the Route to Freedom
sites part of
Underground Railroad marketing effort
campaign fueled by opening
of Cincinnatis Freedom Center
College, George-town area of Madison
among sites recognized as authentic
(December 2004) The Underground Railroad refers
to the organized system of cooperation among African American slaves,
free African Americans, abolitionists, sympathetic whites and Native
Americans to help slaves escape bondage and claim freedom in the mid-1800s.
December 2005 Cover
Once slaves crossed the Ohio River, they were on Northern
soil, making Indiana an important destination for freedom seekers.
The network of Underground Railroad sites is extensive, and research
is revealing that Madison, Ind., played a large role in the story. Work
is currently under way to draw attention to the areas Underground
Railroad significance and to attract visitors to the sites.
It is important to Madison because it may help draw an entirely new
market of tourists to the area, said Linda Lytle, executive director
of the Madison Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. Many people
dont yet realize just how big this is for Madison, she said.
But soon, they will be hearing more about it as the promotional
effort gets under way to promote all the sites in the region as part
of the overall Underground Railroad story.
Numerous sites are intertwined with one another, revealing that the
Underground Railroad was truly a national and international network
of people and places working together toward a common goal. The U.S.
Congress in 1998 and 1990 passed legislation to create the National
Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Act, which initiated an effort
to collect and coordinate this history with various museums, historical
sites and educational facilities throughout the country. The program
is administered through the National Park Service, whose representatives
visited Madison in October to take part in a historic marker dedication
ceremony for the Georgetown community and its African Methodist Episcopal
(A.M.E.) Church, which is part of the Underground Railroad story, along
with nearby Eleutherian College in Lancaster, Ind.
In August, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center opened on
the banks of the Ohio River in downtown Cincinnati. This expansive new
museum details various aspects of Civil War-era slaves flights
to freedom to the north. Driving tours are being created that will direct
tourists visiting the center to places such as Madison and Lancaster.
Were hoping that the opening of this center so close to
Madison is really going to help put Eleutherian College on the map,
said Elbert Hines, a board member of the historic college, located about
10 miles north of Madison.
Historic Madison Inc., meanwhile, is raising money to renovate and create
a museum out of a former A.M.E. Church located in the Georgetown area
of downtown Madison. Recently, a grant was awarded to help create a
driving tour that will establish Madison as one of three major hubs
on the tour. All of these separate but related efforts are described
n The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center. First proposed in
1994 and incorporated in 1995, the National Underground Railroad Freedom
Center opened in August in Cincinnati as the centerpiece of a $2 billion
riverfront development initiative.
Its purpose is to recount the powerful American story of freedom from
slavery and oppression. It serves not only as a museum but also as a
monument to this country overcoming the institution of slavery to build
a society valuing the equality of all its citizens.
The emotional connection that Americans have to personal stories
of freedom, combined with innovative and imaginative methods of storytelling,
will make this one of the nations most memorable museum experiences
ever, said Dr. Spencer Crew, the Freedom Centers executive
director and CEO.
All of the exhibits feature fascinating stories, history lessons and
common themes. Through them, guests experience their way through the
roles of victim, oppressor, bystander, freedom seeker and ally.
Most scholars estimate that as many as 40 percent of all freedom seekers
crossed the Ohio Rivers Freedom Corridor, spanning
from Madison, Ind., to Maysville, Ky., positioning Cincinnati as an
ideal site for the Freedom Center.
In its mission to promote history relating to the Underground Railroad,
the Center has created a list of heritage sites recommended around Indiana,
Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia. Included are many sites near Cincinnati
along the freedom corridor, and including Eleutherian College.
The colleges board members have signed a contract with the Freedom
Center making Eleutherian College a Freedom Station. The
two have been and will continue to work together exchanging information
and promoting one another, officials said.
n Indiana Department of Commerce Quality of Place Grant. Several heritage
sites in Indiana have already come together to promote the history of
Indianas Underground Railroad activity. This effort received significant
assistance when Indiana Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis in October announced that
a state grant had been awarded to the Indiana Underground Railroad
Coalition Interpretive Centers. The $89,600 grant is part of a
$600,000 Quality of Place Initiative announced by Davis to help support
Indiana tourism projects.
With the grant, Orloff Miller, a consultant who worked on the development
of the Freedom Center, has been hired to develop a driving tour and
promotional literature to attract visitors to three main sites known
as gateways into the State for freedom seekers. In addition
to Eleutherian College, the other two sites are the Carnegie Center
in New Albany, Ind., and the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City, Ind.
One goal is to place displays at the individual sites that will tie
them together into a larger story, said Jae Breitweiser of Historic
The Madison area sites are hoping to reap national exposure from their
connections with Cincinnatis Freedom Center, the distribution
of the literature there, the inclusion on the center's interactive computer
systems and their inclusion on its recommended list of area heritage
We want the number of visitors to our site to increase dramatically,
Breitweiser said. This is the kind of boost we need.
n Historic Eleutherian College. Eleutherian College already has seen
visitors because of its collaboration with the Freedom Center, said
Breitweiser. The College is listed on the National Register of Historic
Places and has been named a National Historic Landmark.
It has been recognized by the Network to Freedom as an Underground Railroad
historic site. The college, the Lyman Hoyt House and the Tibbet House
that sit on the property are part of the Indiana Historic Marker Program,
marked for their significance in history, specifically to the Underground
As the anti-slavery movement began across the nation, the Hoyts and
the Tibbets were at the center of it in this area, according to Breitweiser.
She said documents confirm that these families were active in housing
runaways as well as helping them move from one location to the next.
In the same community, in the midst of the anti-slavery activity, the
Rev. Thomas Craven built Eleutherian College, a school that educated
with no regard to race or gender. Craven and others involved felt that
the best way to help African Ameri-cans was to give them an education.
He trained them as teachers and ministers so that they could go on to
educate others. In 1848, the first school year at Eleutherian College
began, and by 1858, 100 graduates of the school were qualified to teach.
Earning the credibility associated with the national designations at
these sites is not easy, but it goes a long way in attracting attention
to the sites.
Everything that goes into receiving a historic marker has to be
proven before anything can happen. It is a huge job, Breitweiser
said. This community is fortunate to have saved so many documents that
when pieced together aid in a larger understanding, she said.
n Madisons Historic Georgetown District. Recently included in
the Underground Railroads Network to Freedom and the Indiana Historic
Marker Program is Madisons historic Georgetown district. It has
been nationally recognized for its significance in Underground Railroad
The old neighborhood, centered at Walnut and Fifth streets, houses a
number of buildings that have been owned, built and occupied by African
American families dating to the early days of Madison, said John Staicer,
executive director of Historic Madison Inc.
Several important structures still exist today in the neighborhood so
many, in fact, that for the first time, a district earned approval for
a historic marker, said Breitweiser. No single structure could have
provided a complete picture, but as a district it has a lot of strength,
Among the remaining buildings are the former homes of abolitionists
Elijah Anderson and William J. Anderson, as well as the A.M.E. Church,
one of the most prominent structures in the Georgetown district.
Located at 309 Fifth St., the building was purchased for $67,000 in
2002 by HMI, and plans are under way to turn the 1,200-square-foot former
church into a museum. Restoration is set to begin in 2005 after the
city in July received a $362,713 grant from the Indiana Department of
Commerce to help fund the project. HMI also received a $99,000 Save
Americas Treasures grant last year that it will use to meet
the required 10 percent match of the state grant. HMI also has received
private donations and a $2,000 grant in June from the Community Foundation
of Madison-Jefferson County. The entire restoration could reach $750,000,
The result will be an Underground Railroad memorial to the families
who lived there and were heavily involved with the activities, said
Staicer. It will help orient people to the area, and the role
that the church and the neighborhood played in the Underground Railroad,
The museum will house exhibits about the building, the church, the congregation,
African American heritage and the overall contribution the community
made to the anti-slavery movement. The A.M.E. Church drew the attention
of Indiana Gov. Joe Kernen, who visited the site this past summer.
Staicer said that in addition to a museum, the church will be a place
where community members can host lectures, concerts, meetings and other
n Continuing Research. The next project presenting itself is the need
for research on South Hanover Landing, a site that has recently emerged
as having had activity in the flight to freedom, said Breitweiser. In
the near future, Hanover Landing will likely become another part of
the Underground Railroad story because of recently discovered documents,
Collaborating with the Freedom Center, the newly established Rivers
Institute at Hanover College is researching this area. The Haq Center
Multicultural Center at Hanover College already is involved in the research,
said Molly Dodge, director of external relations at the Rivers Institute.
The Haq Centers mission is to support international and minority
students and programs.
Meanwhile, Madison tourism officials have asked Hanover Colleges
Haq Center to consider creating a program for tourists based on a student
trip organized several years ago and led by professor Ted Farrell. Starting
from Preston Plantation in Trimble County, Ky., Farrell led students
across the Ohio River on pontoon boats to Hanover Beach. They then boarded
buses for a trip to Eleutherian College for a tour. Farrell is organizing
another student trip next spring and has invited tourism director Lytle
to go along.
Something interactive like this would be a great tourism attraction,
but I dont know if we could pull it off, Lytle told the
tourism board at its December meeting. Its certainly something
worth looking into.
n As research reveals more, each site is continuing to connect to the
others, making it increasingly important that everyone involved work
together. Every piece of this story is slowly coming together, officials
say, however, information keeps surfacing.
Researchers say the Underground Railroad sites in southern Indiana will
fit nicely with the historical programs already in place and are likely
to attract more visitors as interest in the topic increases.
The neat thing about Underground Railroad is that its a
story thats still unfolding here in our area, so from a tourism
standpoint, I think thats exciting, said Staicer. And
with the grant money and support were getting from the National
Park Service, theres no telling how far we can go in promoting
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