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Jersey County Page     Jersey County History

Old Under Ground Station Is Still Standing Here

House Was One of First Constructed in Jersey County

Once Stood on Open Prairie

Long Cavern in Which Runaway Slaves Were Secreted Erected Before War Under Present Old Structure

One of the last landmarks of pre-slavery days in Jersey county stands on South State street on the farm now owned by Cottingham and son and which formerly belonged for years in the Snedeker family.

The old home is a landmark because of its relationship to the underground railroad of the slave days. In the basement under the old portion of the house until its acquisition by the Cottingham family, existed a log cavern joining the main basement proper in which, according to tradition many slaves were secreted during the night while on their journey into Canada and freedom.

The log cavern originally did not join the basement under the house, but was under the older portion of the house, being reached through a trap door in the floor of one of the rooms.

More than forty years ago a large addition was built by Orville Snedeker, father of Atty. I. D., and Dr. Frank Snedeker, to the eastern portion of the old house, and a basement dug under the same.

When the basement under the new portion was dug, the old log cavern was connected with the new basement. There were two underground passageways for entrance and escape purposes on either side of the log cavern under the old portion of the house.

With the acquisition of the farm by Cottingham and son the new portion of the house was torn down and the lumber used to construct a tenant house. The original house, however, remains intact.

The present house is unquestionably the oldest in this section of Illinois. When the pioneer George Washington Perrings came to this part of Illinois, he stated that the old house in question stood on the prairie. Perrings oftentimes told one of the present representatives of the Republican that he had counted twenty-six deer in a drove not a half quarter from the present structure.

The story of Perrings was corroborated by the late Chas. N. Adams, another pioneer who first lived in a log cabin, neighbor to the place, on what is now the present site of the C. P. & St. L. depot.

The house was first owned by the pioneer Same Snedeker, who with his brother, Isaac Snedeker and Newell N. Adams and George W. Burke were generally supposed to be the underground railway men in Jerseyville. At Otterville Hiram White and several others were suspected and at Lofton’s prairie were found advocates among the McDows and the Whites.

An interesting story is often recalled by Barclay Wedding of Jerseyville, a son of the pioneer, Benjamin Wedding. He remembers hearing the story told by Thomas Ford and Harley Hayes to Benjamin Wedding.

Thos. Ford was a son-in-law of the anti-slavery pioneer, Newell Adams. Hayes was a Vermonter and very strongly anti-slavery.

Information had been received that a run-away negro was hiding on Calhoun Point in the timber. Hayes and Ford drove to Mason’s landing in a spring wagon. Getting a skiff there they rowed up the river to Calhoun point.

On the way there they had talked with a man by the name of Bently who was a strong slavery advocate and constantly on the look out for runaway slaves.

About dark Hayes and Ford with the runaway slave rowed to Mason’s landing. They were met in the dark by Bently, who immediately seized one of the three and drove away with what he supposed to be the negro. The party seized was Hayes who had been blacked with burnt cork. Bently did not discover his mistake until he had driven to his home some seven miles from the point.

In the meantime Ford had made off with the runaway slave and had landed him with other friends in Jerseyville.

From this point he was sent on to Canada.

The old house was built for the centuries. Its framework is of hewn oak joined together with oaken pins and practically indestructible.

This newspaper article appears to have been printed in the Jerseyville Republican, probably February 15, 1923. Thanks to Marty Crull and Jersey County Historical Society for this page.

Jersey County Page     Jersey County History
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