Take a journey on the infamous Underground Railroad in Alton, Illinois during a series of two-hour guided shuttle tours scheduled for Saturdays courtesy of the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Mr. Robinson will be the conductor on these journeys taking visitors to the sites scattered throughout Alton and Godfrey where escaped slaves took refuge as they worked their way to freedom over 150 years ago. While there were no railroad tracks or trains present on the Underground Railroad, the effort to find freedom from slavery resulted in a series of deliberate and organized safe places for those escaping bondage. Located in the free state of Illinois, Alton’s riverfront location along the Mighty Mississippi played a vital role in helping slaves make connections to freedom in the northern U.S. Scattered throughout Alton and surrounding areas, remnants of this period in history still exist.
A few of the stops will include the Enos Apartments on 3rd Street, the New Bethel-Rocky Fork AME Church, and the Union Baptist Church.
New Bethel-Rocky Fork AME Church, which is located in Godfrey, originated before the Civil War when free people and slaves crossed the Mississippi River to begin life in Illinois, which was a free state. According to the National Park Service, as early as 1816, Rocky Fork Church was one of the first Free State stops for slaves escaping Missouri. In the 1830s, a more organized Underground Railroad route was established through the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This area continued to serve as both a way stop and escapee community after the Missouri Emancipation Proclamation of 1865.
Alton’s Union Baptist Church is one of the oldest Black churches in Illinois. It was populated by free Blacks as early as the 1820’s. John Livingstone, Union Baptist’s founding pastor, was Alton abolitionist newspaper editor Elijah P. Lovejoy’s pressman prior to Lovejoy’s death in 1837 by an anti-abolitionist mob.
For more information on the Underground Railroad shuttle tours or to make advance registrations, please contact the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 258-6645 or go to VisitAlton.com/Shuttle.