Illinois College had close antislavery ties with the abolitionist and Underground Railroad movements from its inception. The College was founded in 1829 by local trustees and seven Yale graduates—all opposed to slavery. Its first president, Edward Beecher, and two College trustees helped organize the Illinois State Antislavery Society in 1837. Many of the early settlers in the region, however, had come from Border States and were pro-slavery. Despite this hostile environment, the College Staff and the majority of the students they influenced upheld strong antislavery principles. A few even acted to assist freedom seekers through the Underground Railroad. Some were arrested and all suffered threats and harassment. Professor Jonathan Baldwin Turner, a member of the Underground Railroad, helped guide three fleeing Negro women to safe haven from which they eventually reached freedom in Canada. Samuel Willard, an Illinois College student, was prosecuted and fined for attempting to free an escaping slave. Other students were the target of organized protests by pro-slavery advocates who were outraged by their participation in Underground Railroad activities. Early Illinois College, consisting of Beecher Hall and the former College Building, was clearly an academic center that motivated strong antislavery actions as well as beliefs.
Visitor Information: Currently open to public.
Location: 1101 W. College Ave., Jacksonville, 62650
National Park Unit: Yes
Ownership: Dr. Axel Steuer, President
Location Type: Site
Religious Denominations: Congregational