Calhoun County was an important stop on the Underground Railroad, as African Americans made their way to Canada. Marshall and Battle Creek were known to be welcoming places and a number of African Americans decided to settle here instead of leaving the country.
They still had to contend with slave catchers coming up from the South, but it was a Battle Creek senator, Erastus Hussey, who spearheaded the law to make that practice illegal in Michigan.
The Crosswhite story
Oakridge Cemetery, 614 Homer Road, Marshall
Adam and Sarah Crosswhite were slaves at a Kentucky farm until they managed to escape with their children.
They settled in Marshall, but couldn’t stay there for long. In 1847, a posse from Kentucky came to the city and tried to force the Crosswhites back into slavery. The citizens of Marshall, both black and white, joined the family in resisting the slavers, who were driven away.
Adam filed charges for assault and trespass, while the Kentuckians invoked the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793. As the court was stalled, the Crosswhite family moved to Canada.
The men from Kentucky took the Marshall citizens to federal court, which ruled the citizens had to pay a fine to the trespassers because of their interference.
Adam Crosswhite returned with his family to Marshall after the Civil War and he was eventually buried at Oakridge Cemetery.
Largest Underground Railroad Monument in U.S.
1 Monroe St., Battle Creek
Battle Creek was an important waystation on the Underground Railroad. You can find a monument commemorating this history near the W.K. Kellogg House park at 1 Monroe St. (note: it is different from the Kellogg House Manor in Hickory Corners, so don’t let your GPS confuse you).
It’s an impressive piece of artwork, at 28 feet long and 14 feet high. The bronze is shiny where countless hands have touched it. One side depicts Quaker stationmasters Sarah and Erastus Hussey bringing fugitives into their home. The other side depicts Harriet Tubman leading people up North. Tubman actually never stopped in Battle Creek, but her ferocious spirit and contribution to freedom have been honored.
63 Groveland St., Battle Creek
Quaker Park is the site of the last traditional Quaker Meeting House in Battle Creek. There’s a railing showing where the building used to be, and there you can find a set of footprints. They’re said to belong to Sojourner Truth, who was there when the Meeting House first opened.
According to a sign in Quaker Park: “It was partly because of the Quaker influence in Battle Creek that the city became one of the major stops on the Underground Railroad. Many influential leaders in the community are said to have housed fugitives in their homes, and the Joseph Merritt family often entertained abolitionists in their home on Maple Street (now Capital Avenue, N.E.)”
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