Museum explores Underground Railroad

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Darryl J. Enriquez | February 19, 2014

BURLINGTON — Caroline Quarles, a young slave from St. Louis, Mo., escaped to Canada in 1842 with the help of Burlington abolitionists, who hid her at a stop along the Underground Railroad to evade pursuing bounty hunters.

The railroad that partially snaked through Wisconsin was neither a train nor underground. It was a network of secret routes and safe houses used by slaves prior to their Civil War emancipation to escape bondage.

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One such lifeline to freedom swung through Prairieville, a settlement on the Fox River later renamed Waukesha. The same route skirted outside of Burlington to the area known as Spring Prairie in Walworth County.

The Waukesha County Museum is commemorating that slice of the area's heritage through the traveling exhibit, “Passage to Freedom, Secrets of the Underground Railroad.” The display runs through June 14 at the museum, 101 W. Main St., Waukesha.

"There were a lot of vocal abolitionist groups around the areas that are now Waukesha and Walworth counties,” said Elisabeth Engel, director of museum collections and exhibitions. “The exhibit displays their lives on the Underground Railroad and what their lives became in Canada.” 

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