Underground Railroad Days to return to Vandalia July 13-14

Published 4:55 pm Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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VANDALIA — The Village of Vandalia and the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County will once again team up to celebrate the heritage of the Underground Railroad in the area. 

Underground Railroad Days, an annual festival co-sponsored by the Village of Vandalia and the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, will be held Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14. Hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday with activities centered around Milo Barnes Park on M-60 in Vandalia.

The festival celebrates the legacy of the Underground Railroad in Cass County, particularly the area around Vandalia – Calvin, Porter and Penn Townships – known as “Youngs Prairie” at the time. 

The UGRR existed in this area from 1830 to 1860 and it is estimated about 1500 fugitive slaves – now called freedom seekers – passed through this area on their way to Canada. Many stayed for a time and worked on Quaker farms. They were targets of the infamous 1847 Kentucky Slave Raid.

The Village of Vandalia will sponsor arts and crafts booths and a community church service on Sunday morning on the Village grounds. The Underground Railroad Society sponsors guided tours of Kentucky Raid sites. There are Open Houses at UGRR sites James E. Bonine House, the Bonine Carriage House and the Stephen Bogue House. The 102nd US Colored Troops will present a “living history” encampment. 

There will also be displays and presentations in the Vandalia Youth Center. 

New this year is the opening of Brownsville School No. 1 will open for the first time. The school was integrated when opened in 1840 and right up until 1957 when it closed. It was the first and longest integrated public school in Michigan and perhaps in the whole country.  

The debut of URSCC’s new documentary “Young’s Prairie: Underground Railroad And Its Legacy In Cass County, Michigan” will take place at 7 p.m. Friday, July 12 at Ross-Beatty High School in Cassopolis. The film will run again in Vandalia Youth Center on Saturday and Sunday.  

The annual car show will take place from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, July 13 next to the youth center. 

Parking and all events are free. For more information, view urscc.org.