Did you know that Chicago was a very important stop on the Underground Railroad? Several well-known abolitionists helped fugitive slaves travel through Chicago to destinations north, including Canada. Also, a black congregation that was one of the earliest in existence was a stop on the Underground Railroad. That church was Olivet Baptist Church on the South Side.
Chicago abolitionists included physician C.V. Dyer and Philo Carpenter, a pharmacist, who operated Underground Railroad stations in his home and in his church. There were also several early Black settlers who were abolitionists and operators on the UGRR, including John Jones, a wealthy owner of a tailor shop in the downtown district. He and his wife, Mary Richardson Jones, harbored many runaway slaves on their way to freedom in Canada.
Two other African Americans also harbored fugitives in Chicago. They were Joseph Henry Hudlun (pictured here) and his wife, Anna. They were thought to be the first African Americans to both build and own a home in Chicago. The house was located on Third Avenue near Dearborn Station. Joseph worked throughout his life for the Chicago Board of Trade. During the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, he was instrumental in saving many valuable documents from the conflagration. He and his wife sheltered the needy and Anna is known as the “fire angel” for the help she gave to the homeless during the Fire.
If you want to learn more about the UGRR in Chicago, check out The Underground Railroad in Illinois by Glennette Tilley Turner
Bernard C. Turner