Ton Farm achieves national designation as significant Underground Railroad site

Professor Larry McClellan’s research recognized

information provided by the Little Calumet River Underground Railroad Project

CHICAGO, Ill. (August 28, 2019) – The National Park Service (NPS) has accepted the Jan and Aagje Tom Farm site to be included in the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom registry. The NPS has found that the location “makes a significant contribution to the understanding of the Underground Railroad in American history and that it meets the requirements for inclusion as a site.”

The Ton Farm site is located roughly at 134th Street and St. Lawrence Avenue—about 11 miles from Lansing. It originally contained 40 acres along the north bank of the Little Calumet River during the period of the 1840s until the Civil War. It has been documented that this was an important “station” on the Underground Railroad network prior to Emancipation, and had been a “safe house” for countless numbers of Freedom Seekers during their perilous journeys to Canada and other places in the northern states.

The exact location of the Ton family’s house is not known, explained Professor McClellan to participants in last November’s Freedom Trail Hike, which gave people a chance to walk the area where Freedom Seekers found refuge. (Photo: Melanie Jongsma)

Documentation had been submitted by Professor Larry McClellan (retired), the foremost authority on the Underground Railroad in northern Illinois, who had been researching this site and others in the region for years. McClellan had done the research on behalf of landowner Ronald Gaines, as well as the Little Calumet River Underground Railroad Project.

Underground Railroad
A historic drawing shows the Ton farm’s location along the Little Calumet River.
The Ton Farm is the third documented site in the area south of Chicago to gain such recognition, joining two other sites that had been selected for the national registry earlier: the Crete Congregational Church and Cemetery, and the I & M Canal Headquarters in Lockport. Both had been thoroughly researched and applied for by Prof. McClellan.

The Little Calumet River Underground Railroad Project has been conducting tours and educational events in recent years and endeavors to see a monument dedicated to Freedom Seekers and local abolitionists who risked everything to assist escaped slaves who traveled through the area.

An announcement celebration will be held at the Pullman National Monument Visitor Center (11141 S. Cottage Grove Ave. Chicago, IL 60628) on Sunday, September 29 at 4:00pm. More information is available on the Facebook page of the Little Calumet River Underground Railroad Project.

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