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Saturday, November 24, 2007

The Old Slave House

Imagine you’re a wife and mother and you are at home one night cooking dinner for your daughters. Your husband and son are away on business and it’s just a peaceful Spring night for you and your girls to spend some quality time together. The still of that evening is suddenly shattered when the front door bursts open and rough-looking men file in. You clutch your daughters to your side, but it does no good as the men are too powerful for you to stop them. They take you somewhere and tie you up in one of the men’s basement and then a few days later, you are handcuffed and tied in the back of a wagon and spirited out of the state. You and your daughters are sold into a life of slavery and never heard from again.

This is a true story. It happened near Equality, Illinois in the year 1842. And the man behind this diabolical deed was named John Crenshaw.

John and Sina Crenshaw

John Crenshaw, a man known as the "Salt King of Southern Illinois," had a long history of involvement with kidnapping free blacks and shipping them back down South into slavery in what was known as a reverse Underground Railroad. His base of operations was what has become known today as the Old Slave House.

The Old Slave House, photographed by me in the late 1970's

The Crenshaw House, started in 1834, and completed in 1838 sat atop a hill in Gallatin County and was known by it’s owner and all who lived in the area as the Hickory Hill Plantation. Abraham Lincoln, while campaigning in 1840 for William Henry Harrison, was a guest at this residence, such was it’s owner’s importance. (My Great-Great-Grandmother danced with Abe at the party that night, but that's another story.) Crenshaw owned and operated a salt mine and was a very big man in those days. It was said that the taxes collected from his businesses alone were fully one-seventh of the revenue for the State of Illinois. The Illinois State Constitution during this era had forbidden slavery but allowed it in certain circumstances. Such was the case with salt mining. The law permitted the use of slaves at the salt works since the labor was so arduous that "no free men could be found to do it." Well, in my mind, that certainly does not justify slavery, but that’s history for you.
As to the Crenshaw House itself, it was the scene of many gay parties and entertainments. But, little did the guests know that right above them, on the third floor, was where the slaves were housed. At night they were kept chained into 12 tiny cubicles, while during the day they were forced to do his manual labors. John Crenshaw owned 700 slaves, which he kept in various locales for the work of his salt mines, and in his grist mill, a steam sawmill and a distillery. We even know that he used the third floor to breed his slaves. One such story came from "Uncle Bob" Wilson, the alleged stud slave, who was a real person and who told a number of people that he had been kept upstairs at the Crenshaw house.
So, what became of this man who was not considered "much of a saint" by members of his own church? In 1848, he lost a leg when his slaves attacked him, allegedly because of a particularly brutal beating Crenshaw was dispensing to several female slaves at the time. In 1850, he moved his family into the nearby town of Equality and hired a German family to take over the operations at Hickory Hill. By all accounts, he became a pious man toward the end of his life and had left his life of crime behind. The house atop Hickory Hill still stands, although it is currently not open for admission. It was purchased by the State of Illinois in 2003 and because of funding woes, remains closed to the general public at this time. I was fortunate enough to be able to tour it in the late 1970’s, when it was still a popular attraction. I can still see the worn, wooden stalls where human beings were kept chained in a life of servitude. That image will never leave me.

One only hopes that John Crenshaw is getting his just rewards in his present situation.

This is the first in a series of blogs dealing with the local history and landmarks of my immediate area. Please let me know what you thought of it.

Update:
Here's what the Old Slave House looks like today, as of 2010:

69 comments:

Anonymous said...

absolutely terrible story i have to say. i am so glad this mass inhumane institution is long gone.

HaarFager said...

Actually, it's still standing, looking much the same as it does in the picture. I agree that it was a terrible chapter in human history, but think it needs to remain standing so that the public can see it and never forget what happened. Only in that way can we assure ourselves that history like this won't be repeated.

Anonymous said...

I'm a teacher in Ohio, and I've seen that black and white picture before in a history book that I have. This story is a first to me though. Very interesting to say the least, and also very sad! To know this was going on in the north, when it's said that blacks were free. Yep, free alright, to those who wanted to commit a crime aginst them. Free, but not safe! I would love to hear more, and the state of Il. needs to get themselves together and make that bulding an historical landmark/museum for all of us to visit.

Fantabulous said...

I visited the old slave house when I was a child, and my mother thought it would be funny to lock me into one of the cells on the third floor. She didn't believe that children are especially susceptible to psychic energy, but as soon as the door shut, I felt these women and young girls around me - I could feel their anger, and though I was not hurt, I was terrified as I saw their hands reaching out for me as though to pick me apart. I always got a strange feeling from the old oak tree outside. I returned later to find that the tree had been struck by lightning. Harrowing.

Anonymous said...

What if there is a conspiracy with this place now? It is closed down without any solid reason besides something to do with "funds" which is a crock of doodoo. What if slavery is still secretly going on in the salt mines? Maybe that's why it is really closed to the public? That would be insane if it is true.. scary as well. I just want to cry my eyes out thinking about what happened there and everywhere else as well. It's just heart breaking man.

Anonymous said...

Soo Is the old Slave house haunted? If you know are hve been there. contact me..and why is it closed. colten_walker246@hotmail.com

A S A P

Anonymous said...

I have been there many many times. I was born and raised in Equality. My grandmother was Golden Sisk and her family owned the home. It freaked me out everytime I went to the 3rd floor. Ironically, my grandmother, Golden Sisk married George Hargave -- if you research the history you will find that General Willis Hargrave owned the slave Barney Hargrave who had been in the Crenshaw "Old Slave House" at one time. BTW -- Barney Hargrave sued his master (Choisser) and Barney's lawsuit was upheld be the Illinois Supreme Court - changing history. Some things you just cant make up!

Melinda "Hargrave" Moore

Anonymous said...

Me and my husband visited the old slave house a few years back. We went to the 3rd floor of the building and I could feel evil in the room and when I went back down the stairs to the main floor my hand that touched the rail was burning.

Anonymous said...

I was looking up information on the Old Slave House and came across your blog. It was very interesting to me. I'm from Eldorado, and the way that you sounded in your writing your from around here. I asked one of my friends, and she said she had heard of the band Deuces Wild. It's just interesting to me I guess. I was wondering where you were from.

Audra

Not even Close to Dolly but I can dream said...

When I was a child I visited the old Slave house we always had our family reunion at Cave in Rock. I remember going through the house but the strange part is, I don't remeber any of the furniture nor pictures but I do remember the stlls on the third floor. Not understanding what they were used for really I just knew that it overwhelmed me and I was crying before I got back outside. My mom couldn't stand being in there and was shaking and trembling by the time we got outside. Still when I think about it I can see a picture in my mind of a specific young girl terrified. I don't know if I saw her spirit then but I know I can see it now even just thinking back to the house.

blueeyes62568 said...

i was rasied around harrisburg and im 44 now and i remeber growing up going there as a kid and my family would tell us that it was haunted me and the wife went to there a few years back and just started freaking out she was telling me that she was feeling strange and swore the she seen something i belive that today you could go there and feel the presence there i say if you can just go and stand on the land and see for your self

Anonymous said...

Been trying to locate this on a map. I read it is on 13 near Equality and that it over looks the Saline River. Is it by any chance South of off 13 just East of the River?

HaarFager said...

It's near 13. Actually, if you're heading east on 13, when you get to the junction of Route 1, you turn right onto Route 1 and head south for a little over a mile and it will be on your right, up on a small hill. Hope this helps!

Anonymous said...

Cool thanks. I have family in Illinois near Princeton. Maybe someday I can go see this place, even if from the outside.

Anonymous said...

This is all very interesting to me, because when I was about 10 yrs old my family went to visit this house. I remembered asking the man who was working at the time if it was haunted...I was a kid, so he said no! But, I knew from the time I set foot on the land, it was!!! I remember going up to the attic and my brother and I "played" in the cell where the women and children were kept. We both get chills talking of it today, because both of us recount the feeling of "floating" or feeling very light in that room! As children, we didn't think much of it we just thought it was cool! However, looking back at it and after reading these other posts... I at least know what we felt was real and not imagined. It was the 2nd strangest think that has supernaturally ever happened to me, and I did not feel evil... I felt pain, innocence, and sadness. I often wonder if they would re-open it and I visited if I would feel the same thing. It is a place I always wanted to go back to since then; and neither me nor my brother told my parents of our experience. We both agreed that we did not think anything of it at the time, but did not feel any presence in the other cells, only that one. Maybe the ghosts were just playing with two innocent children! :)

Anonymous said...

I visited the old slave house around 1948 or 49. I too remember the 3rd floor with the many cubicals or I should say stalls. They looked worse than a jail cell. The house was in poor condition. I remember the third floor as being very dirty and worn and I think I can remember chains attached in each stall. I also remember dark stains on the sides or on the floors. I can't remember which. I thought they probably were blood stains. There were no doors on the stalls. I remember being told the stalls were for breeding. I'm 68 yrs old and live in Missouri but for some reason that image comes to my mind occasionally and that is way I googled the old slave house. I really didn't think it would come up. The picture of the house looks respectable now but in the 40's it looked like the hell hole that it really was.
Bob

Anonymous said...

The story Sisk has been promoting for many, many years is total fiction. Everyone in the surrounding area of Crenshaw's Hickory Hill home knows that Sisk made up these silly stories to get tourists to pay money to walk through his home.
The upstairs attic was used for storage and nothing more. Everyone knows Sisk added the whipping post and chains in the 1960's to help promote his tourist money making scheme.
Sisk and Musgrove should be held accountable for spreading such vicious lies about John Crenshaw and Hickory Hill.
Get a qualified building historian to dissect the attic, and you will learn the stories George Sisk has been telling for so many years about slaves being
kept in the attic in stalls is a bunch of rubbish!
Shame on Sisk and Musgorve for telling such lies!!!

HaarFager said...

It's nice that you let the world know about the whole story being rubbish, but you know.... leaving the comment anonymously doesn't lend much credibility to your story, either. Now does it?

Their goes your credibility and the whole unbelievable story you're trying to promote right out the window. Don't bother leaving another reply unless you can stop hiding behind your anonymity.

HaarFager said...

Besides, Mr. Anonymous.... I had relatives who danced with Abraham Lincoln in that house and they attested to there being slaves there.

White Trash Peg said...

What became of the house thus far? The last thing I can find is that the state purchased it and allotted $150,000 for renovations in 2006 - it seems to have not been opened yet. I chalk that up to the Blago nightmare, of course - but I wonder when it will be opened?

HaarFager said...

As far as I know, White Trash Peg, the house is still in limbo and it's status has remained unchanged. The budget woes for the state of Illinois may have something to do with this. I'll bet it's been put on the back burner and nothing gets done.

Anonymous said...

It has been over 25 years since I visited the Old Slave House. I am from IL and live within 100 miles of it. I visited the 3rd floor and saw the breeding stalls. The iron rings where they tied up the slaves were still attached to the walls. It was so oppressive and frightening that I couldn't get out of there fast enough. When outside, I saw a girl standing near the big oak tree. No one else in my family saw her. I was accused of imagining things, but I saw her and even spoke to her. When I turned around she had vanished. I learned later that others had met her also. Have no idea who she is. Sorry, Mr. Anonymous, but the history of The Old Slave House is too well documented to be a conspiracy. The house is totally haunted. There was a time when the owners would occasionally let a reporter or writer spend the night in the house. They had to sleep on the 3rd floor. I remember reading of one reporter's experience in the Evansville Courier newspaper. If I remember correctly, he ran screaming out of that place. To my knowledge, no one has ever made it through the night there. I wouldn't try it for any amount of money. It was privately owned for a long time. I read an article in the same EVV paper about the family having to give it up because they couldn't pay the taxes any more. Over the years the State of IL has closed down many tourist attractions and historical sites. When the budget gets tight, they are the first to go. If it ever re-opens I will not go there. It took me years to get over my first and only experience there.

Jon Musgrave said...

Anonymous from Nov. 2009,

I don't care for being called a liar.

The research that ties Crenshaw to the use of slaves, slave trading and kidnapping are from 19th Century records and letters, not from the former owner of the house.

The only records from that century that the Sisk family had were some of the pages from the Cypressville store journal from Crenshaw's store at his sawmill in what is now Junction, Illinois, about where the grain elevator is located.

You can look at the old census records from Gallatin County in 1830 and 1840 to see slaves numbered in the household.

As to the whipping posts, they were referenced obliquely in articles before the last owner's birth.

Find out more at IllinoisHistory.com, or better yet, actually read my book, Slaves, Salt, Sex & Mr. Crenshaw, which you can buy from my site. I'll even autograph it for you.

By the way, I'll be presenting a program on the Old Slave House at the Marion Carnegie Library, Monday, Feb. 15, at 6 p.m. in Marion, Illinois.

HaarFager said...

Thanks for posting that, Jon. Sometimes, I don't know where those loonies come from - maybe they're aliens, because they certainly ain't human! I'm sure many people from this area might be interested in the program you're having on February 15th. I won't be able to attend this one, but if you ever have any others like that, please be sure to post them here. There seem to be a lot of people that find this particular blog post, so many of them might like to know when the next one is, including me!

chris macier said...

I Had grown up in marion IL. My mother Had taken me along with a friend back in 1994. It was during the day THAT PLACE IS HAUNTED!!!
I am a skeptic and when I went up to the 3rd floor it was definately not inviting. A camera man was taking pictures from the window. He looked at me and said kid if you would, please don't leave until I am finished. my mother was downstairs looking into one of the rooms lincoln supposedly stayed in.
All I can remember was it was summer and humid outside. That attic was terrorfying and COLD. I felt as if though I was being watched And I wanted to leave.
later that afternoon I remember looking into a huge barn that had many old tools for field work and strange enough a toy rocking horse.
that is creepy and if you ever get a chance to go inside to that attic I DARE you to go alone. Slaves are not that attic is sad and painful.

Cindy Fulkerson said...

If anyone is interested, a group has been formed on facebook and we are brainstorming ideas to get the Old Slave House open to the public again. Just search groups for Old Slave House.

OSoldier said...

Interestingly enough I am researching another "kidnapping", one in which Willis Hargrave had a hand. Willis Hargrave's brother Hezekiah Hargrave married Susannah McMurtry on December 30, 1785 in Rutherford Co., North Carolina. Susannah was pregnant by a black man at the time of her likely arranged marriage to Hezekiah. The child, called Hannah was born on February 9, 1786, and set out by Mr. Hargrave, as an indentured servant to serve a term of 31 years at her birth. She was first given to a man called William England; Willis and Hezekiah's brother Robert was a witness to that first apprenticeship. England passed possession of the baby on to John Burney, this time Willis and brother Robert were the witnesses. Finally the child was passed on to John's father William Burney Sr. who brought her to Louisiana on May 7, 1797. Susannah's secret was kept by the Hargrave family for over 200 years, until I inadvertently stumbled across the string of documents that led to this discovery. I am the descendant of this woman Hannah Dorcas McMurtry Roi. I feel the agony of both the woman and girls you spoke of who were spirited away, and the spirit of my baby ancestress who was similarly carried away from her mother to live among strange folks.

Anonymous said...

Sad that this is no longer open. Visited years ago (mid 70s?) My brother, sister and I went into the attic where there were holding cells and manacles. Can't imagine being held up there, it was blistering hot. Going to drive by it this week and snap a photo of it on my way home. Politics and corruption suck.

HaarFager said...

When you drive past to get your picture, be sure to take a very long lens with you. I got one a few weeks back but you couldn't drive anywhere near the house itself right now. Seems it has all sorts of warning signs to keep people away. I wonder what they're doing there right now and why they need a communications satellite dish for the Old Slave House? It didn't used to have these modern conveniences.

Angela C. said...

I remember going past this place all of my childhood. Route 1 was the only way for our family to travel from Watseka, Il. to Sharon, Tn. before the interstate was put in. As an adult I was lucky enough to meet George Sisk in 1993. He told me and my sister stories of all the famous people that had stayed the night there. We were the only people in there that day so we were able to spend some time talking with Mr. Sisk. My sister and I took our tour of the whole house. I asked Mr. Sisk of the stories being told of ghosts at which point he said I could return to the attic alone to quench my curiosity. I stayed up there for awhile. Needless to say the feeling of sadness was palpable. I also felt very sick to my stomach. After I came back down Mr. Sisk asked me what I felt or maybe saw. I told him of some cold spots in places which he confirmed correct. I had several other odd things to tell him. He offered to let me spend the night in the attic but I declined. We were standing by the second story staircase talking when we all heard a very clear moaning. We stopped talking to listen for more. Mr. Sisk gave us a look as if to say this is a common event. He was a very nice man and I'll always be greatful I got to meet him. Looking back now I wish I would've stayed the night up there in the attic. But I can understand how so many others could not.

Anonymous said...

I went to the old slave house with my girl scout troop back in the 80's. I remember the other girls in the troop going to the the third floor. I was going to go up with them but as soon as my foot hit that bottom step my stomach did a little flip flop. I looked at my mom and said " I think I am going to stay down here and look around." It wasn't to long they came back down. My mom later asked me why I wouldn't go upstairs. I told her I didn't feel right. That I had this incredible urge to cry. Which i did while everyone was upstairs.

Bill said...

My mother was born in The Old Slave House on March 31,1920. Her grandparents owned the house. Her mother, my grandmother was a Sisk. Her Name was Martha Sisk but then she married my grandfather Nelson Berry. So I have some Sisk & Berry in me. As I kid I remember a couple of visits at the house and listening to all of the stories about the place. I was 10 or 11 years old at the time 1959 - 1960. I think my grandmother's brother George Sisk ans his wife Bonnie lived there at that time. I think there were 3 sons..Jimmy Jack, Mike, and I think Georgie . I think much later they sold the place and it was closed to the public. The House does have a lot of history.

Anonymous said...

I was at the house sometime in the eighties, I think. I do not believe for one minute that the third floor was altered--it was ancient and I still remember the tiny wooden platforms in the cells that they had to use for beds. This was a case of an unbelievably wealthy amoral landowner who had to have slave labor to run his salt mines. It still makes me profoundly sad to think about this place. But just because something is horrible and vicious and inhumane doesn't mean it didn't happen. I remember Mr. Sisk (or one of his relatives) telling us that the slaves would leave the south and be so happy when they hit Cave in Rock cause they were free---then the thugs would be waiting for them right there on the river and take them to this house of horrors.

Kathy Woolsey Lites said...

I am attempting to research the baby girl named Hannah that was born in 1786 to Susannah McMurtry and put into indentured servitude by Hezekiah Hargrave. This child was mentioned in a comment on this post and I am a Hargrave descendant and a small group of us are trying desperately to find any and all available information on her to tell her story. Anyone reading this that has information on Hannah Burney, Dorcus Burney, Hannah Darcus Roi or any other name she may have used, etc... please contact me at klites1956@aol.com It is sad that we know so little about Hannah but would love to have contact with her descendants. Thank you.

Deborah in Herrin said...

I was born and raised in Southern Illinois, and paid many visits to the Old Slave House. I never felt anything paranormal there, only a great saddness, for the slaves that were kept in the stalls on the upper floor, the heat was oppressive, even in the cooler months. If it were packed with humans, the mere act of breathing would have contributed to the heat. The only unusal sound I heard came from outdoors, a field with a few cows mooing in unison. The sad history must be contributing to the feelings of it being haunted, but that is just my opinion.

Anonymous said...

Heard a story about some IL tourists visiting the Old Slave House back in the late 80s or early 90s. They said the house was really spooky and that they could sense eyes following them while on the 3rd floor and the sounds of somebody breathing behind them when there was nobody there and I believe they also heard muffled voices coming from places where no one was to be seen. They said the 1st and 2nd floors didn't feel all that spooky but that the 3rd floor was alive with some kind of ghostly energy.

As they were trying to leave the Old Slave House, a really strange thing happened to them. They had a brand new car and it wouldn't start (or the engine wouldn't turn over) for about half an hour. It was odd because the car and its engine never gave them a problem before or since visiting that place, only on that particular day at that particular place.

Jeff McDowell said...

I visited it as a child back in the mid 60's and will never forget it. My father was born aand raised in Cave In Rock and is now 87 yrs old and told stories of trying to spend the night twice as a teenager and the noises and occurences that scared them out. I believe.

Anonymous said...

learned a lot

nisandjay said...

I really wish this was still open. I would love to take my grandkids there. We took our kids there back in the 80's. Very tragic time in our history, but so important for all generations to know about it.

Teresa Dell said...

I am in such a quandry about this history. The man John Crenshaw was my ancestor, he would in fact be my GGGG Grandfather. It saddens me to know this aspect of him. On the other hand his lovely daughter Elizabeth Crenshaw did not aggree with or support his use and abuse of slaves. Family lore tells that she (Elizabeth Crenshaw) pursued General Muchael Kelly Lawlor when she heard of his work with Abraham Lincoln, in regards to granting amnesty to slaves. General Lawlor and Elizabeth married in 1837 they are my GGG Grandparents)and began her mission in granting the slaves freedom. Abraham Lincoln visited this home in 1940, at that time General Lawlor kept records of the Crenshaw businesses and had already begun releasing the Crenshaw slaves. Abraham Lincoln would not have been a visitor to the home prior to that, as he would not have supported the slave trade or abuse that took place there. I take pride in the fact that my ancestors General Michael Kelly Lawlor and Elizabeth Crenshaw Lawlor were "sympathetic whites" who fought to end this horrific practice of the former generation.

Anonymous said...

I was in the group that spent two days investigating Pioneer Village. We came across the cemetery where the Crenshaws were buried and it was completely destroyed.When talking to people in the County we were told the slaves destroyed the original cemetery.While we were there we were reading a book about the Crenshaws' and as we were leaving I have to say I was very angry, not knowing what he had done.Our recorders were on and I said if anyone had anything to say now was the time to do it...on the recorder is a womans voice saying "goodbye" and she sounded very sad. It was none of the team and it was daylight so we would have seen someone.The last time we went the cemetery ws overgrown and unkempt.Wonder why they stopped taking care of it?

Desire-e' said...

My husband and I drove to the house today from Mt. Vernon in hopes that it would be open. It was not. We viewed the graveyard and headed towards home. I really hope soon they will open it.

Anonymous said...

I remember as a child going there and remember the rings in the walls and the bare, wooden stalls. I never experienced any of the "paranormal" things others have but do remember a feeling of such sadness after the visit. My husband had never been there before and so today, on our journey home from Cave in Rock, we stopped by. Needless to say, we ignored all of the "No Trespassing" signs...and drove all the way up to the door. There were several cars parked in the driveway. While I sat in the car with the children, he actually walked up onto the porch and began reading the plaque outside the door. After a few minutes, the door opened and an older guy walked out and told him that the house was not open to the public and that we had to leave. My husband said that while on the porch, he could hear lots of laughter and loud music. Although he didnt get a chance to go inside, he did manage to walk on the porch, while I snapped some pictures from the car! Hopefully someday it will be open to the public again and we can actually go inside...but I doubt it.

Shannon Hancock said...

Hello I use to live in Hardin County and still consider it my home, however, I have never been to the house my grandmother would not allow me or my brother to go there even for field trips. I have always been interested in the house but even more so recently, especially since I did a research paper on it for a business class I was taking. I would be very interested in any recent pictures of the house if anyone has any. You can send them to starlight_starbrite_2901@msn.com. I would really appreciate it.

Anonymous said...

Seen hse from rd. Would. Like to go in it .was there when I was a child .don't. Rember any bad feelings on 3rd floor although. It was spooky. But old things are. Spooky to me

Anonymous said...

Was mr crenshaw buried in hickory hill cemetery. If so where is it. Is it on walnut lane and can public get to it.

Anonymous said...

I visted the house several times with my wife and children. It is a beautiful old house.

The owner of the house operated salt mines and slaves worked the mines. These mines provided one seventh of Illinois revenues during the period.

So much for Illinois being a non-slave state. Oh well the winners write the history.

Anonymous said...

I visited Hickory Hill and "The Old Slave House" back in the late 60's and found it to be very interesting and full of history. Would love to visit it again. It would have to be soon as I am turning 70 this month and who knows how long I will be here for another tour of the place. I know family would also love to see it.

Come on Illinois, my home state, do something worthwhile with what monies you have. Save posterity.

Anonymous said...

I am plann =ing atrip that will have me going by this area and would love ot see this old place Has it been reopend yet? can you stop there and look around?
gshowl@yahoo.com

HaarFager said...

No, it still hasn't been reopened. And in fact, you can't even get very close to it because they have signs warning you to keep away. I don't know what they're doing in there, but somebody is using it. It's just that the public is not allowed up to it.

Gabby said...

Honestly, I've been trying to find this place on Google Maps for the past hour and a half and I can't find it! Haha. It's killing me! Or else I found it already, passed it and didn't know. Are there cross-streets?

HaarFager said...

It's just south of the intersection of Route 1 and Route 13. If you're driving south, it'll be on the right side of the road. Not very far off the road, either. Probably less than half a mile.

Anonymous said...

Me and my 11 year old son just drove by there today and it's still closed to the public....I was there as a young girl back in the 90s I'm thirty now....I don't remember feeling anything out of the ordinary except a tremendous amount of sorrow when we looked around on the 3rd floor....it still is a beautiful old house I'm so glad its been kept up...it's a sad time in history but that's exactly what it is history and needs to be shared with all who's willing to learn....definitely needs to be reopened...

Irv Logan said...

On a return trip home from Florida to St. Louis, Mo., on Memorial Day weekend, some forty odd years ago. I decided I wanted to get across the Mason-Dixon Line and out of the South ASAP. After I had been told Memorial Day was recognized as a "Yankee" holiday down South. I saw the nearest crossing into Illinois on a map was a ferry crossing over the Ohio River at Cave in the Rock. I crossed the river and that put me on Illinois state Rd 1 and as I drove North I saw a sign that said "The Old Slave House". I did a double take as I knew I was in Illinois and couldn't believe there was such a thing here. I had never heard of slavery in Illinois. My wife, and a friend traveling with us, went to the house. We were totally stunned by what we experienced. The third floor the most oppressive, confined space you can imagine. The claw marks in the cells, the dank, dark. worn stalls, just took your breath away. I had to control my heart rate as I had a sense of overwhelming dread. I had to get out of that space and rushed down the stairs to get to fresh air. My wife was very upset and wanted to know from the housekeeper what became of the children fathered there? She was told the ones fathered by the white men were sold up and down the river as house servants. The ones fathered by "Uncle Bob" were sold to ground (another term for field hands). The tree in the yard was a Blue Beech Tree and it was a gift from a man by the name of John Hart, who sign the declaration of Independence. You'll see that same tree at Monticello and Mount Vernon. Once we left that house we had two flat tires within a mile of the place. It was as if something or someone didn't want us to ever forget what we experienced and saw there. Currently, there are many Crenshaw's living in and around East St. Louis, all could pass for any race they chose. I wonder if their ancestors came from this dreadful place?

Anonymous said...

Yes. In the early 90s my husband, son, in-laws and I visited after spending g the morning at the garden of the gods. After touring we went up to the third floor to explore on our own. All went back down the very narrow stairwell except my 11yr old son and I. We were deep in conversation of what might have taken place and discussing a slave named Buck who's sole purpose was to make more slaves with the women slaves.somehow. I lost time. When I realized that I was upstairs all alone as if I just came out of a trance, a crazy fear beyond belief overtook me. I felt a man's threatening presence. I did not see it. I just felt it is how I can best describe.I ran to the stairs. Because the stairs were so narrow I nearly knocked a whole family down trying to get down the stairs. All I wanted was to get out. And I did. I can't explain this possibly irrational fear but Ive never had that kind of fright in me before or since.

Anonymous said...

What did you feel she. You were on the third floor? I felt as if I lost time and after coming out of what I can only explain as a trance, this frightening feeling of dread came over me and I ran down those stairs faster than I've. Ever moved.

Julie Corbin said...

My boyfriend (at the time) and I visited the Crenshaw house in 1996. We took the tour with a family of four (Mom, Dad and two children about 10 or 11) who had got there only minutes before us. It was a sunny day about noon, we toured portions of the first and second floor and was then led to the third floor. I knew nothing of the the history of this house prior to visiting. My boyfriend and I would see signs when going to "Garden of the Gods" so one day we just decided to visit. I was about 18 or 19 years old. The Third floor windows let in plenty of light. There were six of us just milling about looking at everything. We had been up there for 10 or 15 minutes before that "feeling" came over me. I can't describe it. Just a feeling of panic and dread. It hit me out of the blue. I was not alone in the room and it really wasn't very dark. I did not feel this at all when entering the attic. I was at the farthest point of the room, when the feeling came over me. It was such a heavy feeling (literally heavy like I could physically feel the weight of something on me) I darted across the room and down the narrow staircase. The moment the sole of my shoe touched the second floor, the feeling dissipated as quickly as it came on me. My boyfriend was only a moment behind me befuddled as to why I suddenly ran out. Before I could speak the owner of the house, who was standing on the second floor at the staircase looked at me with zero change in his expression. He simply said "It's ok, we've had the house exercised three times and it's never worked". I had no idea prior to visiting that house that there was a possibility of haunting. Frankly, I am a skeptical person and, up until then, I had never experienced such a thing. To know I am not alone in my experience is comforting.

Dumb Cowboy said...

Hi Teresa...Came across while driving..I am gggg grand son of Crwnshaw. Email me at Milo@big sky.net. I have complete geneolgy from John Had forward. Crenshaws name was John Hart Crenshaw..Mike Bowling

Rick Jordan said...

My Grandfather took Me and My Cousin there in the early '70 s......I didn't see any ghosts....but do remember the shackles! This is the same day He took Us to see the old Saline county Jail and jailhouse where My Great Grandfather was Sheriff and My family lived in the 1930's.......funny how time and loved ones vanish with time! RJ

Theresa Marie said...

MrHEBREW1 has a documentary on YouTube called The Old Slave House which is where I heard of this place and I highly recommend watching it. Hickory Hill was The Reverse Underground Railroad only to bring people back in to slavery when they thought they were going to be free in the North. I watched a television show about tortured slaves from the South who were haunting an old plantation and the medium said the souls want the house burned to the ground and I believe this should be the case with Hickory Hill. I am sure I will get a lot of negative feedback from my comment but it is my opinion and I do have a right to that! Free those tortured souls and burn the place down!

Theresa Marie said...

MrHEBREW1 has a documentary on YouTube called The Old Slave House which is where I heard of this place and I highly recommend watching it. Hickory Hill was The Reverse Underground Railroad only to bring people back in to slavery when they thought they were going to be free in the North. I watched a television show about tortured slaves from the South who were haunting an old plantation and the medium said the souls want the house burned to the ground and I believe this should be the case with Hickory Hill. I am sure I will get a lot of negative feedback from my comment but it is my opinion and I do have a right to that! Free those tortured souls and burn the place down!

HaarFager said...

Theresa Marie, you do have a right to post your opinion and I'm glad you have left this message. But, if we were to burn this place down, it would forever remove a living symbol of what happened here and future generations wouldn't know of the horrors and atrocities that took place here, or wouldn't or couldn't believe they actually happened. I think it needs to remain here so we will never forget what happened.

Thomas Wilson said...

What's the real hold up on opening this house back up? And is it safe to go down the lane to STOP for a closer look? (NOT GETTING OUT OF CAR) AT BARRICADE???

Thomas Wilson said...

What is the hold up with this place? I don't know if I buy the many years of funding issues either.

Thomas Wilson said...

What is the hold up with this place? I don't know if I buy the many years of funding issues either.

HaarFager said...

I think they keep stalling, hoping people will forget about it. That's because they seem to be using it for another purpose. I was there within the last year and I saw somebody sitting on the porch. After noticing me noticing him, he ducked down where he couldn't be seen. If the State of Illinois is not using it, then somebody needs to report that there are unauthorized people in it.

Anonymous said...

Irv Logan, I've been wondering the same thing. I'm a Crenshaw. My grandfather was originally from Tipton County TN . His father Junnie Crenshaw later moved to St. Louis. Ironically Tipton County is where this awful guy sold free African Americans, slaves, and his children by these women into slavery. Next time I visit my great aunt in STL I'll have to ask her what she knows about this. And yes most of my Crenshaw family could "pass" especially the older generation. LOL

ambernicole said...

Has there been any updates recently?

HaarFager said...

None that I am aware of.