Underground Railroad: Henry Sides
After crossing the Ohio River into Illinois, runaway slaves were able to take their first glorious step onto free soil. The terrifying and arduous journey toward freedom not only exacted a tremendous toll on their bodies and spirits, but also required money that they often didn’t have. The State of Illinois required a $1,000 bond for any free person of color to enter. Freedom seekers saved or collected money for the bonds, but often still needed help. Henry Sides provided such help and served as the liaison and mediator between the courts and the freed individuals. He became a vital link between the African Americans and the community of Miller Grove and Pope County. Henry Sides and his wife, Barbara, arrived to Miller Grove alongside the original four migrant families. Sides was a white former slaveholder in Tennessee, but when he left the state he manumitted all of his slaves and posted their bonds to enter Illinois. True to his Presbyterian and political beliefs, Sides worked and lived side by side with free Blacks in the community. Despite being beaten and robbed (likely because of the bond money they held) Henry and Barbara continued to contribute substantial sums of money to post bonds for incoming African Americans. In his will, Henry bequeathed all of his property to a free African American, Abraham Sides. The Sides were buried in the Miller Grove cemetery – located in today’s Shawnee National Forest – where visitors can see their graves today. Sources: Cheryl LaRoche, Free Black Communities and the Underground Railroad: the Geography of Resistance Mary McCorvie, “Spotlight on the Underground Railroad,” http://www.recreation.gov/marketing.do?goto=acm/Explore_And_More/exploreArticles/Spotlight__The_Underground_Railroad_on_the_Shawnee_National_Forest.htm [http://www.recreation.gov/marketing.do?goto=acm/Explore_And_More/exploreArticles/Spotlight__The_Underground_Railroad_on_the_Shawnee_National_Forest.htm] This information about the Underground Railroad is part of a geo-located multi-forest interpretive program. Please contact the U.S. Forest Service Washington Office Recreation, Heritage, and Volunteer Resources program leadership with any questions or to make changes. SGV – Recreation Data and Information Coordinator.