Wisconsin’s Role In Taking The Underground
Railroad to Freedom
activity did not literally take place underground or via a railroad, nor was it an official organization with defined structure. It was simply a
network of people who attempted to move enslaved individuals escaping from slavery to and from safe places in a orderly and largely
secretive manner.

In the Deep South, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 made capturing escaped slaves a lucrative business, and there were few hiding places for
them. Fugitive slaves were typically on their own until they got to certain points farther north.

The Underground Railroad network included Quakers, free Black persons, abolitionists and sympathizers. This network secretly operated safe-
houses and communicated with each other in secret to navigate runaway slaves on the path to freedom.

The people involved with the Underground Railroad developed their own terminology to describe participants, safe places and other codes that
needed to be kept secret. People who guided slaves from place to place were called "conductors." Locations where slaves could safely find
protection, food or a place to sleep were called "safe houses" or "stations." Those who hid fugitive slaves in their homes, barns or churches
were called "station masters." Slaves who were in the safekeeping of a conductor or station master were "cargo." Code words were also used
to enable fugitive slaves to find their way North.

“I was a “conductor” for eight years and I can say what most conductors can’t say; I never ran my train off the track and I never
lost a passenger.” — Harriet Tubman
As an African American, some of my father’s family that had not moved north,
were sharecroppers in Mississippi. As a young girl, on one visit I saw cotton
growing.  I had some understanding of slavery and wanted the experience of
picking it. The cotton was not at all what I had expected; there where thorns and
the task was not an easy or quick process.  That day really made me think about
the people, some of my ancestors, who had to do this all day, every day.  I
remember appreciating my life a lot more.

“If you have the opportunity to help; you have the responsibility to help.” —
Unknown

One day I was bored and wanted something different to do. Through an Internet
search, to my surprise, I found three Underground Railroad locations right here in
Wisconsin.  I chose to visit the Milton House Museum, in Milton WI, as this one
was nearest to me.

The Underground Railroad is a term for the covert network of people and places
that assisted fugitive slaves as they escaped from slavery in the South. Most
widespread during the three decades prior to the Civil War, this activity primarily
took place in the regions bordering slave states. Of course, Underground Railroad
The Milton House Museum promises, “Our guest will be able to walk the
very path of history as they travel through the same secret passageway that
ushered freedom seekers to shelter on the Underground Railroad.”  I am
not going to give away the guided tour but they absolutely live up to their
promise and the following are but a few highlights.  You will see and
experience:  how and where the escaped slaves arrived and left, the
passage to the hiding place, and where they hid. You will learn about life in
Wisconsin in the 1800’s, as well as the who, what, when and why the
railroad started in Milton, WI.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. said life’s most persistent and urgent
question is “What are you doing for others?”

I left the Milton House Museum grateful that this home had been preserved
for generations to know the effort against slavery that took place behind its
walls.  The work of the Underground Railroad resulted in freedom for
many men, women, and children. It also helped undermine the institution of
slavery, which was finally ended in the United States during the Civil War.
Through this experience, I was able to walk in the footsteps of history.  I
truly realized the perils, fears, and risks undertaken by humans attempting
to escape slavery’s chains. This short trip was truly an experience that
stimulated my senses, my mind and soul that I highly recommend all to
partake.

“If you can help you have a responsibility to help.” — Unknown

For more information on the Milton House Museum, visit https://en.m.
wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Underground_Railroad_sites