ALTON ‒ As we turn back the hands of time, your “conductor” will lead you to sites and introduce you to the individuals who played a key role in the Alton region's Underground Railroad system.
Join us on our additional Underground Railroad shuttle tours offered by the Alton Regional Convention & Visitors Bureau and Bluff City Tours to learn of Priscilla Baltimore, considered to be “The Moses of the West.” The tours will also include a visit to the compelling Rocky Fork Church exhibit, a beacon to both slaves and free people who followed the creek and established homes; the old rock house, home to the Illinois Anti-Slavery society of 1837, Lovejoy's church and monument, and a special visit to see the tunnels used by slaves on their journey north in search of their freedom. Tour dates are March 1 and March 15 at 10 a.m. and again at 1 p.m.
These tours were added after the original four Underground Railroad tours quickly sold out.
“We had such a great success with our first set and had a waiting list for more,” Brett Stawar, CEO/President of the Alton Regional CVB, said. “The Underground Railroad is an important piece of the history of the area and we wanted to offer additional opportunities for people to experience it themselves.”
The tours are scheduled for 10 a.m. to noon and also from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on both days. Cost is $25 per person. Boarding will be at the Alton Visitor Center, 200 Piasa St., Alton, Ill., 62002, and the shuttle will return passengers to the visitor center at the conclusion of the tour.
Located in the free state of Illinois, Alton’s riverfront location along the Mississippi River played a vital role helping slaves make connections to the freedom of the northern United States. Buried beneath the streets of Alton, remnants of this period in history still exist. There are more than nine Underground Railroad sites throughout the region including Alton, Godfrey and Jersey County.
The Old Rock House was the site of the Anti-Slavery Society and a station on the railroad. At the Enos Apartments, underground tunnels exist 15 feet below Third Street and resemble Roman catacombs. The building played a crucial role during the Civil War as an Underground Railroad stop. The basement contains a sealed tunnel that reportedly was the passageway to hidden rooms where slaves rested during the day before traveling at night to the next safe house.
Rocky Fork Church in Godfrey originated before the Civil War when free people and slaves crossed the Mississippi River to begin life in Illinois, 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.
For information on the Underground Railroad shuttle tours or to make reservations, contact the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau at (800) 258-6645 or go to www.VisitAlton.com/Shuttle.