Juneteenth 2024: Michiana stations along the Underground Railroad

Juneteenth 2024: Michiana stations along the Underground Railroad

VANDALIA, Mich. -- Juneteenth is the newest national holiday in the United States, marking the day in 1865 when slaves in Texas learned they were free, more than two years after President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation.

It only became a federal holiday in 2021, but Michiana has a long history of fighting for freedom of enslaved people.

ABC57 News was able to take a history tour of sorts to a couple of spots in Southwest Michigan that served as stations on the Underground Railroad.

Our first stop is Bear Cave, located near Buchanan off North Redbud Trail.

The cave is located inside the Bear Cave Resort campground and RV park and is a small fee for a self-guided tour.

"What we've been told over the years, it was just kind of a pit stop between here and Canada," said Adam Morris, Bear Cave RV Campground property manager.

Even in a free state like Michigan, escaped slaves could face recapture, so the ultimate goal for many was Canada, hiding at "stations" along the way.

"With it being a natural-formed cave, it just seemed a logical spot to stay and hide," Morris said.

Our next stop is the Bonine House in Vandalia, one station of many in Cass County where white Americans helped hide and transport those who were enslaved.

"It's estimated that 1,500 freedom seekers came through this area on their way to freedom," he said.

Cindy Yawkey, head docent of the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County said the Bonine family hid freedom seekers on the third floor of their carriage house across the street.

"The Bonines were Quakers," she said, "and Quakers believed that slavery was a sin against God and man. They also were abolitionists. They wanted to abolish slavery real quick. And I think it says a lot about the people in this area."

July 13 and 14 will be Underground Railroad Days in Vandalia.  Information can be found here.

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