Freedom Seekers and the Underground Railroad: Ton Farm Site
The marker is located at 557 East 134th Place, Chicago
The Little Calumet River Underground Railroad Project, The National Park Service Network To Freedom, Ronald Gaines and Family, The William G. Pomeroy Foundation, and the Illinois State Historical Society
From the 1830s until the Civil War, many enslaved African descendants in the South escaped to Chicago on their way to freedom in Canada. Black and white abolitionists in the region were part of the networks of assistance known as the Underground Railroad. The old Detroit-Chicago Road was an important route for freedom seekers, and some followed this, crossing the Little Calumet River at the site of the current bridge at Indiana Avenue several blocks west of here. Their movement became far more dangerous after 1850 with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act that strengthened the laws requiring the capture and return of enslaved persons to their “owners.”
After the removal of indigenous people living along the Little Calumet, by 1835 families from eastern states were settling here. Dutch settlers arrived in 1847-49, acquiring land in areas that became Roseland and South Holland. These included Cornelius and Maartje Kuyper, and Jan and Aagje Ton. Here, on the north side of the Little Calumet, the Ton farm was established in 1853. Their home and farm buildings were on this site. The Tons, often with the Kuypers, were directly involved in aiding freedom seekers. From here, they went by wagon or on foot across the bridge at Indiana Avenue to Hammond, Indiana, and eventually crossing into Canada from Detroit.
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