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Ford Center for the Fine Arts

Underground Railroad Site Gains Park Service Recognition

The Galesburg Colony Underground Railroad Freedom Station at Knox College has been formally included in a National Park Service program, the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

"The designation means that our Freedom Station was evaluated by the National Park Service, and it was determined that we are making 'a significant contribution to the understanding of the Underground Railroad in American history'," said Owen Muelder, director of the center, which is located on the Knox College campus. Knox College and the City of Galesburg were founded in 1837 by abolitionists who harbored escaped slaves and were active, both nationally and internationally, in the anti-slavery movement.

"The Galesburg Freedom Station, along with the city and the college, will gain wide exposure in National Park Service publications, including the Park Service's website 'Network to Freedom'," Muelder said.

The Freedom Station at Knox College is housed in a historic site on campus -- the 132-year-old former Knox County Jail. It features displays about the involvement of the founders of Knox and Galesburg in the Underground Railroad.

"The Freedom Station joins a core of attractions in Galesburg, including the Lincoln-Douglas Debate Site at Old Main here at Knox, the Discovery Depot, the Railroad Museum, and the Carl Sandburg State Historic Site," Muelder said. "The planned National Railroad Hall of Fame will further reinforce Galesburg as a destination for visitors."

Muelder, who retired in 2004 as Knox's director of Alumni Affairs, has extensively researched the Underground Railroad in Illinois and has given more than 75 lectures throughout the Midwest. His book, "Lights in the Sky - Lamps on the Prairie: The Story of the Underground Railroad in Western Illinois," is scheduled be published this year by McFarland Press.

The National Park Service designation is the Galesburg Freedom Station's second national affiliation. In 2004 the Galesburg station was recognized as the first Illinois affiliate of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio.

An on-site evaluation of the Freedom Center was conducted in 2005 by James Hill, Midwest Regional Coordinator for the National Park Service.

"The designation recognizes the efforts of many people," Muelder said. "Knox President Roger Taylor and Vice President Lawrence Breitborde have backed the center from the beginning. Librarian Jeff Douglas, development officer David Amor, archivist Carley Robison, Lincoln Studies co-director Rodney Davis, professor Robert Seibert and local Knox grad and history buff Rex Cherrington all helped develop the successful application."

Founded in 1837, Knox is a national liberal arts college in Galesburg, Illinois, with students from 45 states and 44 nations. Knox's 'Old Main' is a National Historic Landmark and the only building remaining from the 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates.

Old Knox County Jail
Old Knox County Jail - Site of Underground Railroad Freedom Center at Knox

Owen Muelder
Owen Muelder

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Printed on Sunday, June 16, 2024