LifestyleBlack History Month


Wisconsin's history with the Underground Railroad lives on through Milton House

Posted at 7:33 AM, Feb 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-28 08:33:40-05

MILTON -- Wisconsin has a rich abolitionist history and a connection to the Underground Railroad. Anchor Shannon Sims took the drive to Milton, Wisconsin.

It is a hidden Wisconsin treasure, nestled in rock county.

In the 1800s, the Milton house was more than just a stop for weary stagecoach travelers.

"It was a post office at one time so locals would have been in and out. So, having people arrive at odd times and odd ways would not have raised any eyebrows," said Milton House Executive Director Keighton Klos.


Inn owners, Joseph and Nancy Goodrich, were also secretly providing refuge to runaway slaves who had come up the Mississippi River to the Rock River in Milton.

Klos explains how this secret system worked once Joseph's brother pulled his covered wagon up to the cabin behind the inn.

"They would have been brought in through this door and came into this space, they probably thought great we get to stay in the cabin and then they said 'now climb down in this dark hole' and they were like 'what?'"

Milton House

The hole led to a 45-foot-long tunnel just 4 feet high. The small quarters required the freedom seekers to crawl to get to a root cellar at the opposite end.

"We don't know how long freedom seekers were kept down here it depended on a couple of factors it could depend on a couple of hours a day or a week," said Klos.

The Underground Railroad was a network of safe-havens.


"This would have been a stop on their probably eventual journey to Canada because that would have been their only guarantee of freedom," said Klos.

For more than 160 years, this site stands as a beacon and reminder of the town's rich past. Klos strongly believes the history of the Milton House is not just for Black Americans but relevant for all Americans.

"You can study about the Underground Railroad, you can read the narratives, see the pictures but to be in the space where it actually happened, and people were running for their lives, I think is a very moving experience and is something you can't get if you can't be in the space."

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