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At Home in Wisconsin

The Underground Railroad in Wisconsin
See the Wisconsin Network to Freedom

Slavery in Wisconsin
Slaves were brought to the Wisconsin Territory as personal servants and as workers in the lead mining region during the 1820s.

The Position of Wisconsin's Churches in the Anti-Slavery Movement [1843-1855]
In contrast to southern churches, among which the sentiment was often held that "[the abolitionists are] traitors to their God, who in his beneficent wisdom, ordained the institution of slavery," the Wisconsin churches widely and actively viewed "the Anti-Slavery enterprise as being based on the principle of the Gospel."

The Rosendale Scott Club [1852]
On October 8, 1852, two years before the new Republican party would supplant the Whigs in their opposition to slavery, the Oshkosh Democrat reported that the Rosendale Whigs were organizing a "Scott Club." Among the resolutions of the new organization were a declaration of "vigilant resistance" against the legalization of slavery in any of the nation's territories and "everlasting protest" against the hunting of fugitive slaves in free states.

Frederick Douglass in Wisconsin [1854-1859]
Born in 1818 in Maryland as a slave, self-educated, confidant of Lincoln and John Brown, Douglass became one of the most eloquent of spokesmen for African Americans and the anti-slavery cause. Between 1854 and 1860, he was also a frequent visitor to Wisconsin.

Jim Lane in Wisconsin [1856]
In 1856, at the height of the struggle between pro-slavery and anti-slavery forces in Kansas, Lane, a leader of the anti-slavery forces, made a speaking tour of the state.

H. Ford Douglass in Wisconsin, [1858-1859]
H. Ford Douglass, a black orator from Ohio and later Illinois, toured Wisconsin between the 1856 and 1860 presidential elections, speaking on behalf of the anti-slavery cause.

The Wide Awakes in Wisconsin [1860]
Organized during the presidential campaigns of 1856 and 1860, the Wide Awakes were ostensibly local political clubs for getting out the Republican vote. In the South, however, they were viewed as quasi-military organizations intended to intimidate pro-slavery advocates, and in several states including Wisconsin they were associated with incidents of militant activity.

Republican Club Organization in Fond du Lac and Waupun Counties [1860]
In anticipation of Lincoln's 1860 presidential campaign, Republican Clubs organized at the local level throughout the state, interchangeably with the Wide Awakes.

Ripon's Booth War: Aftermath of the Fugitive Slave Act in Wisconsin [1860]
Arrested in 1854 for his role in freeing an escaped slave, Joshua Glover, and freed by the Wisconsin Supreme Court, Sherman Booth, notorious Wisconsin spokesman for abolition, was the center of a six-year legal struggle between state and federal governments. In 1860, after being rearrested, Booth was forcibly freed from the Milwaukee Custom House, and for two months was the subject of violent clashes between federal marshals and sympathizers in the vicinity of Ripon.

Wisconsin in Washington

Background: The Slavery Issue in Washington

A Review of the President's Message: Speech of Honorable Charles Billinghurst of [Juneau, Dodge County] Wisconsin In the House of Representatives [1856]

 The Potter-Pryor Quarrel [1860]
As the election year of 1860 progressed, tempers in Congress began to shorten. Among the notorious incidents widely reported across the country was the confrontation between Wisconsin's Representative to Congress, John Potter, and Virginia's Representative Roger Pryor. Initiated as a verbal sparring match on the floor of the House, it escalated to a threatened duel.

The Wisconsin Presence in Territorial Kansas

Lawrence University Ties to Kansas
Amos Lawrence, founder of Lawrence University in Appleton and the state university in Lawrence, Kansas, was also a staunch abolitionist and directed much of his philanthropy to the support of the New England Emigrant Aid Society. Through his interest in a free Kansas, he became a personal friend of John Brown and shipped to Brown the guns eventually used at Harpers Ferry.

Wisconsin Men with John Brown at Lawrence, Kansas [1855]
John Brown's early company of men in the Kansas Territory was available for duty in the defense of Lawrence. The company contained two men from Wisconsin, William Caine and William Partridge. See also the William Caine biography.

Wisconsin Emigration to Kansas [1856]
During 1856, Wisconsin residents began emigrating to Kansas along with similar parties from other northern states. Among these was at least one Wisconsin group organized by Edward Daniels to settle Kansas as part of the effort to ensure that Kansas would enter the Union as a free state. Some of these parties carried stores of weapons for "food," while many were intercepted by pro-slavery forces.

William Caine and Partridge Brothers of Wisconsin with John Brown at Osawatomie [1856]
The monument in Osawatomie, Kansas, memorializing the men who fell in the 1856 Battle of Osawatomie lists the name of a Wisconsin man, George Partridge, who with his brother and a Dodge County man was riding with Brown when General John Reid set out with 250 men to destroy Brown's stronghold. See also the William Caine biography.

The Prison at Lecompton [1856]
Although ordered by the new territorial governor of Kansas, Gov. Geary, to disband all armed parties, Gen. Lane of the anti-slavery forces attacked the pro-slavery settlement of Hickory Point on September 13 and 14. Although the attack was successful, Lane's men were captured by U. S. soldiers operating under Geary's orders. The prisoners were taken to the territorial capital of Lecompton and while awaiting trial were held in the basement of a Lecompton hotel. In letters to the nation's anti-slavery press the prisoners compared their quarters to the "black hole of Calcutta" and argued that as abolitionists they were treated as political prisoners. Among them were five men from Wisconsin. The only man to die in the makeshift prison was William R. Bowles, a young man originally from Wisconsin.