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Hundreds of slaves took refuge in this Quincy house as they sought freedom on Underground Railroad

Dr. Richard Eells House in Quincy, Illinois
(Courtesy Arts Quincy)
Dr. Richard Eells House in Quincy, Illinois

The Mississippi River town of Quincy, Illinois, was a major stop on the Underground Railroad as slaves attempted to make their way from Missouri to a free state.

Quincy’s role in the Underground Railroad – a network of often secretive locations used to help enslaved people escape to free states and Canada – is highlighted in the events that took place at the home of Dr. Richard Eells and his wife, Jane, during the mid-19th century.

The Friends of the Dr. Richard Eells House is a group of people dedicated to preserving the history of the house, located at 415 Jersey St., and providing educational tours about the Underground Railroad and architectural techniques of the period.

“Dr. Eells, in 1835, his house was only four blocks from the Mississippi River,” said Mike Smith, who’s a committee member of a group that helps preserve the historic home. “He was an abolitionist and he was actively involved in the Underground Railroad, and we know this for sure because in 1842, he was caught helping an escaped slave named Charley.”

Laura Sievert, executive director of Arts Quincy, estimates that between 200 and 400 slaves went through Eells’ property.

“He actually moved here specifically to help slaves,” Sievert told St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh. “What’s interesting about Dr. Eells is that he actually became interested in the abolitionist movement when he was studying medicine at Yale.”

Listen to the conversation to hear more about Quincy’s role in the Underground Railroad.Laura Sievert and Mike Smith discuss the role of Quincy, Illinois, in the Underground Railroad with host Don Marsh.

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer and Kelly Moffitt give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

Copyright 2021 St. Louis Public Radio. To see more, visit St. Louis Public Radio.

Online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air and Cityscape.
Alex Heuer joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2012 and is the executive producer of St. Louis on the Air. Alex grew up in the St. Louis area. He began his public radio career as a student reporter at Tri States Public Radio in Macomb, Illinois and worked for a few years at Iowa Public Radio. Alex graduated summa cum laude from Western Illinois University with a degree in history and earned a teaching certificate in 6 - 12th grade social studies. In 2016, he earned a Master of Public Policy Administration with a focus in nonprofit organization management and leadership from the University of Missouri-St. Louis. He has won local and national awards for reporting and producing and his stories have been featured nationally on Morning Edition and All Things Considered.