A Michigan Historic Site plaque commemorates the spot where Erastus Hussey lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, though the home no longer exists. A Quaker, Hussey was Battle Creek’s mayor and a state senator whose Battle Creek home was a station on the Underground Railroad. Hussey was an editor of the “Liberty Press,” a member of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society and, as senator, introduced Michigan’s Personal Freedom Act of 1855, which helped restrict the Federal 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. He was instrumental in assisting 50-some fugitives during the “Kentucky Raid” in Cass County and helped over 1,000 freedom seekers on their way to Canada.
The George DeBaptiste Homesite is marked by a historical plaque on the Southwest corner of East Larned and Beaubien Streets in Detroit. DeBaptiste was a key leader in Detroit’s black abolitionist community, participating in the Detroit Colored Vigilant Committee, Underground Railroad activities and recruiting men to enlist in Michigan’s Colored 102nd Infantry Regiment during the Civil War.
George McCoy was born into slavery in Kentucky but was freed at the age of twenty-one by his wealthy Irish-American father Henry McCoy. Around 1837 George married an enslaved woman named Milly whose two brothers had recently been sold away. Shortly after their marriage, George convinced Milly to travel with him to freedom in Canada. Helped by Underground Railroad agents in Cincinnati, the couple was pursued by slave hunters as they made their way to Detroit. From Detroit, the McCoys crossed into Canada, settling in Colchester where their first five children were born. Interestingly, the McCoy family moved back to the States after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act. They settled on the Starkweather farm northwest of Ypsilanti where George McCoy grew tobacco and made cigars. His daughter Anna related how her father used his false-bottomed wagon to transport Freedom Seekers underneath his loads of cigars on frequent trips to Detroit and Wyandotte. George and Milly McCoy had a total of twelve ...
The International Underground Railroad Memorial consists of two bronze sculptures by African American artist Ed Dwight. “The Gateway to Freedom,” below Detroit’s Hart Plaza, depicts freedom seekers being directed across the Detroit River. “The Tower of Freedom” is situated across the Detroit River in Windsor’s Civic Esplanade, and represents African Americans newly arrived into “The Queen’s Domain” of freedom from slavery.
John Zimmerman’s Greek Revival house in Union City, Michigan dates from about 1840. The house at 119 E. High Street was listed on the State Register of Historic Places in 1983 and is now a private residence. Zimmerman was a blacksmith from New York State who hid fugitive slaves in his home.
Disenfranchised black members of First Baptist Church began organizing amongst themselves, forming Second Baptist Church over the course of several months between 1836 and 1837. Madison J. Lightfoot, Cornelius Mitchell and William Scott formally withdrew from the segregated First Baptist Church in 1837, and all black congregants followed suit within that year. As Michigan’s first black church, Second Baptist played many roles in the state. In addition to serving as a center of spiritual growth for Detroit’s black community, Second Baptist was a well-known “station” on the Underground Railroad.
In 1853, Seymour Finney purchased a lot on the corner at Woodward and Gratiot in Detroit and erected a four-story temperance hotel called The Finney Hotel. Nearby, on the Northeast corner of Griswold and State, he built a horse barn that was used to harbor fugitive slaves escaping to Canada. A Michigan Historical site plaque now marks the site of Finney’s Barn.
William Webb Harwood was one of the founding fathers of Ypsilanti as well as an active worker on the Underground Railroad. His house still stands, with one of its hiding spots in the basement revealed during restoration in 2006. Harwood was close friends with fellow Underground Railroad agent Asher Aray, an African American neighbor. The Harwoods and Arays are buried in the cemetery behind the house.
Prior Foster founded the Woodstock Manual Labor Institute in 1844 in Addison, Lenawee County, Michigan. The Committee of Colored People of Massillon, Ohio gave him money to establish a school for African American students, believing that Michigan was more hospitable to blacks than Ohio due to a recent increase in racial mob violence. Although the school’s charter suggests that it was an integrated school, in practice the institute catered to the African American community in rural Michigan. The school remained open until the end of the Civil War.