In the early hours of May 21, 1855, a party of enslaved Africans boarded a skiff on the Mississippi riverfront north of St. Louis. Their goal was freedom; their immediate destination, Illinois, the free state across the river. Newspapers articles published over the next five days indicate that the freedom-seekers were met on the Illinois shore by police officers and owners. Freeman, one of the organizers on the Illinois side, died of the wounds he received that night; another organizer, Mary Meachum, widow of the pastor of the First African Baptist Church of St. Louis, was arrested; Esther, one of the freedom-seekers, was sold "down river." A bicyclist pausing at the spot today looks out on a scene only slightly altered from that lit by the lanterns that night. To the south, a rusting railway bridge replaces the ferry landing, but the site itself is vacant as it was then, largely untouched by the industrial development the bridge would bring. Its location on the river side of a pedestrian and bicycle trail assures that it will remain insulated from the industrial area that lies behind the levee. The 9-acre site is well-suited for re-enactments or other celebrations of the Freedom Crossing.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: 28 E. Grand, St. Louis, 63147
National Park Unit: No
Ownership: City of St. Louis Office of the Mayor
Location Type: Site
People/Organizations Associated with the site: Henry Shaw (Owner)
Freedom Seekers: Esther (MO, 1855)
UGRR Operatives: Mary Meachum