Illinois at 200: The Underground Railroad in Jacksonville


The Underground Railroad helped thousands of slaves escape north to freedom between the late 1700s and the end of the Civil War. Learning about the network of volunteers who helped in this effort is generally required reading for school kids across the United States. While reading about the Underground Railroad is one thing, getting to see the sites involved up close can have a much bigger impact. 

Many are surprised to learn that Jacksonville, IL is home to multiple sites with connections to the Underground Railroad. One of the best known is Woodlawn Farm located just east of town. The farmstead, founded in 1824, helped escaped slaves from the St. Louis area make their way north. 

In the 1840s and 50s the Huffaker family, who owned the farm, is believed to have helped escaped slaves on the journey. While little is known about the exact level of involvement they had, it is known that the isolation of the farm as well as the fact that Mr. Huffaker employed several free black workers helped in discouraging slave catchers from venturing near the property. 

“With the free blacks living on the farm, it was easy to hide runaway slaves in the cabins. Nobody would think about them being out there because there were always black people working this farm, they could go and come as they wanted.” says Morgan County Underground Railroad Committee Chairman Terry Maggart. 

The Woodlawn Farm and the 1840s home on the property are open for visitors so that everyone can experience the history of the area. The farm is open on Wednesdays, Saturdays, and Sundays from May through September. However, a special open house is being held Saturday February 24th from 10am to 4pm. 

For more information about Woodlawn Farm and the Underground Railroad sites around Jacksonville, you can visit the following websites: 

Woodlawn Farm Website 

Jacksonville Area Convention and Visitors Bureau 

To donate to Woodlawn Farm’s ongoing restoration projects, you can visit their Go Fund Me Page 

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