This Michigan Village Was Called a “Hotbed of Abolitionism”
Who woulda thought this little town in Cass County would be pinpointed and shouted out in the U.S. Senate?
In Cass County, at the junction of State Street (M-60) and Water Street in Vandalia, is an Historical Marker, noting where two underground railroad lines met. The Illinois line that came from St. Louis, and the Quaker line up from the Ohio River formed a junction here, combining into one that proceeded to Canada and freedom.
Vandalia, not yet a town, was involved in the Kentucky Slave Raid in 1847. According to the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, slaverunners were heading down to Kentucky and helping enslaved men and women escape by bringing them back to Michigan into Cass County, where they were sheltered and protected by Quakers. Some of the places in Vandalia that protected and gave shelter to the runaways were James Bonine's home & carriage house, and the Stephen Bogue house (pictured below).
Ticked off that they kept losing their slaves, a group of Kentuckians came up into Vandalia to retrieve them. They invaded local farms, found some escapees, and proceeded to kidnap them in order to get them back to Kentucky. A confrontation occurred between the Kentuckians and the Quakers.....no blood was shed, and the slave owners agreed to a trial.
Not having the correct ownership papers, they were out-of-luck...the slaves were set free and soon they were on their way to Canada. It was such a heated moment in American history, that statesman Henry Clay stood on the floor of the senate in Washington D.C. and shouted that Vandalia was a “hotbed of abolitionism”!
Of course, this didn't set well with the rest of the south and a matter of years later, the Civil War came along.
In 1848, a grist mill was constructed in the area, and in 1851 Vandalia began developing into a full-fledged community. In 1871 the Michigan Central Railroad set up a station, bringing business and helping the town grow.
Vandalia makes a very historic, interesting stop on a Michigan roadtrip. Highly recommended! Check out the photo gallery below.