The Underground Railroad
Michigan was a strong antislavery state.
These are the general routes that escaping slaves took
Michigan to reach Canada, where slavery was illegal.
Before the war, many Michigan citizens helped slaves escape
from the South, via the Underground Railroad,
a secret, often informal, organization of safe hiding places and people
willing to provide transportation between them.
By day, runaway slaves hid in buildings or underground cellars called
stations. At night, they traveled north. Station operators gave the slaves food, warm clothing and a place to sleep. They
then gave them directions or transportation to the next station, ten to
fifteen miles away. The Underground Railroad operated primarily between 1830 and 1861.
Sometime after the Civil War began, a woman in Bowling Green, Kentucky,
used this chain to keep her slave in her barn. The slave sawed through the
chain and walked to the camp of the 23rd Michigan Infantry. Soldiers took
the man to a blacksmith who removed the chain. Colonel Spaulding kept the
chain and presented it to the Michigan state librarian upon his return to
Michigan has many Civil War heroines. Among them were Quakers
who worked in the Underground Railroad. Born a Quaker, Laura Smith Haviland
lived in Adrian and led escaped slaves to freedom in Canada. She was so
effective in her abolitionist activities and her work for the
Underground Railroad that Southern slave owners offered a $3,000
reward for her capture. She and her family opened one of the first schools
in Michigan to admit black boys and girls. A historical marker stands
at the Raisin Valley Friends Church in Adrian where her father was the
first pastor. Laura Haviland is buried in the church cemetery.
Another Michigan Civil War heroine was Sojourner Truth, whose picture also
appears in the gallery. Born a slave in New York in 1797, she was freed
in 1828. She became an advocate for abolition (making slavery illegal)
and for woman suffrage (giving women the right to vote). In 1856, she
moved to Battle Creek. She traveled throughout the nation preaching
about emancipation and the rights of black people and women.