Young slave girl survived by hiding out on this farm

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Ginny Hall | June 27, 2014

The Dwinnell farm can be seen on Bowers Road just north of the intersection with Potters Road in the town of Lafayette. I think of it as the Dwinnell farm because when he owned the property it was a part of the Underground Railroad. 

Dwinnell wrote his autobiography in 1879 and indicated that Caroline Quarles was brought to his farm by Deacon Ezra Mendall and three other people. One of them was Lyman Goodnow, who also wrote about bringing Quarles to this farm. They needed a place to hide her during the day; they would be moving her again during the night in a few days.

According to Dwinnell's writings,  Quarles was taken the following night to the home of Deacon J.O. Puffer, about six miles away. She stayed there for one week and then Goodnow, a friend of hers from Waukesha, took her up to Canada.  She would be free up there.

Quarles and Joshua Glover are two slaves who have given southeastern Wisconsin a rich history in the Underground Railroad. It took a brave person to defy the Fugitive Slave Act, which required people who found runaway slaves to return them to their owners.

Quarles' journey through this part of the state happened in 1842. She ran away from her owner in St. Louis, making her way to Milwaukee. According to the Bur Spur Trail map information, she was befriended by a barber who later betrayed her. Thankfully, she was warned and hid under a barrel for a day before being taken to Prairieville (Waukesha) by friends. She stayed there for several days until a bounty hunter got too close. Then Goodnow took her to the Spring Prairie area before her journey to Canada. Quarles was 16 years old at the time.

Glover was another slave who escaped from St. Louis. He was captured around Racine by his owner and a U.S. marshal and then jailed in Milwaukee. Racine people rallied and rescued Glover using a battering ram to open the jail. He was hidden in the Spring Prairie area until he could return to Racine. He was able to journey by boat to Canada in 1854. 

Looking at the 1857 plat map I found that the owner of this farm was C.W. Dwinnel, who owned 240 acres. The name  was spelled with only one “L,” but in the 1873 plat book, George W. Dwinnell,?with a double “L,” is listed as the owner. 

The 1882 “History of Walworth County” says that 20-year-old George W. Dwinnell came to this county from his birthplace in Massachusetts in 1838, settling in Sections 23 and 14 in the town of Lafayette. At the first land sale in the county, he purchased 320 acres at $1.25 an acre. He married Abigail Catherine Wilson in 1845. The biographic sketch indicated that he owned 160 acres valued at $50 per acre. He had two children: Emma, now Mrs. S.A. Hartwell, and Mary, now Mrs. Frank L. Bennett. Both were living in Nebraska.

Albert Beckwith's “History of Walworth County” reports that Dwinnell's full name was George Washington Dwinnell. Around 1880 he purchased Squire Lee's house in Elkhorn. A few years later he moved to Pawnee City, Neb., probably near his daughters' homes. He died April 22, 1902.

In 1891 the owner of the Dwinnell property was shown as George Potter. This ownership continues through sometime after 1937 but before 1942. Beckwith reports that Potter was an associate supervisor for the township for three times, the last one being in 1897.

In the 1948 plat book, the owner is shown as Warren Potter. The Prairie Farmer Directory of Farmers of 1919 lists the owner as George Potter, but the farm is managed by Clarence Potter. Warren is listed as the son of Clarence.

Warren continues to be listed as the owner through the 2004 book. However, in the latter years the ownership is listed as Warren and Ida Potter. Fairgoers will remember Warren and Ida as the superintendents in the sheep department for many years.

In 2006 the farm is listed as being owned by Barbara J. Davidson and George Potter. That continued through the 2012 book.
Ginny Hall, a historian from Delavan, is author of the “Walking around ...” and “Meandering ... ” books, which highlight the history of Walworth County communities.

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