Cass County Underground Railroad museum facing closure

NOW: Cass County Underground Railroad museum facing closure


CASS COUNTY, Mich. – History is at risk of fading away in Cass County.

A husband and wife are hoping someone will take over an Underground Railroad museum that they created together in 1994 in Vandalia.

This weekend could be the very last time anyone steps foot in the museum unless someone else steps up.

 “Hopefully someone will hear my plea, come and please buy this place up, set me and my husband free,” said the creator of Suggs Underground Railroad Museum Martha Spencer.

Suggs Underground Railroad Museum in Vandalia, Michigan is filled with artifacts that date back to the early 1800s.

The artifacts were collected by Spencer, and since 1994, they’ve been sitting in the 5-room space that was Spencer’s childhood home.

“There’s a picture of my sister and I when we lived here in 1945,” said Spencer.

The collection began when she wanted to dig into her family’s past after her father died in the 50’s.

Since then, Martha and her family have circled the nation for decades searching for pieces of history.

“We did 500 thousand actual miles. We drove all over the country looking for all of these artifacts,” Spencer explained.  “I just got everything in here.”

Spencer tells ABC57 that Vandalia played a major role in the Underground Railroad.

“Digging deep down into history, this was one of the main stops of the Underground,” she said.

For 25 years, hundreds have traveled to the tiny town to see the museum.

“We do not have the local peoples. Peoples come from way off distance just to visit this place,” said Spencer.

But this weekend could be the last time anyone passes through the museum.

“It is farewell and goodbye,” Spencer said regretfully. “It’s gonna be torn down.”

Spencer’s husband has been critically ill for three years after multiple strokes and bouts with cancer.  At the ages of 79 and 83, the museum is too much for the couple to support.

This weekend, the Suggs Underground Railroad Museum is holding one last Suggs Freedom Festival.

Spencer says the theme of the event is ‘Black and White coming together.’

The couple plans to sell the artifacts to visitors unless –

“Hopefully someone will come through and want to restore this,” said Spencer.  “They just might restore it like it is, and I’m hoping and praying it will.”

The freedom fest will take place this Saturday and Sunday. There will be food, music, and camping.

It costs $6 to tour the museum located at 49045 North Main Street.

Spencer says her investment into history is not over. She has written two books sharing stories from the past, and she says she’s working on a third.

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