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 20 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."
Underground Railroad Society
of Cass County, Michigan
URSCC is 10 Years Old! (2019)