The Underground Railroad in McDonough County, Illinois

D. N. Blazer

A branch of the underground railroad which started at Quincy on the Missouri-Illinois line ran through McDonough County (where Macomb, Illinois, is situated). D.N Blazer’s recounted his recollections of his family’s abolitionist activities in an address to the county historical society in 1922. I give here my much condensed version of his remarks, in hopes you will listen to or read the full account. It would be well worth your time.

“The last cargo of negroes passed over the Underground Railway in McDonough county in 1860. They were brought into a river town and were to be delivered the next morning, when the master would get his money, but that night they all escaped . . . I was aroused and told to go to my uncle’s to inform him . . . I rapped gently on the window of Uncle John’s bedroom. He signalled with a light tapping on the pane to let me know that he understood. I returned home, and by the time I had reached there, the negroes had been stowed away, each in a shock of corn, and supplied with food and water . . . I recall very well that while the dozen negroes sat and sweated in the corn shocks, for it was a hot September day, my father and John Blazer flailed buckwheat . . . They had “company” all day long . . . No one stayed very long, but one visitor was not any more than gone when another rode up . . . The visitors were not the only people who had guns, for two rifles stood inside the fence, while I sat on the fence, listened and watched and reported who was coming. The sober, quiet, determined men knew that trouble was ahead of them and when, by themselves, talked over their plans for the coming night when the valuable cargo must be delivered to the next station . . .

My father, when the time came, started up the prairie just after dark with a wagon load of grain covered with a tarpaulin. Before he had gone a half mile some twenty-five or thirty horsemen rode up, all carrying guns . . . (Meanwhile) John and the colored boys swung off towards the timber. Ten or twelve men . . . came back that night and threw clubs and rocks on our house and shouted and yelled. My mother went to the door, which had no lock, and stood with an ax in her hand, ready to protect her home and children.”

 


I recorded The Underground Railroad in McDonough County, Illinois for Vol. 44 of the Nonfiction Collection.

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