booths, a delicious soul food dinner and a rousing community church service in the park on Sunday morning. 

The Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) offered guided tours of the 1847 Kentucky Raid sites, period activities and music, presentations on many aspects of the UGRR including the story of the Sanders family and their journey from Virginia to Cass County, and the 102nd Colored Troops in the Civil War.  Hundreds visited the historic home of UGRR stationmaster James E. Bonine, and Mary Charlotte Bonine, the last Bonine to live in the home,  talked about her life there from 1934-1953, when Elk Park Farm was in its heyday.

Spokesperson Mike Moroz, president of URSCC, was pleased with the festival.  “This year the Village of Vandalia offered more activities for families that drew a wider variety of people.  URSCC included period activities like a black smith, and soap and butter makers.  That aspect will be expanded next year.  UGRR Days continues to grow in scope and appeal, we’re very proud of that and thank everyone for their support. “  Underground Railroad Days is celebrated annually the second weekend in July.  

Thank you for supporting our Capital Campaign to complete the restoration of the Bonine House and the Carriage House by 2017.

These structures are architecturally significant as fine examples of Second Empire and Gothic Revival, with historically important connections to the Underground Railroad.

Perhaps even more meaningful, they stand as symbols of a community that did what was right under the most difficult conditions and at great personal risk.  The courage of freedom seekers who came here to escape slavery, and Quakers, free blacks and other abolitionists who helped them on their journey, represents the best of us.  It is who we are as Americans.

Thank you for joining us in becoming caretakers -- not only of the buildings, but of the story they embody, and the legacy of freedom they represent.

For more photos and updates on the Bonine House restoration, click here                        

For Carriage House restoration photos and updates, click here

"It's Time" Capital Campaign!

​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  49095 


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.

Create a cultural tourism destination for Underground Railroad enthusiasts that will bring visitors and tourism dollars into the community.

Content copyright© 2014 URSCC. All rights reserved.

URSCC Mission

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.

Underground Railroad Society

of Cass County, Michigan