The Underground Railroad in Lincoln's Neighborhood

The Underground Railroad in Lincoln's Neighborhood (HMWNO)

Location: Springfield, IL 62703 Sangamon County
Country: United States of America

N 39° 47.8', W 89° 38.702'

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Inscription
The Underground Railroad refers to the efforts of enslaved African Americans to gain their freedom by escaping bondage. Acts of self-emancipation made runaways "fugitives" according to the laws of the time. While most began and completed their journeys unassisted, each subsequent decade in which slavery was legal in the United States saw an increase in active efforts to assist escape. Abraham Lincoln's neighbor, Jameson Jenkins, played an important role in the hopes of freedom seekers passing through Springfield, Illinois from the bordering slave states of Kentucky and Missouri.

Jameson Jenkins was born in North Carolina sometime around 1810. It is unclear whether he was born into slavery or free, but he was documented as being a free man by 1846. Within ten years, he had left his home state making the potentially risky trek through slave states to reach the free state of Indiana, where he married Elizabeth Pelham. In 1844, after the birth of their daughter Nancy, the family traveled on to Illinois. Soon after his arrival in Springfield, Jenkins filed his Certificate of Freedom papers with the Sangamon County Recorder of Deeds, on March 28, 1846.

Newspaper Article
Eleven run away slaves, belonging to citizens of St. Louis, and for which a reward of $300 each, was offered, were captured in this county yesterday, by individuals of this city.

On January 17, 1850, Jenkins was involved in an incident that was reported in the local newspaper as a "slave stampede." Jenkins assisted a group of runaway slaves in escaping the hands of slave catchers, and took the fugitives north to Bloomington, Illinois. During the following days, newspapers reported various and contradictory stories regarding the runaway slaves, including reporting their capture and that they were betrayed by Jenkins. Then newspapers later revealed that rather than betraying the runaway slaves, Jenkins had indeed assisted them. The newspaper also explained that the various contradictory stories were passed on to them so that the railroad car that Jenkins traveled on to Bloomington would not be discovered. Jenkins had risked his home, his livelihood, and his life to deliver freedom to those who had once been enslaved.

Two years later, on February 18, 1848 Jenkins and his family purchased a small, two-story home, which sat on the northwest corner of this lot. Jameson was an enterprising, comparatively successful drayman (teamster). the occupation of drayman was a perfect job for someone who was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. The Jenkins family contributed to their middle class neighborhood that also represented Lincoln's dream: to rise by a person's own ability, free from the shackles of slavery that deprived a human's right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Newspaper Article
Runaway Slaves Recaptured
We stated yesterday that eleven runaways from St. Louis had been recaptured by individuals of this city. We learn today that only eight were caught, and that after our publication was made seven of them made their escape, and the remaining one, who was Lame, made an assault upon his captor, but was overpowered and is now in jail - his hip having been dislocated in the emute. This is quite a revulsion of prospects with the catchers.

Details
HM NumberHMWNO
Series This marker is part of the Illinois: Lincoln Home National Historic Site series
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Marker ConditionNo reports yet
Date Added Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 at 11:33pm PDT -07:00
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Locationbig map
UTM (WGS84 Datum)16S E 273537 N 4408536
Decimal Degrees39.79666667, -89.64503333
Degrees and Decimal MinutesN 39° 47.8', W 89° 38.702'
Degrees, Minutes and Seconds39° 47' 48.00" N, 89° 38' 42.12" W
Driving DirectionsGoogle Maps
Area Code(s)217
Closest Postal AddressAt or near 500 S 8th St, Springfield IL 62703, US
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