Bonine House receives $100,000 from McLoughlin Foundation

Published 4:14 pm Thursday, November 21, 2013

Emily McLoughlin (left) hands Cathy LaPointe, URSCC treasurer, a donation from the McLoughlin Family Foundation. (Leader photo/Provided)

Emily McLoughlin (left) hands Cathy LaPointe, URSCC treasurer, a donation from the McLoughlin Family Foundation. (Leader photo/Provided)

The Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) is celebrating Thanksgiving a little early this year.

The non-profit whose mission is to tell the story or the Underground Railroad in Cass County, as well as to restore the historic Bonine House and Carriage House, has received a gift of $100,000 from the McLoughlin Family Foundation of Cassopolis.

“To say I was stunned is the understatement of the century,” said Cathy LaPointe, treasurer of URSCC. “The generosity of the McLoughlin family is legendary and we are so grateful to them, not only for this incredible donation, but for their trust in our organization and their belief in our goals.”

She credits URSCC members Lois Cross Hart and Kelli Fiala and renowned artist Paul Collins and  Carol Collins, for being instrumental in presenting this project.

Mike Moroz, president of URSCC, said the gift would allow continued restoration of the James E. Bonine House at Penn Rd and M-60 in Vandalia with plans to restore the iconic porches this summer. The home will serve as a community events and UGRR education center.

The gift will also fund an engineering study and emergency repairs for the Carriage House across the street, where fugitive slaves (called “freedom seekers”) were sheltered, making it a station on the Underground Railroad, one of several stations in the area.  It is claimed that over 1,500 freedom seekers were helped to freedom in Canada by Cass County Quakers, African Americans and other abolitionists from 1830-1860, prompting Henry Clay to call Vandalia “a hotbed of abolitionism” on the floor of the US Senate.

The infamous “Kentucky Raid” of 1847 that occurred on the M-60 corridor between Vandalia and Cassopolis, provided impetus for the Civil War. Many freedom seekers settled here and created a unique community that exists even to this day.

Michael McLoughlin, foundation president, honored freedom seekers as well as those who helped them. He said that it took courage to escape from slavery, and it also took courage to risk your own life and property to help people you didn’t even know. He said that today when injustice is seen, all too often people don’t do anything — except perhaps record a video for Youtube. He was also impressed with the number of actual Underground Railroad sites in this area. There are three standing UGRR stations within two miles of K&M, the McLoughlin family business, and fourteen sites on the URSCC self-guided driving tour of the area around Vandalia.

LaPointe noted that URSCC has a nine member Board of Directors and over 350 members, mostly local, who are the backbone of the organization. They have donated generously since its founding in 2010, allowing great progress on restoration of the Bonine House as well as implementation of URSCC educational programs.

“We continue to need and value our members’ support as we still have a long list of projects to complete, including restoration of the Carriage House. This gift by the McLoughlin Family opens new doors for us, as well as for this community.  This area can and should become a historic district — it has an amazing story to tell, and we will persevere in our commitment to tell it,” she said.

More information on URSCC as well as the Underground Railroad in Cass County can be found on