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  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  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.

Watch URSCC Powerpoints 

 Cass County and the Underground Railroad

​​The BonineHouse --​ A Legacy of Freedom

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!

​The Bonine House is closed for the season.  However our docent Cindy sometimes welcomes visitors on lovely fall days, so if you see Open Today signs, please stop in : )


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

Content copyright© 2019 URSCC. All rights reserved.

June 7, 2019

Ms. Pike's Class

We've Come a Long Way!

The Stephen  Bogue House at M-60 and Crooked Creek Rd. 

URSCC Is Ten Years Old!

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

Mark Your Calendar!   

Christmas at the Bonine House 2019
December 7, 8, 14, 15   1-6 pm

Come and visit the Bonine House all dressed up for Christmas.  Each room is decorated by members of URSCC.  Santa, Mrs. Claus and elf Jingles will be there to welcome kids of all ages : )  A family tradition and a lovely to start the Christmas season.  See you soon!

Tuesday, 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

URSCC Capital Projects 2019


--HVAC system $37,000
--Side porch and back portico $20,000
--Downstairs painting $15,000
--Installation of kitchen and pantry cabinetry and appliances $20,000

Total: $92,000

Carriage House

--Remove buildings and concrete in front $40,000
--Siding Repair-Replacement/Gutters/Trim $30,000
Total: $70,000

Grand Total Fundraising Goal 2019: $162,000

Accomplished so far—

Since purchasing the Bonine House and Carriage House 12/29/2010, we have:

--taken down the old (c 1930’s) garage on the property 2011
--rebuilt the southwest corner of the house 2011
--excavated dead and dying trees in preparation for landscaping 2012
--repaired and restored the tower roof 2012
--replaced the roof on the entire house 2012
--repaired plaster throughout the house 2013
-- tuckpointed inside and outside the foundation 2013
--repaired and replaced bricks and masonry on the front of the house 2014
--repaired and replaced soffit and fascia on three sides 2014
--replaced basement window wells and windows, eaves troughs and downspouts 2014
--prepped and painted upstairs bedrooms 2014
--stripped and primed the upstairs hallway 2014
--installed stone walkway and bushes in front of the house, two lamp posts 2014
--installed new beams and replaced foundation on the west side of the Carriage House 2014-15
--created URSCC Library and Research Room and Cass Co and UGRR Room 2015
--created the “Family Room” for other families who lived in the Bonine House 2015
--prepped and primed downstairs rooms and entrance 2015
--repaired and restored the north wall of the Bonine House 2015-16
--added limestone front steps 2016
--repaired and restored front window trim 2016
--repaired and restored bay area soffit and fascia and re-roofed 2016
--returned several pieces of the original James E. and Sarah Bogue Bonine furniture 2016
--installed new perimeter beams on south, and east side of the Carriage House 2017
--excavated and restored south and east foundation on the Carriage House 2017
--built out south door section of the Carriage House 2017
--refinished floors on the first floor of the Bonine House 2017
--removed glass block and framed matching window on west side of Bonine House 2017
--installed four new ceiling fans and lights in the Bonine House Library and display rooms 2017
--returned additional pieces of original Bonine furniture 2017
--completed west side window replacement 2018
--re-roofed Carriage House 2018
--acquired Bogue House, repaired roof 2018
--masonry repair and replacement on east side of Bonine House 2019
--leveled and shored up Bonine House kitchen floor 2019
--repaired and replaced wainscotting in Bonine House kitchen 2019
--gutted downstairs bathroom in Bonine House and installed electrical for remodel 2019
--gutted pantry in Bonine House, ready for remodel 2019
--refinished floors in kitchen, pantry, downstairs bathroom Bonine House 2019
--completed Parlor window trim, baseboards and fireplace buildout 2019

Other Accomplishments:

--Underground Railroad Days co-sponsor with Village of Vandalia 2010-present
--Cass County UGRR Wax Museum 2012-present
--Christmas at the Bonine House 2013-present website 2012-present
--Bonine House UGRR Research Library compiled and digitized and put on our website 2015-2018
--created "Wax Museum In A Box" as part of Sam Adams Elementary School curriculum 2019
--Bonine House, Carriage House and Bogue House open for guided tours June - September
--Presentations locally, regionally and nationally
--19 site self guided driving tour available on paper and on line 2012- present
--URSCC power points Cass Co and UGRR and Bonine House-A Legacy of Freedom on website 2018
--Three books about the UGRR in Cass County written and/or illustrated by Bonine House docent, Cindy Yawkey, of Vandalia


--Evans Award from Michigan Architectural Institute 2012 for Bonine House tower roof restoration
--2016 Historical Society of Michigan State History Award for Children and Youth Books to Cindy Yawkey for "They Have My Shoes, I Have My Freedom"
--2018 Historical Society of Michigan State History Award for Websites to Lin Pollard, URSCC webmaster

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

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

For Carriage House restoration photos and updates, click here

​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.

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.