Underground Railroad Days

Underground Railroad Days July 13 and 14, 2013

The Village of Vandalia  and the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) join together to present the 4th annual Underground Railroad Days, celebrating the history of the Underground Railroad in Cass County.  The event is centered in Milo Barnes Park (M-60) in Vandalia MI.

A large settlement of Quakers as well as free black families made Penn, Calvin and Porter townships a relatively safe haven for fugitive slaves (now called freedom seekers) especially from the border state of Kentucky.  It is said that over 1500 freedom seekers came through this area and were helped to Canada on the Underground Railroad.  Many stayed in the area and prospered, creating a unique community that exists to this day.

URSCC sponsors guided tours of UGRR sites, telling the story of the infamous Kentucky Raid.  There are information booths and presentations on various aspects of the UGRR and Cass County.  The historic Bonine House is open for touring, and this year there is a Civil War encampment as well as a "Ramptown" cabin for music and storytelling.  There are also events during the week leading up to UGRR Days, including a student "Wax Museum" at the Bonine House on Tuesday, July 9th from 1-2:30pm and a Dr. Von Washington play "Seven Stops to Freedom" on Friday, July 12 7pm at Ross Beatty High School in Cassopolis. All events are free (with the exception of a soulfood dinner served in the Village Hall) donations are welcome.

The Village of Vandalia sponsors a Classic Car show, arts and crafts booths, and a soul food dinner in the Village Hall. For information on booth space or the car show, call Vandalia Village president Beverly Young at 269-476-2344.

4th Annual "Underground Railroad Days"

set for July 13 and 14

The Village of Vandalia, MI and the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) will sponsor the 4th annual Underground Railroad Days Saturday July 13 from 10am to 7pm and Sunday July 14 from 11am to 5pm in Vandalia.  The two day celebration of the history of the Underground Railroad (UGRR) in this area will feature guided tours of UGRR sites, information booths and displays, tours of the Bonine House, home of UGRR stationmaster James E. Bonine; as well as presentations on various aspects of the UGRR in Cass County. New this year are a Civil War "Living History" encampment as well as a replica of a "Ramptown" cabin as the site for music and storytelling.

The Village of Vandalia hosts a classic car show on Saturday from 10am to 4pm, local arts and crafts vendors, a Community Church Service on Sunday morning 11am; and new this year a "Soul Food Dinner" in the Village Hall on both days.

The lead up week to Underground Railroad Days (July 8-12) also has activities for the entire family.  Cass District Library will feature UGRR films on Monday and Thursday at 6pm.   On Tuesday from 1-3pm Cassopolis students will stage a "Wax Museum" at the Bonine House, featuring characters from the Underground Railroad in Cass County.  There will be a "Journey to Freedom" safe house experience at the Dowagiac Museum on Wednesday from 1-3pm.  And on Friday evening at 7pm, the much anticipated return of Dr. Von and Fran Washington performing their play about the UGRR "Seven Stops to Freedom" as a benefit for the Bonine House Restoration Project.

A complete schedule of activities will be published closer to the celebration.

If interested in participating in the classic car show, or as an arts and crafts vendor, call Vandalia Village president, Beverly Young at 269-476-2344.  If interested in an information or display booth pertaining to an aspect of the Underground Railroad, call Cathy LaPointe, URSCC treasurer, at 269-445-7358 or email info@urscc.org

Bill Beadenkopf and other members of Penn Friends Church

Build the Ramptown Cabin Replica

Underground Railroad Days 2013 was a great success!  In it's fourth year, the celebration of the Underground Railroad in and around Vandalia was bigger and better than ever.

Lead up week activities included a round table discussion about growing up in Vandalia and Cass County as a legacy of the UGRR.  Over 20 people talked about growing up without racial differences; about going to school and socializing together.  Several said they really didn't realize that the races were different until they visited other areas while in high school.  And they all spoke of how that legacy continues to this day.

Sam Adams Elementary students presented their Cass County Wax Museum again for those in the community that didn't have a chance to see their earlier performance at the Bonine House.

Von and Fran Washington played to a full house on Friday, their performance terrific as always.  Lois Hart read "Cass County Brave" to great effect.  World renowned artist Paul Collins was Lois' guest.  He brought his iconic painting "The Underground Railroad" to display for the audience.

On Saturday, Vandalia hosted a well attended classic car show and several vendor booths.  A first time soul food dinner, served by the Vandalia Church of God, sold out to great acclaim.

URSCC sponsored guided tours of UGRR sites telling the story of the Kentucky Raid of 1847.  Five presentations in the Youth Center were well attended, and the displays, including one about the 175th Anniversary of Chain Lake Baptist Church, drew great interest.

The information booth in the park told the story of the UGRR in Cass County, and the role of URSCC.  Mary Anne Bonine created and served "Ramp Soup" made from ramps growing in her backyard.  Look for her recipe on our "Ramptown" page.

New this year was a 3 tent 'living history' encampment of the 101st MI Regiment.  The soldiers were eager to share their stories and information about the Civil War.

Another new addition to the festival was the model of a Ramptown log cabin, complete with a front porch, created by the men at Penn Friends Church.  The cabin is fast becoming the symbol for UGRR Days.  Every hour a different 'act' would debut on the porch.  Music and singing by individuals and  groups, storytelling, poetry, crafts, and art as well as a dramatic portrayal of a soldier of the 102 Colored Troops, entertained audiences all day both Saturday and Sunday. Over a thousand people toured the Bonine House, coming from all over the region.

On Sunday a community church service was held under a tent on the grounds with several churches and choirs participating.

Performances at the Ramptown Cabin

UGRR Days 2013 A Wonderful Success!

Content copyright© 2014 URSCC. All rights reserved.

Underground Railroad Society

of Cass County, Michigan