THE UNDERGROUND RAILWAY
By Marshall Krug, Dist. 246.
The first slaves were brought to Illinois in 1719 by Mr. Renault, of
France, who brought with him besides the slaves, two hundred laborers and
miners. On the way across the ocean he stopped at San Domingo, where he
purchased five hundred slaves. He came because he wanted to find gold and
silver. After twenty years of searching he sold his slaves to the French
settlers and went back to France.
Although the people had their slaves, the Ordinance of 1787 forbade slavery. When the people heard this they started to leave the state. Governor St. Clair, the first governor, told them the ordinance meant they could keen the slaves they had, but they could not buy any more. Yet, the people wanted more slaves. Finally they thought of a plan to evade the law. They said they would bring them in as indentured seravnts. In 1805 and 1807 congress passed the Black Laws, which were laws determining the terms of service of a slave. Any male under fifteen years of age would have to serve until thirty-five years of age; and females until thirty years of age. Children born to persons of color should serve - boys for thirty years and girls for twenty-eight years.
In 1822 the time seemed ripe to decide whether Illinois should be a free state or a slave state. Governor Coles was against slavery. When the people voted whether it should be a free state or not the anti-slavery people won by a few votes. They voted again, but the anti-slavery people were still in the lead. In 1824 it was decided that Illinois should remain a free state.
Before the Civil war, in the 30's and 40's, the people were making speeches for and against slavery. Most of the anti-slavery people lived in the North, while most of the pro-slavery people lived in the South. The northern men did all they could against slavery, while the southern men did all they could for slavery.
If a slave ran away from his master and got to Canada before his master caught him, he was considered a free man. After a number of slaves had started doing this the anti-slavery people began to help them by hiding them through the day and taking them north in the night. As soon as the slave owners could not find their slaves they said the northmen must have an underground railway.
There were two slave routes passing through Harding. One came from Troy Grove; another route came from Ottawa, north through Harding.
Samuel Cody, who lived one mile east and three-quarters mile south of Harding, helped in taking the slaves along the slave routes northward. He had a man bring the slaves to his house. He would hide them through the day and the next night take them on to Leland.
Mr. Hubbard, who lived one-quarter mile south of Harding, where Wallace Pool now lives, also helped in taking slaves on the slave routes. He would hide them through the day and the next night take them on north. He used his barn to hide them in during the day.
Mr. Batchelder, who lived one-half mile north of Harding, helped take slaves to the next station. Mr. Batchelder was a tall, heavy-set and sturdy man. One night he had a large slave to be gotten to the next station. The slave owners were about the house waiting for a chance to capture the slave. To give the men a better chance to get the slave to the next station, Mr. Batchelder blackened his face and started out over the cornfield, with the slave owners after him. The slave owners chased after him, thinking it was the slave. While the slave owners were chasing Batchelder the northmen took the slave on north. The slave owners were angry when they found it was Batchelder and not the slave they were after. The owners had to go away without their slaves.
I am proud that I live in Freedom township because it was one of the townships against slavery. Don't you think I have a right to be?