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In Slave Days

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An institution which will soon only be known in hUtory is the Underground i;,iilio;nl. Keu poople even to-day liave Hiiy idea of its purpose and workingt", although i ceaaed its operations but a few yeftrs airo, wiica the emancipatlon proclamatlon was issued. The active Hgentsof the Underground Ruilroad, who ere all prominent, a c tors in the great anti-slavety cause, are fust passing away, and their death will then leave history to teil of its noble work aud what it accompllshed. The only person now living in Battle Creek who was actively connected with ilie Underground Railroad is the Hon. Erastus Hussey. This venerable gentleman was the gent for Battle Creek anil kept the station here. He was one of the best known and most prominent Underground Railroad agente in Michigan, and an active and zealous anti-slavery man. If there is any one person to wnom the colored people owe an eVerlaatlng ilcht of gratitude it is Mr. Hussey- the Abolition patriarch. Rcaiizmg the Importance of preserving all knowledge possible to be obtained regarding this institution, the Cali man visited Mr. Hussey and made known his errand. Tbat gentleman exprossed a illinjrness to impart to the scribe a history of the Underground Railroad. "The Uii'lpiground Kaihvay," conimeDced Mr. Uussey, "caine into eiteneein 18-10. in the midst of the Ilairison campalgn. It was a league ol men who organized ii systeni of oonducting runaway slaves from Kentuoky and olher slave States to Canada. There wero mea who deVoled their time in assisting the slaves across the Ohio river near Cincinnati, and then sent them from station to station until they arrived in Canada. Th ere were several branches of the underground Railwiiy. I was connected with the Central Michigan route, which run through Ohio, Indiana and Michigan." "Mr. Hussey, when and how did you first connect yourself with the Doder{round Rallwayf " "It was in 1840. One day when I was in Detroit a man by the name of John Cross, of Indiana, oalled at my house and nquired for me. He was very anxioua to see me, Uit would DOt even teil my wife what he wanted. Mv wife sent for Benjamin Richard, who worked tur Jonathan Har t, but os'tt" '' he conflde .1 uj. , ..i Visll to li 1111, and tm ,1,. parteü. I was in Detroit th rot v,. - .... days. After I returned home I rtceived a letter from n informed me he wa csiaolisliing a route from Kentucky to Canada, through which escaped slaves could be conducted without moleatation, and wanted me to take charge of the sta ;ion at Battle Creek. This was the first hut 1 ever heard of the Underground Kailway. Cross' letter I preserved for many years, but it is now lost. This is liow I commenced to keep the station nere." " Were you assisted by others ( " "At this time there were only fiye antislavery men in Battle Creek besides myself : öilas W. Dodge, Abel Densmore, Henry Willis, Theron A. Chadwick ml Samuel Strauther, a colored man. Others came to this place afterwards, however." " Why was it called the Underground Railway?" "Because of the secret manner in which the slaves were carried through; it did not come in sight of men. They went through very secretly. They weiit as if carried through a hollow tube without being seen. Everything connecteU with it was conducted in the gieatest secrecy. Men brought the slaves across the Ohio river in row boats. They deviated on the Ohio river, but ultimatclv came together on the matn line on this side of the river, and were then conducted through Indiana and Michigan. Stations were establlshed every fifteen or sixteen miles, In charge of good, true men. The fugitives were secreted in the day time aud carried through in the night.1' " Did the men who kept the stations get any pay?1' " No. It was all without money and witliout price. It was all out of sym piithy for the the colored people and for principie. We were working for hunmnity ?' " V here was J'our station located ? " " My dwelling house was the station, although I of ten secreted the fugitives in Other places. After the Union block was built I often secreted them there. At that time I lived in the bulldlns which stood upon the present site of the Wersteln & llalladay block, opposite tlie V illiams llouso. Betore the present block was ;rected the old building was occapied asa ivery stable by J. L. Rende. There was Battle Creek's Underground Ruilwuy station. This butldiott was orected by August P. Rawaon, in 1836 or ";7, and ivheu I bOUght it it was occupicd U a nbtnet shop by John Caldwell. I repalrad the building and occupied the tront as a store, and used the up-stairs ind n-ar end for my dwelling.'1 "Toa afterwarda moved intothe house which was on the present site of the Adyentists' college, did you nut P " " Yes, but tliat was in 1855. We did not assist so inany fuffitives then, as they went over a shorter route tbrougb Oliio, by way of Sandusky, and thence to Malden." "I have heiird it stated, Mr. Ilussey, that the cellar ander the house whicli stood on the site of the Adventist college was huilt on purpose as a secruting' place Lu eaoaped tlavea." " Sn it was reported when the house was removed. But that was notstrictly t me. There were very few coming through at that time, but I will guarantee, hovvever, that f iny slaves were sccreted there they were nèver captured." " WUere were the stations tbrongh Michigan located." ¦ Vvell, lit's ,ee. I can't teil about the stiiüims Ld Indiana. Tlie route caine In this state near Cauopolia, In the fainou Quaker settlement There ruthatgaod old Quaker, Zaohariah Bugard. There were scvcrul hcsides liim, among whmn were Btephen Bdgne and Joel East. At .polis Parker Osburn was the agent. The next itation that l rememberof waa Sdioolcrafl, in charge of Dr. Nathan M. Thomas, who, I beiicve, lives there yet. Then oame Climax. The station waaa little ways out of the Tillage. The man there was Gardner. I think hll name was William. Uattle Creek carne next .1 ibez Fitch was the agent at Marshall. He was a gentleman with meani mid wlio stood high in the oomtnunitY. He wal the tirst nominee on the 1iberty ticket for Uovernor. Of cporae he was not elected, but we ahvays thereatlcr called hlm Governor Pitch. The eame Albion and Edwin M. Johnson. At Parma I forget the name of the agent, but think that it was Townsend E. Oidley. He was not strictly icientified witli the Liberly party, but always rendered assistance in furthering the escape of fugitive slavea. At Jackaon there were three men : Lonson Wilcox, Normnn Allen and one J cinnot remember. In the larger places we had mnre tban one man, so i( one chanced to be out or town the other man could be found. At Michigan Centre Ab'jah Fitcli was the agent. He was a gentièraan of high standing. Fitch was one of the men who was involvcd in lltlgatlon mauy years ago witli the Michigan Central railroad companV called the 'railroad war,' which was a famous case at that time. A feeling was created against the road on account of the number of cattle killed, there being no fences then. A number of men tlnew stones through the car Windows. Several of them were sent to state prison. At the trial of the case John Van Arman made one of hls most famous pleas. It took place In Detroit, and was pionounced bv Wm II. Seward to be one of the most eloquent speeches that he ever lieard. "The next station was Leoni. I have forgottcn the name of the agent, also the one al Grass Lake. At Franciscoville it W Francisco himself, who was a good worker. At Dexter we had Samuel W. Dexter and bis two sons. At Scio was a prominent man - Theodore Foster. At Ann Arbor was Guy Beckley, editor of the Signal of Liberty, who published the paper in eonnection with Theodore Fostel'. At Geddes tras Jofau Ocddcf, mter wlinm the place was named, and who built a large flouringmill there. He was a brothcr of the late l'aul Geddes, of this city, and unele of A. H. Geddes. I ran't t el 1 the name of tbc agent at Tpsilantl or Plymouth. At tbc lormer place the route left the Michigan Central and branclied off to Plymouth. Sometimes Ilicy went to Plymouth trom Ann Arbor. Froin Plymouth they followed the river Kouge to Swartsburg, thence to Detroit. The principal man there was Horace Hallock, also Silas M. Holmes and Samuel Zug. These three were men who could be relied upon.1' "Didyou have a 83'stem of pass-words?" " Yes. We had words that we used. The most common pass-word was ' Can you give shelter and protection to one or more persona ?' This was addressed to the agent by the person looking for a place of safety." " Did you drive the fugitives through to Marshall yourself T" " Üometimes I did, but often I got somc person to go for me. Isaac Mott, ben a boy working for me, used freruently to take them through to Marshall. Sometimes others went. I used ' llave you any idea how many fugitives you assisted through ?" "I have fed and given protection to over 1,000 fugitives, and assisted them on to Canada." " llow long after your station was establlshed btfore your first fugitives arrived f" "In four weeks after John Cross was liere two men came. Bj--the way, I never met Cross untll eight years afterward, at tlie great Free Soil Convention in Buffalo. The two meu above referred to were Wm. Coleman and Stephen Wood. These men came through under fictitious iiaines, and always retained those names. The fugitives very frequently did that. Stephen Wood was shot and wounded in ïis atteinpt to escape. Dr. Thayer took thirteen large shot out of hts shoulder." "IIow did the slaves act generally when they had arrived this far 011 their escape f" "Some were frightened, while others were full of courage." " How many usually came at a time? " " i'roui one to l'uur. At one time tliun: were forty-fl ve fugitives in one niglit. It was after an attempt to capture the slaves at the Quaker nellleuient in Cass county. One nlght a man by the name of Richard Dllllneuam came to my house and informed me that there would be forty-five fugitives and nine guurds liere in two lours. What to do I did not know. My wife was sick-abed. The flrst man I met was Abel Densmore, then S. M. üodge and Samuel Straather. Lester Buckley owned a smul, unoccupied dwelling liouse in the rear of the lot where J. M. Caldwell's store now stands. 1 went to see him and told him of my predicament, and said that I wanted to rent the dweiling for tweuty-four hour?, and may be for a week. He said: ' You may have It.' Buckley was a Whig, but syinpathized with us. There happened to be a stove in the house. I got some wood, then went over to Elijah T. JIott's mili, on the site of the present Titus fc Hioka mili, and he gave me sixty pounds of flour. Silas Dodge went to a grocery and got some potatoes, and Densmore got somc pork. We heard tliem coming over tlie oíd West Main street bridge. Everybody had hear.l of tlieir eosalug, aud every man, womau and child were out upon the street, and it looked as If a circus was coming to town. The people got up quite au interest in tliem. It was a lovülj' uioonliglit night. There were nine wbltemen with them, who cted as iiiards. Ahcad of tlietn rode Zucli. Sugard, with liis broad-biïmmed, white quaker bat, and mounted upon a tine horse - he alwayt had j?ood horses. He met me in front of my house and shook hands with me. I told him of my ar rangementa. He took ofl' his white hat, and with a military air and voice said: ' Kifiht about face ! ' They all about faced and marebod down to the house and took possessiou. The nine white men stopped al the hotel, and the people cared lor thelr horses. The fugitives had a jolly ;ood time that night. Theycooked their owa supper of bread, potatoes and pork, and as they were very hungry they relishrd it keenly. Tlie next morning about half' of them went on to Canada. Others followed atterwards. Amon those who remained in Battle Creek were William Oasey, Perry Sandford, Joa. Skipworth, Thomas Henderson and others I have forgotten." ' There did not niany stay here in 1S50, wlien the fugitivo sluve law was passed, did they F " 'All went to Canada exeept Win. Caiey, Pezry Sanford, Tam Heuderson and Josepb Skipworth." ' Did you ever get into any troulile?" " No. I expected every day to bo arrested, but I escaped all legal proceedin's " " Were you ever disturbed by the slavecatchers t " ''Once word came that thirty armed men wen on their way here to capture the sluvcs in üattle Creek. Dr. Tnayer and I pil n t cd MIO Inind billa, statlnt that wc were prepared to meet them, and that they had bettei stay uway from Battle ('reek. Sonic perioni coiidemned this Tery much. Dr. Mollüt lald that it was tni-on agalntt the government. I sent bilis along the road by au express iucssenger by tlie name of Nichols, who was In syni[)atl]y with IU, and with whom 1 was acquainted. He threw them off at every station. At Niles, lie met the party od the train coming east. The slavecatchers read the bilis and turnetl back. They said that there was no use of going to Buttle Creek." "I suppose Battle Creek was wellkuowu to the slave dealer as a place of lelujre for fugitivus!"' " The quaker settlement in Casscounty and tlie stations at 8choolcralt and Battle Creek were well-known all thiough the BOUtil as the headquarters for escaped slaves, aud the names of the men who kept the station were also known to them." "1 suppose that you met with niany strange incidents? " "Certainly. One day a slave woman who was asslsting ray family, and had been hero about a weck, wheu a party of slaves drove up. Amons the number was a daughtur whom she had not seen in ten years. The recognitiwu was mutual, and the meeting a very aflecting sight. I could teil you hundreds of interestinpr inoiilents." ' When did the Underground railway cease its operations? 1 "Not until the emancipation proclamation was issued. It was in existence from 1850 to 1865, a period of 25 years. It accomplished a noble work.


Ann Arbor Courier
Old News