CHICAGO — State and local leaders along with members of the community are commemorating Illinois’ rich history with a new historical marker honoring an Underground Railroad site on the far South Side.
The Jan and Aagje Ton Farm received state recognition at Chicago’s Finest Marina, as a place of refuge for escaped slaves seeking freedom.
Chicago’s Finest Marina sits on land once known in the mid-1800s as ‘Ton Farm.’
The Tons were Dutch farmers, who often, with the help of another Dutch family, used their property as a site on the Underground Railroad helping freedom seekers escape slavery.
While decades of untold history come to light, Joyce K. Powell reminisced of growing up in Altgeld Gardens, a neighborhood just northeast of the new landmark, and not ever being aware of the significant history that came with it.
She said she is proud to be living so close to land that once aided her ancestors to freedom.
“I grew up around Altgeld Gardens — so close to it — and I never knew,” Powell said. “I’m hoping something can be done every year to bring attention and awareness to this plight because it’s so important.”
According to Professor and community historian, Emeritus Larry McClean, 500-800 freedom seekers left Chicago by foot and headed to Detroit and Canada to pursue their freedom.
During her remarks, Congresswoman Robin Kelly said sites like Ton Farm serve as an inspiration to always do what is right.
“There is so much going on in our country right now that will require brave citizens in our country to stand up and do the right thing,” Kelly said. “The Underground Railroad provides important lessons for our children and grandchildren.”
The National Park Service added the Ton Farm site to the Network to Freedom program in 2019. This marked as its official recognition as an Underground Railroad station.