Friday, February 27, 2009
Kuhn's Rock and the Underground Railroad
In 1846, an anti-slavery society was formed in Lake County. Abolitionists promoted the abolishment of slavery. Some aided escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad which wasn’t a railroad at all, but a secret network of safe houses and people who helped slaves reach freedom in the north.
Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, it was illegal to aid runaway slaves. When the act was strengthened in 1850, underground activity greatly increased. Though Ohio and Pennsylvania probably saw the most activity, Illinois had a number of underground routes. One departed from Chicago taking escaped slaves to Canada by way of the Great Lakes, and another went north over land through the area of Burlington, Wisconsin.
Photo of Kuhn Family cabin from Browe School History, 1918. LCDM 2003.0.36
Areas noted as abolitionist hot spots in Lake County included Deerfield, Gurnee, Ivanhoe, Millburn, and Waukegan. The Kuhn Family cabin (right) in Newport Township was used as a safe house.
Photo of Kuhn rock from the Browe School History, 1918. This large granite boulder was used as a landmark to direct runaway slaves to the "safe house" at the Kuhn family's cabin. LCDM 2003.0.36.
Since the railroad needed to be kept secret, there were no maps to guide escaped slaves, only the stars in the night sky, landmarks and verbal directions. Finding the Kuhn Family home in rural Lake County of the 1850s would have been a trick if not for a distinct landmark in the vicinity known as Kuhn's Rock. Shown at left is the John Strock Family on an outing to Kuhn’s rock, circa 1918.
The rock is thought to be the largest gray granite rock in the State of Illinois. It was deposited prominently on the landscape by the Laurentide Glacier as it melted and retreated north some 12,000 years ago.
Here is Bess Bower Dunn posing next to the rock, circa 1910. This photo gives a good perspective of the rock nestled on farm land. LCDM Bess Dunn Collection
With the construction of Interstate-294 in the late 1950s, the rock needed to be moved out of the road's right-of-way. Road contractors, Campanella and Sons, moved Kuhn's rock onto private property.