Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau photo
Rocky Fork Church in Godfrey originated before the Civil War when free people and slaves crossed the Mississippi River to begin life in Illinois. 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.
ALTON — Take a journey on the Underground Railroad during a series of monthly two-hour guided shuttle tours scheduled for Saturdays throughout the summer courtesy of the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Seats are available for the 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, May 9, tours featuring renowned Underground Railroad historian J.E. Robinson. The shuttle tours begin at the Alton Visitors Center, 200 Piasa St. Tickets are $25 per person by calling the visitors bureau at (618) 465-6676 or (800) 258-6645. Tickets also can be purchased in person. Advance ticket purchase is suggested due to the tours’ popularity.
Robinson will be the conductor on these journeys, taking visitors to the sites throughout Alton, Godfrey and Jersey County where escaped slaves took refuge as they worked their way to freedom more than 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 location along the Mississippi River played a vital role helping slaves make connections to freedom in the northern United States. Scattered throughout Alton and surrounding areas, remnants of this period in history still exist.
A few of the stops include the Old Rock House on College Avenue, the Enos Apartments on Third Street, the Elijah P. Lovejoy Monument and burial site, the College Avenue Presbyterian Church and Rocky Fork Church.
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. 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.
Additional tours are scheduled for May 30, June 27, July 25, Aug. 29, Sept. 26 and Oct. 24.For information or to make advance registrations, contact the visitors bureau at (800) 258-6645 or go to www.visitalton.com.