Sunday, February 4, 2018

John Crenshaw's Hickory Hill Plantation "Old Slave House" on the Reverse Underground Railroad in Equality, Illinois.

In historical writing and analysis, PRESENTISM introduces present-day ideas and perspectives into depictions or interpretations of the past. Presentism is a form of cultural bias that creates a distorted understanding of the subject matter. Reading modern notions of morality into the past is committing the error of presentism. Historical accounts are written by people and can be slanted, so I try my hardest to present fact-based and well-researched articles.

Facts don't require one's approval or acceptance.

I present [PG-13] articles without regard to race, color, political party, or religious beliefs, including Atheism, national origin, citizenship status, gender, LGBTQ+ status, disability, military status, or educational level. What I present are facts — NOT Alternative Facts — about the subject. You won't find articles or readers' comments that spread rumors, lies, hateful statements, and people instigating arguments or fights.

When I write about the INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, I follow this historical terminology:
  • The use of old commonly used terms, disrespectful today, i.e., REDMAN or REDMEN, SAVAGES, and HALF-BREED are explained in this article.
Writing about AFRICAN-AMERICAN history, I follow these race terms:
  • "NEGRO" was the term used until the mid-1960s.
  • "BLACK" started being used in the mid-1960s.
  • "AFRICAN-AMERICAN" [Afro-American] began usage in the late 1980s.


The Crenshaw House (also known as the Crenshaw Mansion, Hickory Hill or, most commonly, The Old Slave House) is a historic former residence located in Gallatin County, Village of Equality, Illinois. The house was constructed in the 1830s and was the primary residence of John Hart Crenshaw, his wife, and their five children.
Landowner and illegal slave trader John H. Crenshaw leased the state-owned salt works located at the Illinois Salines, two saline springs along the Saline River near Equality, Illinois, which had been important sources of salt since prehistory. Salt was vital to the early American frontier economy as a nutrient and a means to preserve food.

Illinois was a free state, and the Illinois State Constitution banned slavery. However, the law permitted the use of slaves at the salt works since the labor was so arduous that no free men could be found to do it. As the lessee of the salt works, Crenshaw was one of a small minority of Illinois residents legally entitled to keep slaves, and Crenshaw became remarkably wealthy. At one point, Crenshaw's taxes amounted to one-seventh of the revenue of the entire state. Crenshaw owned thousands of acres of land, in addition to the 30,000 acres he leased from the state and more than 700 slaves. In 1838, Crenshaw and his brother Abraham used this wealth to build the mansion on Hickory Hill in Equality, a few miles from the salt works near the town of Junction.

In September 1840, Abraham Lincoln, a state representative, was in Gallatin County for over a week, attending debates in Shawneetown and Equality. The Crenshaws hosted a ball in honor of the debates.

The ball was held on the second floor. The house's second floor was designed to be easily converted into a ballroom because the hall and two of the rooms were made from moveable partitions, particularly for such events. 

Mr. Lincoln and other male guests spent the night in the Southeast bedroom of the Crenshaw House. The furniture in the room consisted of one bed and two chairs. Lincoln either slept on the bed, which was shorter than he was, or he could have spread out over the two chairs or slept on the floor.

The Crenshaw House was a "station" on the Reverse Underground Railroad that transported escaped slaves and kidnapped free blacks back to servitude in slave states. The home's third-floor attic contains 12 rooms long believed to be where Crenshaw operated a secret slave jail for kidnapped free black and captured runaway slaves.
In 2004, the National Park Service named the mansion a "station" on the Reverse Underground Railroad to acknowledge Crenshaw's practice of kidnapping free blacks in Illinois and selling them to buyers from the Slave States.


The key to proving whether blacks were held against their will on the third floor of the Old Slave House lies in discovering the character of the home's original owner, John Hart Crenshaw. Rediscovered documents show that Crenshaw was a slave-holder of indentured servants and was at least twice indicted as a kidnapper of free blacks. Crenshaw was a conductor of an Underground Railroad that operated in reverse, from north to south, from freedom to slavery.

According to the Complete History of Illinois, published in 1874, "the crime of seizing free blacks, running them south and selling them into slavery from this State, for a long time was quite common. Portions of southern Illinois for many years afforded a safe retreat to those kidnapping outlaws. We cannot cite the numerous cases of kidnapping." The book also tells how it was done. "In the majority of cases, the poor ignorant blacks, by fraud and deceit, were inveigled (tricked) into a trip south on a flat boat or other errands, and at some pre-arranged point on the river, they would be turned over to confederates, forcibly and rapidly taken to the interior and there sold into slavery... Another mode was to seize a black and forcibly convey him to a rendezvous either on the Ohio or Mississippi river, but not out of the State, where a confederate would appear and carry him beyond."

A letter in the Henry Eddy manuscript collection tells how John Forrester stole one woman from Hamilton County and took her to Union County, Kentucky. In it, the letter writer relates the woman's story of being taken to that state and moved from "house to house" in an attempt to keep her hidden. This implies an organized network of kidnappers, an effort apparently more organized than the legitimate Underground Railway. The letter also proves that the victims were held in homes. In Gallatin County, legend identifies at least two such houses: Crenshaw's Hickory Hill plantation home and a mansion on Sandy Ridge south of Shawneetown, Illinois. In the second house, the victims were kept in cells in the basement and likely chained to large iron rings that were set into the basement walls in each cell.
Although Illinois was a free state, slavery was legal in two forms. Not until 1846 did the Illinois Supreme Court finally rule that all slavery in the state must end. Illinois' first constitution, approved by Congress in 1818, allowed the leasing of slaves for the salt works near Equality, Illinois. It also kept intact the form of slavery known as indentured servitude. Slavery in Illinois didn't end until just 15 years before the Civil War.

The main body of evidence discovered about Crenshaw dealt with the 1842 kidnapping of Maria Adams and her children. The case has been studied before, but we only know the victims' names. Another case is an 1825 case where Crenshaw was one of three defendants. We don't know the outcome of this one, let alone who the victims were. The Adams case is covered by both a newspaper editorial immediately following the trial and letters from legislators to the governor four years later. The writings tell how Crenshaw kidnapped the family as charged and sold them to a slave trader named Lewis Kuykendall. Crenshaw was acquitted of that crime by a Gallatin County jury in 1842, but kidnapping was hard to prove. The prosecutor, Willis Allen of Marion, Illinois, had to prove that the victims had been taken out of state. Although it was known that Crenshaw kidnapped Maria and her children, Allen could not prove that they had left the state. Thus, the jury could do nothing but acquit Crenshaw and Kuykendall.

George Flower, a leader of the English Settlement in Edwards County, wrote about how hard it was to legally find a kidnapper guilty. He compared it to finding a common thief guilty. At the time, a thief could be whipped, but a kidnapper was simply fined. "A kidnapper, who would steal a free man and plunge him and his posterity into everlasting slavery, could not be brought to trial. A murderer was sure to escape. But the poor creature who had not stolen to the value of a dime was thus unmercifully dealt with."

The kidnapping of free blacks had long been a problem in Illinois. The Black Code of 1819 allowed a fine of $1,000 to be levied on behalf of the victim but did not provide for any criminal convictions. Coupled with the fact that blacks could not testify against a white man in court, the two made any legal remedy almost useless. Only in a few counties where the pro-slavery sentiment wasn't so strong did free blacks win cases against white kidnappers. Usually, it was for the crime of trespassing, and only with the help of friendly whites did they convince juries.

An early reference to the kidnapping problem came in 1822, during Gov. Edward Coles' inaugural address, when he asked the legislature to investigate the problem. That same message also showed Coles' hostility towards slavery and opened up a two-year battle between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in an effort to change the state constitution. In August 1824, Illinois residents voted against holding a constitutional convention and thus slavery. However, the pro-slavery question passed in the southern counties, with Gallatin County being the strongest for a convention.

During this time, Crenshaw operated a salt well supplying water to the salt works of Guard, Choisser & Company and his own. In 1825, Crenshaw, John Forrester and Preston W. Davis were indicted for kidnapping. We know because Crenshaw sued Davis four years later to get him to pay his part of the defense attorney's fees. However, no more is known. In 1827 or 1828, the Illinois Spectator newspaper of Edwardsville may have referred to the trial because they hinted at Crenshaw's involvement in the kidnapping. 

The newspaper reference comes as a footnote in Norman Dwight Harris' 1904 book "The History of Negro Servitude in Illinois and of Slavery Agitation in that State, 1719-1864. The book paraphrases from the newspaper a list of three men from Illinoistown (what's now East St. Louis) as being kidnappers. It also mentioned a "prominent resident of Shawneetown, Mr. John C," as being a kidnapper. The footnote also indicated that "Mr. John C" kept the slaves in a cave on the Wabash River near his home. There is no major cave on the Wabash in Gallatin County, but there is a major cave near Crenshaw's home and salt works along the Saline River. (It should also be noted that the Salines, although along the Saline River, were often described as being along the Ohio River near the mouth of the Wabash.) Equality Cave on Cave Hill is just a few miles from both the salt works and the land where Crenshaw lived as a teen.

In 1828, a black woman named Lucinda was kidnapped and taken to Kentucky. She identified her attacker as "John Granger." She also mentioned William and Abraham Granger. Henry Eddy did not get the letter until 1843. Yet, when he wrote the legal brief in the Davis vs. Crenshaw case in 1829, he first wrote "John Granger." He drew a line across "Granger" and then wrote "Crenshaw." Since Abraham and William are two of John Crenshaw's brothers, was John Crenshaw also known as John Granger? Also, Eddy was the state's attorney who prosecuted Crenshaw in 1825.

Another kidnapping of that time showed the type of harassment that existed against free blacks. The Shawneetown newspaper carried an item on July 27, 1829, about the kidnapping of Maria, an 8-year-old. She had been freed the year before by the heirs of John McAlister of Montgomery County, Tennessee. Because freed slaves could not remain in that state, 62 of the slaves were brought to Illinois and freed. Prior to the kidnapping, someone stole two horses from the family, preventing them from making a crop. Harassment of free blacks continued to worsen. To the north, in the English Settlement, Flower organized passage and permission for 30 free blacks to move to Haiti. At that time, Haiti was the only independent black country in the Western Hemisphere.
By 1830, Crenshaw's wealth had increased, and he was the owner of a steam mill near Equality, Illinois and three of the nine salt works in the area. During the 1830s, the harassment of blacks increased to include murdering whites who interfered. Benjamin Hardin died in 1834 or 1835. Although killed by a black who was hired by another black, it was strongly believed that a white businessman was behind the murder. Sometime in late 1835 or early 1836, James Lynch was on his way from Shawneetown to Equality to file emancipation papers for a family slave when he disappeared. He had tried to file them earlier but was discouraged because he was not yet 21.
While kidnapping continued to be a growing problem throughout Southern Illinois, Crenshaw's wealth increased. In 1833, he first hired a German contractor to start on Hickory Hill Plantation, the three-story home locals later knew as the Old Slave House. During this time, southeast Illinois was plagued by more than kidnappers. The region was home to a sizable criminal element, including counterfeiters and highwaymen. The leaders of these groups were some of the same outlaws that had been at Cave-in-Rock at the turn of the century. In his history of Illinois, Gov. Thomas Ford described the outlaws as "an ancient colony of horse thieves, counterfeiters and robbers."

The leader, or one of the main leaders, was James Ford of Ford's Ferry fame. A minor leader when the outlaws were still based in Cave-in-Rock prior to 1806, he was still leading his group when he was assassinated by the Regulators in 1833. Ford lived at times on Hurricane Island opposite Elizabethtown, Illinois, and at times at his plantation in Livingston County, Kentucky. Because Ford was a civic leader, even sheriff at one time, he either remained above suspicion or beyond the reach of the law. On the Illinois side in Hardin County, the legendary outlaw Billy Potts was the real-life Isaiah Potts, a justice of the peace.

In Pope County, known kidnapper Caleb Slankard operated a gang that abducted blacks. At one time, his boss, or partner, was William H. Vaughn, a Bay City storekeeper. Vaughn was believed to have been a pirate on the Gulf Coast before moving to his store boat in the Ohio River. He was tied to at least two kidnappings involving a total of seven children. After he testified at a grand jury that Slankard and others had actually done the abduction, he died from an unexpected seizure. It was believed someone poisoned his whiskey.

As Crenshaw grew richer, his reputation became mixed. The children of one of Crenshaw's brothers claimed that he cheated his nieces and nephews out of their share of their father's estate. The Illinois Republican newspaper in Shawneetown described public attitude toward Crenshaw this way in March 1842, "although he is a member of the church, and may be considered a saint by those who are in the church, is not considered very much of a saint by those who are out of the church" (italics are from the original).

Not until the 1842 Maria Adams case do we start getting details about the kidnappings. Crenshaw purchased the indenture contracts for Maria Adams and her husband Charles in late 1829 or early 1830. He purchased the contracts from Col. A. G. S. Wight, who was moving to Galena. Also included in the sale was a son named Nelson, a daughter named Ellen, and possibly some younger children. In October 1829, Maria gave birth to another daughter, Nancy Jane. Charles had less time on his contract and filed his freedom papers on April 29, 1834.

Maria was born in 1790. She was indentured in Randolph County, Illinois, on July 14, 1810, for 45 years when she was 15 years old. Charles was born in about 1794. In late 1813 or early 1814, he moved from Maryland to Illinois with his owners. On March 19, 1814, he was indentured to Dr. Conrad Will, who had moved to the Big Muddy River the year before. Charles was lucky, and his indenture was only for 20 years. Sometime during the next four years, Illinois Territorial Gov. Ninian Edwards purchased Charles' contract. During this time Charles also married Maria. Possibly as a wedding present, on March 6, 1818, Edwards filed a statement in Randolph County Court at Kaskaskia pledging that he would let Maria go free when Charles' contract expired.

Ellen Adams was born in 1823. Nelson is believed to have been born earlier, but definitely prior to 1825. That year, Edwards talked with Col. Wight in Vandalia and mentioned that he was considering selling them. Later that summer, Wight sent an agent to Edwards to arrange the purchase of Charles and Maria. Either the parents, the children, or both threw such a fit over being separated that Edwards agreed to send the children with the agent for a short time. Edwards spent the next four years writing letters to Wight to get the children back or at least some type of payment for them. Maria cooked for Edwards for nearly eight years and at least started as a cook with Wight. She probably continued as a cook in Crenshaw's employ. After Charles had received his freedom, Crenshaw refused to follow Edwards' statement filed in Randolph County since the governor had never filed an amended indenture with the court. That left Maria still in the service of Crenshaw. Nelson also received his freedom sometime during the 1830s, or at least by 1842. By that year, Ellen was also still working as an indentured servant, but likely in Michael K. Lawler's household, where she was freed in 1845. Crenshaw likely gave Ellen to his daughter and son-in-law Lawler as a wedding present in 1837.

Early in 1842, Crenshaw kidnapped Maria and her children while Charles and Nelson were away from their home. According to the Illinois Republican newspaper in Shawneetown, Crenshaw kept them hidden for several days until Kuykendall arrived for them in the middle of the night. In an editorial, Publisher Samuel D. Marshall wrote that the "aged mother" and her children were handcuffed or tied, then placed into a wagon and driven out of the state by Kuykendall. Crenshaw and Kuykendall were acquitted because the state's attorney could not prove what everyone knew.

Shawneetown attorney Henry Eddy fleshed out Marshall's story with more details in an 1846 letter to Gov. Ford. After the kidnapping, Nelson Adams and another black man named Fox stopped Crenshaw on the road as he returned from the ironworks in Hardin County. With Fox holding a rifle, Nelson demanded to know where Crenshaw had taken his family. We don't know if they got an answer, but Crenshaw quickly had Nelson, Fox and Charles Adams, who wasn't even present, arrested and convicted of assault with the intent to murder. They were sentenced to either four or five years in the state penitentiary in Alton, Illinois.

After Ellen receives her freedom from Lawler, she likely works with sympathetic whites like Eddy to find her family. Eddy Wright and the two sons of late Gov. Edwards, one of whom was a former attorney-general for the state, petitioned Gov. Ford to pardon the Adamses so they could help rescue their family. Both the letters and the pardon were dated Dec. 8, 1846, the last day of Ford's administration. Eddy's letters stated that Maria and the children were in Texas. Regrettably, we don't know if they were ever saved. The 1850 Census of Gallatin County shows only Charles Adams. He is listed as living with a white family at the time.

Two years after the Adams' kidnapping, a group of men kidnapped 10-year-old Peter White of Equality, Illinois and three other younger children and sold him into slavery. Walter White, a nephew of Gen. Leonard White, rescued the children. The two may have been related, although Walter was white and Peter was black. Later, census records show at least three Whites whose race was listed as mulatto.

The black White family was likely the freed slaves of the Whites that lived in Gallatin County. Southern Illinois historian G. W. Smith interviewed White in 1903 when he was 70. White was living in Equality, Illinois, at that time. Although Smith wrote that White provided him with a lot of information, Smith never told who kidnapped White and the other children. By 1934, when White's descendants were still living in Equality, James Lyle Sisk designed signs for the Old Slave House stating that Peter and the children were kept in a third-floor cell for a time. Sisk, an uncle to the current owner, George Sisk, was the long-time principal of Champaign's Franklin Junior High School.

In 1846, Crenshaw was involved in what was known as the Prather case. Martha Prather had moved from either South Carolina or Tennessee to Gallatin County in 1826. On Feb. 7, 1827, she signed emancipation papers for her 23 slaves and put up a $23,000 bond to the county. Sometime later, a group from Tennessee followed the slaves and tried to prosecute them as "fugitive runaways." Newton E. Wright and others filed a federal lawsuit. From the Eddy collection, there are summaries of the depositions filed by Eddy on behalf of the freed slaves. An eighth deposition, that of John Crenshaw, was mentioned but not summarized. From the letter, researchers can infer that Crenshaw was testifying on behalf of Wright or may have even been a party to the lawsuit. The U.S. District Court ruled against Wright. Not much is known about Wright other than how he is described in the 1876 state history as a "shrewd bad man" living on Wolf Island "who had long been engaged in the kidnapping."

Wolf Island was a 15,000-acre island in the Mississippi River. It was the fifth island south of the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Early descriptions of the island dating back to 1808 tell of dense woods with a prairie on a hill in the center. Its owner at the time was a professional gambler named James Hunter.

Also, in 1846, another Crenshaw was connected with a kidnapper. This time it was the eldest daughter, Mary Hart Crenshaw, the wife of John E. Hall. On July 12, 1846, Mary held a "frolic" during the afternoon at her home and a dance that evening. According to her sister-in-law Ada, who was married to Crenshaw's eldest son William T. Crenshaw, one of the guests at the dance was "kidnapper Sands." John E. Hall served as the circuit clerk of Gallatin County from 1848 to 1856, and during his last year in office, he was assassinated in his office and shot in the back. The jury acquitted his killer, Robert C. Sloo, on the grounds of temporary emotional insanity.

Kidnapping continued in Southern Illinois up through the Civil War. At least one kidnapping occurred near Marion in 1857, and kidnappers were named in Union County in 1859. Not until after the war did the practice stop. During the 1840s and 1850s, Crenshaw became more involved in farming his thousands of acres of land. He also diversified into other industries, such as lumber, railroads, banks and distilling. As he grew older, he likely gave up his secret life of crime. He might have possibly even become the "good Methodist" people claimed him to be.

The role of slavery played a much greater part in our Illinois history than we like to admit. Very few sites remain today from that era. Crenshaw's Hickory Hill Plantation, which is known as the Old Slave House, is one of the few, if not the last, left.

Many believe Illinois was a free state, even before joining the Union in 1818. But both Indians and Negros were slaves or indentured servants beginning from the French colonial period and continuing during the American period, at least in five southern counties.

Compiled by Dr. Neil Gale, Ph.D.
Some historical accounts by Jon Musgrave 


These records were found in the Gallatin County Clerk's office at the Courthouse in Shawneetown, Illinois, in a very old book that is not indexed, but the pages are numbered. Fully one-half of the slaves had not been residents of Illinois prior to their freedom but were brought by their masters from Tennessee, South Carolina, etc., to be freed. Each record has been summarized. This is Deed Book "A" and begins in 1814.

NOTE: The records do not begin until page #27 in this book, and the first one is incomplete.

p.27) (Name not listed on this page) for cash and necessities of life for 40 years. HANNAH to Jepthah HARDIN. Wit: Jos. M. STREET.

p.28) 12/12/1815. PETE, Negro man about age 34 of Gallatin County, Territory of Illinois and Jepthah HARDIN. For boarding, clothing and necessities for a natural lifetime or 50 years from the date. Wit: Jos. M. STREET, Gallatin County Clerk

p.30-1) 3/4/1816. JENNY Negro woman about age 33, Gallatin County, Territory of Illinois, and Jepthah HARDIN for $400 and keep for 40 years. Wit: Jos. M. STREET.

p.32-3) 7/25/1815. WINNEY, Negro woman aged about 35 years, Gallatin County, Terr. Ill. And William RILLEY for $300 and keep for 15 years from this date. Wit: Jos. M. STREET, Gallatin County Clerk.

p.34-5) 8/22/1818. DAN, Negro man about age 19, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory, and Cornelius LAFFERTY for $600 and keep, for 16 years from this date. Wit: Jos. M. STREET, Gallatin County Clerk.

p.35-6) 8/22/1818. JIM, a free Negro man aged about 30 years of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory and Cornelius LAFFERTY for $500 and keep for 30 years from date. Wit: Jos. M. STREET, Gallatin County Clerk.

p.36-8) 8/22/1818. PHILLIS, a Negro girl about age 15 years, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory and John POSEY, for $1 and board, clothing, and maintenance for 60 years from this date. No witness. Phillis agrees to move any place in the U.S. and Territories of the U.S.

p.38-9) 8/2/1818. WINNEY, free Negro girl age about 15 years of Gallatin County, Territory of Illinois and William BOWLES for $1 and board, clothing, maintenance and kind treatment for 25 years from date. Wit: Jos. M. STREET.

p.40-3) 8/18/1818. DICK, free man of color, age about 20, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory and John FORESTER, for $1 board, clothing, maintenance and kind treatment for 60 years from date. Wit: Jos. M. STREET.

p.43-7} 8/18/1818. LONDON, a free man of color, age about !6 years, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory and Joseph M. STREET for $1, board, clothing, maintenance and kind treatment for 60 years from date. Wit: John FORESTER.

p.47-50) 8/24/1818. REUBIN, a Negro man, age about 27 years, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory, and John POSEY for $1, board, lodging, clothing and maintenance for 50 years from date. Agrees to go with Posey anywhere. Wit: Jos. M. STREET.

p.50-4) 8/18/1818. PATSEY, a free Negro girl, age about 17 years, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory, and Joseph M. STREET, for $1, board, clothing, maintenance and good-kind treatment for natural life. Wit: John FORESTER.

p.54-5) 8-22-1818. JUDY, a free Negro woman, age 30, of Gallatin Co., Illinois Territory, and Moses M. RAWLINGS, for board, clothing, good and kind treatment for 40 years from this date. Not signed by Moses M. RAWLINGS. Wit: Jos. M. STREET.

p.68-9) 8/22/1818. DANIEL, a free Negro, age about 21 years, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory, for $660 in hand and agrees to serve Oliver C. VANLANDINGHAM or heirs for 40 years, binding in a penalty of $1000. Wit: Joseph M. STREET, Clerk of Circuit Court, Gallatin County.

p.70-1) Indenture made 8/22/1818. LUCINDA, a Negro woman, age about 30 years, of Gallatin County, Illinois Territory, for the sum of $350 in hand, agrees to serve Oliver C. VANLANDINGHAM for 30 years. Wit: Joseph M. STREET, Clerk of Gallatin County. 


p.55-6) James DUNCAN of Logan County, KY, discharges EDMOND (purchased of Major John ROBERTS of Culpeper Co., VA, and brought to KY by me) and his wife, PHILLIS, (belonging to my father's estate) from my services and the claims of my heirs, etc. Dated 20 Oct. 1819. Wit: Henry MAURY and J. M . DUNCAN. Recorded 1/3/1820 in Deed Book A, p. 69, Gallatin County, Illinois, by Jos. M. STREET.

p.56-7) Joshua SCOTT (Clerk of Pope Co. Circuit Court), acquainted with Elizabeth CARTER, now known as Elizabeth NORRINGTON, who has lived near the Saline Saltworks since about 1800. She was called free by General John CALDWELL (with whom she came to Livingston Co., KY, and had as a husband, ABRAHAM, the property of CALDWELL). I further certify she held a headright of land in her name on Livingston Creek. Dated 7/27/1820. Signed by Joshua SCOTT and recorded 7/29/1820.

The above Elizabeth NORRINGTON, formerly Elizabeth CARTER, enters her son, a free man of color, age about 21 years, called Samuel CALDWELL, in compliance with the Act of General Assembly as of March 30, 1819.

p.57-9) Bethaniah CREASY of Butler Co., KY, do free YORK, my black man from my service and claims of my heirs. Dated 8/4/1818. Wit: William DAVIS, James COHSON, and Temple DAVIS. State of KY, Butler Co., September County Court. Proven the emancipation of said YORK. Signed by Robert MORRISON, Clerk of Court, and dated 9/14/1818. Recorded in Gallatin Co., IL on 8/8/1820 (age given about 32 or 33 years) by Joseph M. STREET.

p.59-60) JOEL and wife Mary DAVIS, of Butler Co., KY, in consideration of $600 from SAMPSON (their slave), do emancipate and liberate SAMPSON from slavery and claims of their heirs. Dated 1/7/1818. Test: Rob. MORRISON and Daniel WILSON. Proven in Court 1/12/1818, signed by Robert MORRISON. Recorded in Gallatin County, IL, on 7/30/1821 by J. M. STREET. (Handed in by SAMPSON, about 5'11" tall and age 28.)

p.60-1) Milledgeville, GA, Baldwin Co., Feb. 1, 1819. "We do hereby certify that we have known a free man of color by the name of OBEDIAH MIFLIN for several years as a boat hand, and since that time, he had conducted himself honestly and faithfully to his work. Signed: William BARROW, Jacob BARROW, Thos. B. STUBBS, Thompson BIRD, William H. CRENSHAW, and Henry DARNELL." Georgia, Baldwin County: duly recorded in the clerk's office of the Superior Court Book "F" Folio 267 and 268 this 2nd day of Feb. 1819. Signed by Thomas H. KEMAN, Clerk.

State of Tennessee, Knox Co.: The foregoing certificate is recorded and in the clerk's office of the County Court of Knox Co. and truly copied therefrom. Given under my hand the 10th day of Aug. 1819. Signed: Wm. SWAN, Clerk.

State of Kentucky, Fayette County: Dec. 8, 1819, the foregoing certificate was this day produced to me, the clerk of said County, and the same with the names thereto signed is truly recorded in my office. Signed: J. C. RODES, Clerk Fayette County. Recorded in Book "F", p. 99. Examined att. J. C. RODES, Clerk.

Recorded in my office in Evansville, Indiana, in Book "A," p. 161, this 11th day May 1820 and signed J. ZIMMERMAN, DRVC.

The foregoing was produced to me in my office on the 1st day of March 1821 by a man of color named OBEDIAH MIFLIN, a light-colored Negro about 27 or 28 years of age, about 5'4" high, well set. To be entered of record agreeably to law. Signed Jos. M. STREET, Clerk Circuit Court.

p.61) Arthur J. JONES, a free man of color, plans to travel in the West and requested a statement about character, etc. He was certified of good character, having lived on the Frontier during the last war (1812) and suffered considerably from Indians. Dated 31 Jan. 1819. Signed Ed. N. CULLOW, J.P., Palestine, State of Illinois.

p.62) State of Illinois, Gallatin County, Samuel R. CAMPBELL of Mullenburg, KY, with CORNELIUS, a colored man who was willed to him by his father, William CAMPBELL, to be freed at age 30 years. CORNELIUS reached the age of 30 years on the 10th of this month and is now free. Signed: Samuel R. CAMPBELL and sworn and subscribed before me this 3 day of April 1821. Signed: John MARSHALL, J. P. Gallatin County, Illinois.

p.63-4) State of Illinois, Gallatin County. Samuel R. CAMPBELL stated that JACOB, a man of color, received by last will and testament of Wm. CAMPBELL, to receive his freedom at the age of 30 years of Muhlenburg Co., KY. He will soon be age 30 and be entitled to his freedom. Signed: Samual R. CAMPBELL and sworn and subscribed before me this 30th day of April 1821. Signed: Jno. MARSHALL, J.P. Recorded 5/10/1821 by J.M. STREET.

p.64-5) I, SAMUEL (SAM) FORD, an African-born freeman of color of Gallatin Co., IL, did purchase from Ephraim HUBBARD of Shawneetown and the State of Illinois a woman of color named NELLY, age about 40 years. She is now free. Signed by Samuel FORD. Sworn before me Jan. 8, 1825, signed J.M. STREET.

Samuel FORD appeared manumitting NELLY, a woman of color. Dated 1/12/1825. Signed Thos. F. VAUGHT, JP. We, the undersigned, certify that Sam FORD did purchase NELLY (his wife) from E. HUBBARD, and they have lived as man and wife in a reputable, honest, prudent and industrious manner. Signed: M.L. DAVEWORT, JP; Jno. MARSHALL, J.P.

p.72) State of Illinois, County of Gallatin. I, Thomas L. POSEY, Clerk of County Commissioners, certify that JOHN CHOSIER has entered this date a Negro child named MARY, born of an indentured woman named NANCY, in conformance with the Section of the State, #6 of the constitution. Dated April 27, 1827. Thomas L. POSEY, Clerk.

p.72-3) I, Martha PRATER of Gallatin County, Illinois, bind myself for $23,000. the penal sum for surety of 23 emancipated slaves to the County Commissioners. Wit: H. EDDY, and D. VINYARD. Signed by X Martha PROCTOR. Commissioners: Charles MICK, John SHEARER and Andrew SLACK or their successors.

p.73-5) I, Martha PRATER of Gallatin County, Illinois, to carry out the will of my late husband, Price PRATER, of the State of South Carolina and of my own will do emancipate the following Negro slaves:

LUCY, about 35 years of age and her 9 children: (1) CUBA, about age 20 years, (2) MALINDA, about age 19 years, (3) NOAH, about age 16 years, (4) POLLY, about age 14 years, (5) PATSY, about age 12 years, (6) LIZZA, about age 10 years, (7) HARRIET, age about 7 years, (8) DOCIA, age about 5 years, and (9) LUCINDA, age about 2 years.

REBECCA, about age 33 years and her 7 children: (1) BETSY, about age 15 years, (2) ANNA, about age 13 years, (3) HERCULES, age about 13 years, (4) MARTHA, about age 9 years, (5) ELIAS, about age 7 years, (6) ZACHARIAH, about age 5 years, and (7) BECCA, about age 1 year. 

JACK (or JOHN), about age 28 years and daughter ELSY ANN, age about 1 year: JESSEE, age about 21 years, JOHNSON, age about 18 years, and SPENCER, age about 15 years.

Dated 20 Feb. 1827. Wit: Daniel VINYARD. State of Illinois, Gallatin County. A statement of action before Thos. F. VAUGHT, JP dated Feb. 7, 1827. Recorded May 25, 1827, by Thos. L. POSEY, Clerk by D.H. CAMPBELL, D. Clerk.

p.76-80) Joseph STREET of Gallatin County, IL, makes a statement re: Grace CLARK, a Negro woman, light complexion, 4' 6" height, age about 44 years, scar on arm and temple. Samuel CLARK came to the clerk's office to make a statement regarding Negroes under the age of 15 years as per law and indicated that GRACE was to be free. This was later agreed to as his intention by his wife and neighbor. GRACE has remained at Wabash-Saline in Gallatin County, IL, before and since Mr . CLARK's death. She has a good reputation and is now living at the residence of Timothy GUARD. Dated 3 Sept. 1825. Jos. M. STKEET. Grace CLARK has two children born since her title to freedom (Constitution 1818): (1) MILETHNA, born Aug. 1821, and (2) MAY, born in May 1824. Children now living with their mothers and entered as per law. Signed: J.M. STREET. (Fall of 1825) The undersigned knows GRACE CLARK residing at T. GUARD's Salt Works. Signed: Henry BELT, Michael JONES, Robert R. FUNKHOUSER and Reuben YOUNG. The foregoing was recorded on 11/17/1825 by Joseph M. STREET. Note: Leo WHITE recorded the same on 11/1/1827 as he could not find the record of Joseph M. STREET of Gallatin County, Illinois.

p.80-2) William MCCOY of Gallatin County, Illinois, does manumit and free a mulatto girl, ESTER, age about 23 years. Dated 11/21/1826. Sworn before Thos. F. VAUGHT, JP.

p.82-92) Martin BARKER, a man of color, produced the following papers to be admitted to the record of 11 Nov. 1827, Randolph County, state of Illinois. (summary) Martin BARKER, a man of color, was brought in by Wm. C. GREENUP, Esq. as a runaway slave, as he had no papers proving he was a free man, although he claimed to be free. He said his freedom papers had been forcibly taken from him at Rocking Cave on the Ohio River. Since he had no papers, he was committed to the sheriff's custody as per state law of 3/20/1819. Dated 12/11/1826. M. HOTCHKISS, JP.

Affidavits made in Dearborn Co., Indiana, by the following were submitted: Jacob BLASDELL, Sr, and Jacob BLASDELL, Jr.; also James DILL, stating that the courthouse records had burned in Dearborn County, Indiana and no copies of the papers of Martin BARKER could be submitted showing that he was a free man.

Martin BARKER was supposed to be about age 40, 5' 6" tall, middle-sized, with scars on his face, and was hired by the BLASDELLS, who were manufacturers of salt at the U.S. Saline below the Wabash River. He worked there in 1808 and 1809 with the consent of his master, Lewis BARKER, who lived at Rocking Cave and received the money earned by Martin BARKER. James ESTILL swore in Dearborn Co., Indiana, that John ROBINSON of Missouri sold said Martin BARKER to Isaac VANBIBER as a slave. Later the two BLASDELLS were in Missouri working the lead mines, and again Lewis BARKER hired Martin BARKER to work for the BLASDELLS. This was in 1810. Lewis BARKER asked the BLASDELLS to give security amounting to about $400 for Martin BARKER. This was the amount agreed upon at one time between the slave and his master for his freedom. BLASDELL refused, and Lewis BARKER took Martin BARKER away in chains forcibly. Sometime in 1813, the BLASDELLS were called upon to give details of the foregoing facts. James DILL states he, as recorder of Dearborn Co., Indiana, gave the said Martin BARKER a copy of his freedom papers as required by law and that due to the fire, he cannot give a transcript of papers at this time.

p.93) 2/17/1817. Jonathan RAMSEY sets free from this date a Negro woman named JUDE. The deed of emancipation was acknowledged in Court in February term 1817 in Livingston County, KY; recorded in Book "C", p. 249. Test.: Enoch PRINCE, Clerk; received 12/3/1827 in Gallatin Co., IL and certified that the copy was a true copy.

p.94-5) State of Illinois, Gallatin County. "The bearer Henry BROADY, a dark mulatto about age 26 years, is to work on a flatboat descending the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Natchez or New Orleans. He has lived here for 10 years, and I have no doubt he is a free man. Respected as such and seems honest and industrious." Signed Jno. MARSHALL, Alex. KIRKPATRICK and Samuel MARSHALL. Dated Shawneetown, IL 2/19/1824. Henry BROADY was brought to the Saline by Jonathan BROADY (said to be an uncle), a free colored man, in 1811, to my knowledge. Dated 11/28/1827. Signed by Leo White.

p.95-6) Francis PORTER of Butler Co., KY, emancipates BOBB on 7/18/1816. Papers reviewed and ordered recorded by Court as certified by Robert MORRISON, Clerk of Butler Co., KY, on 7/18/1816.

SOURCE: Mr. and Mrs. H. Obert Anderson, "Register of Slaves (Indentures) and Emancipation of Slaves," Illinois State Genealogical Society Quarterly Vol. 10, No. 1 (Spring 1978). 


  1. Ii never heard of a reverse under ground railway. So sad. But thanks foer the information.

  2. I took a tour of this place back in the early ‘80s and heard a story of “Old Joe” who sired over 100 children. I hate to think what happened to them.

  3. I have never heard of this and wonder why it was never taught in school as part of Illinois history?

  4. "The key to proving whether blacks were held against their will on the third floor of the Old Slave House lies in discovering the character of the home's original owner, John Hart Crenshaw." In recent years a team led by Professor Mark Wagner of SIU Carbondale thoroughly studied the house and grounds and concluded that the third floor rooms were added later in the 19th century. The story of the slave jail was created as a marketing tool in the early days of auto tourism.

    1. I'm not sure the Wagner research went as far as concluding that the rooms were not used to hold slaves. Crenshaw owned the house until the mid-1860s. Even if the room partitions were added after the original construction in the 1830s, they could have been added by Crenshaw and used as part of his slave trade into the 1850s.

  5. A reverse underground railroad--I never knew. And sad that the Land of Lincoln would play a role in it.

  6. This is fascinating. I did not know any of this. I didn't know about the Reverse Underground Railroad. It is a heartbreaking story - people can be very evil. Thank you for sharing this story.

  7. Interesting story about reverse underground railroad. An amazing bit of history.


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