In the mid-1800s, Jacksonville, Illinois acted as a hub for the Underground Railroad, sheltering hundreds who wished to escape the horrors of slavery. Several local historic homes served as havens on this journey to freedom, making Jacksonville one of the first such stations in the area, and by far the busiest.

Proud, educated abolitionists like Jonathan B. Turner and Edward Beecher, brother to Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, proved to be invaluable advocates for freedom. Edward Beecher was the first president of Illinois College, the first college in Illinois. Because of the strong views of many of the students and faculty, Illinois College was considered an engine of abolitionism. Benjamin Henderson, a former slave, came to Jacksonville in 1841 and immediately began working with the Underground Railroad. These men and countless others kept the spirited torch of freedom burning bright.