“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Cassopolis in Cass County, Michigan — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Freedom Road

Michigan Legal Milestone

Freedom Road Marker image. Click for full size.
By Dennis Allen Burlingham, November 27, 2010
1. Freedom Road Marker
Inscription. Beginning in 1829, Penn, Calvin, and Porter townships in Cass County were settled by Quakers who migrated there. Free Blacks also settled there, and both groups lived in harmony. Blacks in Cass County enjoyed many rights, such as the right to own land, the right to trial by jury, and the right to vote in elections—rights not available to all Blacks in the nation until the passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The free Blacks and Quakers in this area were the backbone of the Underground Railroad, a network that provided food, shelter, employment, and assistance to those fleeing bondage while on the road to freedom in Canada, where slavery was illegal.

In August 1847, in one of the largest of many raids in Michigan, about 20 to 30 heavily armed men from Kentucky sought to recapture those who had escaped Kentucky slavery and remained in Cass County. The Kentuckians captured nine fugitives from four Quaker farms. Free Blacks and Quakers surrounded the raiders and persuaded them to go to Cassopolis for a legal decision. On the fugitives' assertion, 14 raiders were arrested for assault and battery, kidnapping, and trespass. A Berrien court commissioner heard the case and released the fugitives because the raiders could not produce a certified copy of the Kentucky statutes showing slavery was legal, although they did have bills of sale. While the Kentuckians were on trial, 45 fugitives, including the 9 captured in the raid, escaped to Canada. The Berrien commissioner was later found not to have jurisdiction.

Seven Quakers were sued in U.S. District Court in Detroit for the value of the escapees. The trial ended in a hung jury, but, facing a retrial, two of the defendants paid damages and court costs in the final settlement. Incidents like these infuriated southern slave owners, who influenced Congress to adopt the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, making it easier for them to recover runaways. Michigan passed a Personal Liberty Act in 1855 to try to neutralize the federal law, and the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, ratified soon after the Civil War, made slavery illegal in the United States.
Erected 2005 by The State Bar of Michigan and Cass County Bar Association. (Marker Number 30.)
Location. 41° 54.703′ N, 86° 0.712′ W. Marker is in Cassopolis, Michigan, in Cass County. Marker is at the intersection of State St. (Road M-60) and Broadway Ave. (Road M-62), on the right when traveling west on State St.. Click for map. Marker stands at the South side of the courthouse next to the sidewalk. Near the intersection of M-60 and M-62. Marker is at or near this postal address: 100 E. State St., Cassopolis MI 49031, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 7 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Cass County Courthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Cassopolis Veterans Memorial (approx. 0.3 miles away); Lewis Cass (approx. 0.4 miles away); Captain Iven C. Kincheloe Memorial (approx. 2 miles away); Cass County Veterans Memorial (approx. 2.3 miles away); The Underground Railway (approx. 2.8 miles away); The Underground Railroad (approx. 4.9 miles away); Birch Lake Meeting House (approx. 6.8 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Cassopolis.
Regarding Freedom Road. Michigan Legal Milestone recognizes significant legal cases and personalities in the state's history, and places bronze plaques at featured sites to document the historical significance.
Categories. Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansEducationNotable Events

Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Dennis Allen Burlingham of Hartford, Michigan, USA. This page has been viewed 638 times since then and 105 times this year. Last updated on , by Joel Seewald of Madison Heights, Michigan. Photo   1. submitted on , by Dennis Allen Burlingham of Hartford, Michigan, USA. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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