the trail to freedom
state officials to launch
Underground Railroad initiative
tour, project features
Eleutherian College and AME Church in Madison
(July 2006) Madison, Ind., and the surrounding
area will soon be cast into the national and regional spotlight with
the introduction of three new driving tours of historic Underground
Railroad sites, called Southeast Indiana Trails to Freedom.
cover of the new
booklet features many
faces of the Underground Railroad story.
Madison played a prominent role in the historic Underground
Railroad movement during the Civil War. Thousands of freedom seekers
crossed the Ohio River into the area and were helped by anti-slavery
Linda Lytle, executive director of Madisons Convention and Visitors
Bureau, said at one point in history, Jefferson County was the heaviest
traveled area along the river for those wishing to escape slavery. There
were numerous sites around the area where slaves could go to get help
in the trek north to freedom.
While many of those sites and structures have long disappeared, there
are five sites in Jefferson County listed on the National Park Services
Network to Freedom, the highest designation an Underground
Railroad site can receive from the federal government. That is the largest
collection of sites in the nation. Jefferson County is unique
in that we still have the sites standing, which gives more meaning to
the great stories that have been recounted about them, Lytle said.
One of those sites, Historic Eleutherian College in Lancaster, Ind.,
has been designated a gateway on the second driving tour
of Underground Railroad sites. A kickoff celebration, free to the public,
is planned for 12:30 p.m. Friday, June 30, at the site.
We are excited that Eleutherian College is the first gateway to
launch on the driving tour, said Jae Breitweiser, executive director
of Historic Eleutherian College.
Indiana Trails to Freedom
Driving Tour Kick-Off Events
12:30 p.m. June 30 at Eleutherian College, Lancaster, Ind.:
Ceremony to honor the Underground Railroad conductors who operated
in Jefferson County in pre-Civil War period of history. Kabhir
Shareef, an actor from Indianapolis, will present a re-enactment
of George DeBaptiste, a black abolitionist and businessman, and
his Underground Railroad activities from Georgetown, and African
American settlement in Madison to Eleutherian College. DeBaptiste
referred to the college as The New England Settlement who
operated a good station. Representatives from the state
and county levels will give a brief presentation on this project,
the college and the restoration efforts happening there. Visitors
will also be able to enjoy live music and refreshments during
3-5 p.m. July 7 at The Carnegie Center for Art and History,
New Albany, Ind.: Grilled hot dogs, lemonade and ice cream
will be available free while listening to storyteller and author
Judith Owens-Lalude. She presents The Long Walk, an
interactive story told in the first-person about a 9-year-old
girl, Wednesday, and her Mama who decide to run away from their
owner, Master Ben. Representatives from the three gateway sites
along with New Albany Mayor James Garner will speak before the
Freedom Ambassadors, young children from the community,
read selected stories. Visitors will also enjoy music from the
Deep River Songbirds, a mens gospel quartet.
7:30 to 9 p.m. July 14 at Levi Coffin State Historic
Site, Fountain City, Ind.: Start your evening at the Art Gallery
at Indiana Universitys East campus in Richmond from 6 to
8 p.m. to see the opening of Threads of Strength and Fortitude:
Penny Sistos Slavery Quilts. This is an art exhibit
featuring artist Penny Sistos Underground Railroad fabric
art works. The exhibit will also showcase the work of several
local artists the have pieces relating to the Coffin House. Also
live music, refreshments and a short program on the Southeast
Indiana Trails to Freedom will also be held at the gallery. Then
visitors can visit the Levi Coffin House, which came to be known
as the Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad,
for candlelight tours of the home from 7:30 to 9 p.m.
Information: Visit: www.SoutheastIndianaTrailstoFreedom.com.
The Indiana Underground Railroad Initiative is administered through
the Indiana Department of Natural Resources Division of
Historic Preservation and Archaeology, (317) 232-1646.
Breitweiser said many activities are planned, including
musicians, speakers and re-enactors. Numerous prominent people and politicians
have been invited. Re-enactor Khabir Shareef of Indianapolis will portray
anti-slavery activist and nationally-known Underground Railroad conductor
George DeBaptiste in a speech about the Underground Railroad. There
will also be light refreshments available.
A booklet for the Southeast Indiana Trails to Freedom driving
tours will be unveiled and be available for purchase at the Eleutherian
event. The booklet, priced at $5, details each tour and highlights the
sites along those tours.
The booklets, which provide colorful pictures and interesting information
about the Underground Rail-road, will also be available at all of the
Convention and Visitors Bureaus in each county throughout Southeast
Each driving tour highlights one gateway, a museum with
Underground Railroad exhibits or an historic site of Underground Railroad
importance. The first gateway is the Carnegie Center for Art and History
in New Albany, Ind. The second gateway is Eleutherian College. The third
gateway is the Levi Coffin State Historic Site in Fountain City, Ind.
Lytle said the booklet and the driving tours took years to develop.
She, along with others involved in the project, believes this Underground
Railroad initiative will not only bring attention to the areas
historic legacy in the anti-slavery movement, but it will have a definite
impact on tourism.
The Underground Railroad project was also planned to increase awareness
of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, located on the
riverfront in downtown Cincinnati. Opened in 2004 and just a short drive
from Madison, the center highlights the importance and relevance of
struggles for freedom around the world and throughout history. The location
of the Freedom Center was chosen because during the 1800s, the city
served as a major hub of activity on the Underground Railroad.
In another event related to the Underground Railroad project, on June
27, Hampton Inns Presidential Award winning Save-A-Landmark
program designated more than $10,000 and an estimated 160 hours of manpower
toward restoring Eleutherian College, a National Historic Landmark.
Volunteers from the company from three states cleaned, painted, landscaped
and restored the college, the Lyman Hoyt House on the site and the accompanying
new booklet features a two-page
spread on the history of Lancasters
Eleutherian College, located 10 miles north
of Madison in Jefferson County, Ind.
The college also was recently added to the list of the
National Trust for Historic Preservations 11 Most Endangered
Historical Sites. Because of a lack of funding for years, the
structure is in desperate need of assistance due to the prolonged effects
of neglect and vandalism.
The listing of Eleutherian on the list makes it available for
various grants that will help rehabilitate it, Breitweiser said.
Recently, the historic site, which was the first college in Indiana
and one of the first in pre-Civil War America to admit students regardless
of race or gender, received $850,000 in Big Grant money. The funding
came from numerous sources, including Save Americas Treasures.
But, Breitweiser said, It will take $2 million to complete the
project, so we need much more to restore the historic buildings.
Another historically significant site in Madison, the African Methodist
Episcopal Church, has received a variety of grants, matching funds and
private donations in a project to turn it into an Underground Railroad
The AME Church is located in the historic Georgetown district and owned
by Historic Madison Inc., a preservation organization. The district
is an African-American neighborhood prominent in the Underground Railroad
and the fight for freedom. It is also listed on the Network to
Freedom and is featured on the driving tour in the Madison area.
The project is planned to celebrate and educate visitors about
the Underground Railroad and its significance to this area,
said John Stacier, executive director of Historic Madison Inc. He said
the AME Church project, which has not set a date for opening the memorial,
has just finished the restoration phase and is in the process of researching
exhibits to include in the museum. A ceremony for the memorials
opening will be finalized later.
map in the booklet
shows the driving route
for Jefferson County.
Much of the funding for the rehabilitation and restoration
have come from both federal and state grants, including the National
Park Services Save Americas Treasures Fund,
and Indianas Community Focus Grant and matching funds. The Community
Foundation of Madison and Jefferson County, the Schroeder Foundation
and the River Valley Financial Bank have also supplied funding for the
Stacier said the rehabilitation of the AME Church, built in 1850 and
is the earliest remaining church of its kind, has definitely benefited
the neighborhood in which it is located.
It was an eyesore for years, but now it really stands out because
of the restoration efforts, Staicer said. The sewer and storm
water upgrades that were done to help the building have helped the neighborhood,
Stacier believes the rehabilitation of the AME Church has provided an
incentive for other property owners in the neighborhood to also work
on rehabilitation. He said these efforts increase economic activities
in the area as well, and the new museum will be a boon to area tourism.
Representatives from 15 Indiana counties formed the Indiana Underground
Railroad Coalition to draw attention to Indianas role in the Underground
Railroad, and to develop exhibits and tours highlighting Indianas
connection to the Underground Railroad. The coalition is currently made
up of representatives from Bartholomew, Clark, Decatur, Dearborn, Floyd,
Franklin, Harrison, Jackson, Jefferson, Jennings, Ohio, Ripley, Rush,
Switzerland and Wayne counties.
For more information on the Southeast
Indiana Trails to Freedom driving tour and booklet, contact the
Madison Convention and Visitors Bureau at (812) 265-2956 or visit: www.southeastindianatrailstofreedom.com.
For information on Eleutherian College, call (812) 273-9434 or visit
For information on the AME Church and historic Georgetown district,
call Historic Madison Inc. at (812) 265-2967 or visit: www.historicmadisoninc.com.
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