In Travel & Visitors Guide

BURSPUR provided route to freedom

You can almost see the people, traveling the Underground Railroad route, in their escape from slavery to freedom. The Burlington, Rochester and Spring Prairie Underground Railroad (BURSPUR) trail in Racine and Walworth counties was taken by hundreds of freedom seekers.

The BURSPUR is part of the Racine County Underground Railroad Heritage Trail. Together the two routes are national destination sites offering tourists, residents and school children the opportunity to travel the pathway to freedom that ran in the 1840s, 50s and through the Civil War.

Run by abolitionists who defied the Fugitive Slave Act and its pro-slavery pronouncements, the Underground Railroad also included parts of Kenosha, Waukesha and Milwaukee counties.

The BURSPUR route concentrates on the stories of Caroline Quarlls and Joshua Glover. Quarlls was 16 when she ran away from her St. Louis mistress in 1842 and made her way to Milwaukee. She hid under a barrel to avoid bounty hunters and eventually was brought to Spring Prairie and by buggy to Canada.

Glover escaped to Racine in 1852. He was seized by his master and a U.S. marshal and jailed in Milwaukee. But, a crowd used a battering ram to free him. Glover escaped through Prairieville (now Waukesha), and Rochester in Racine County and eventually via boat to Canada.

Quarlls and Glover are just people of hundreds with similar stories. The Underground Railroad seldom used conventional railroad lines, but consisted of a variety of makeshift modes of transportation.

Lyman Goodnow and Chauncey Olin, abolitionists who helped Quarlls and Glover, wrote extensively about their work with the Underground Railroad and thus provided much of the information that led to establishment of the BURSPUR.

You can start the turn of the BURSPUR at the Burlington Historical Society Museum at the corner of Jefferson Street and Perkins Boulevard in Burlington. One of the prize possessions of the museum is a monument honoring Dr. Edward Galusha Dyer, considered the "commander in chief" of the Underground Railroad.

Dr. Dyer first wrote extensively to newspapers against slavery and had his letters published by Horace Greeley and others. He helped organize the Territorial Anti-Slavery Society in 1842 and was a stockholder and agent of the American Freeman, an abolitionist newspaper published first in Milwaukee and then in Waukesha.

To the south of the museum is the Joel Henry Cooper house, where Glover was hidden for a while. At Lincoln School, near the corner of Perkins and State, you'll find another monument honoring Dr. Dyer. Across the street is the Origen Perkins house. Perkins also helped hide escaped slaves in a shed that was attached to the house.

Just west of the Perkins house stands the Dyer house and Old Settlers Monument, topped by a Great Lakes sailing ship, much like the ships used to transport some escaped slaves to Canada.

Harriet Mabel Norton, Dr. Dyer's granddaughter, liked to tell the story of how as a child she crept up to the attic in the Dyer home, only to make out two terrified eyes in the dark. With a piercing cry, she fled downstairs. She was not allowed to return to school for several days until the fugitive was well on his way to safety.

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OMCreader | June 12, 2006 at 1:55 p.m. (report)

FUnki said: Is that how all these Illegals got in?

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OMCreader | June 12, 2006 at 1:08 p.m. (report)

Gregg Hoffmann said: Guy...No map is available online, but if you call the Burlington Historical Society at 262-763-6044 they have one in print.

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OMCreader | June 11, 2006 at 10:03 p.m. (report)

Guy Tracy said: Kenosha is the area that I am interrested in. I sent an earlier e-mail about a map of the BURSPUR route to freedom.

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OMCreader | June 11, 2006 at 9:57 p.m. (report)

Guy Tracy said: Could you please show me a map of the BURSPUR route. I would like to know if it went through my area. Thank you!

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