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With Harriet Tubman Poised To Become Face Of $20 Bill, Maywood’s Place In Underground Railroad Worth Re-examining

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An altered image of Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill found. “More than 600,000 people voted in the poll between the abolitionist and campaigner and other notable US women,” according to the Independent newspaper. | independent.co.uk. || Below: A picture of the “10 Mile House” in Doug Deuchler’s book, Maywood.

10 Mile HouseWednesday, April 20, 2016 || By Michael Romain 

With the U.S. Treasury Department announcing Wednesday that famed abolitionist and former slave Harriet Tubman will replace President Andrew Jackson on the $20 bill, Maywood’s place in the Underground Railroad — the secretive network of routes and hideouts designed for slaves trying to escape to Canada — is worth reexamining.

The link between Maywood and the Underground Railroad, which Tubman — one of its most famous ‘conductors — utilized in the mid-19th Century to free dozens of slaves, was discovered two decades ago by Operation Uplift, the nonprofit that operates the West Town Historical Museum.

As Northica Stone, the nonprofit’s president and CEO, told the Chicago Tribune in 1998, a group of volunteers discovered the site after rummaging through old photographs, maps, newspaper clippings and archived documents of the Chicago Historical Society, the Oak Park/River Forest Historical Society and the Maywood Historical Society.

“They were doing research on Maywood, trying to find out when the first people of color arrived here, when they ran across the information,” Stone said at the time.

What they found was the existence of a “10 Mile House,” which once stood at the southeast corner of 1st Avenue and Lake Street, at the edge of the Des Plaines River, which is presently occupied by a McDonald’s.

“Early Illinois settlers who hauled their crops to Chicago aboard horse-drawn carts needed places along the way to eat and rest themselves and their horses,” noted the Tribune article. “These stops usually were about 10 miles apart and were thus called “10 Mile Houses” or “10 Mile Inns.”

“Besides sheltering horses and farmers, the 10 Mile House in Maywood also sheltered slaves making their way north, said Jeri Stenson, curator of the West Town Historical & Art Museum.”

Stenson told the Tribune that, “since there were stops along the Underground Railroad in places like Chicago and Oak Brook and Downers Grove, they must have come through here … along the way.”

According to Douglas Deuchler’s 2004 book on Maywood, the “10 Mile House” “was a stagecoach rest stop that secretly and dangerously functioned as an Underground Railroad ‘stop.’” The inn was “10 miles, or a day’s ride, from Chicago.”

In 2001, a memorial, designed by Maywood Trustee Michael Rogers, was built to commemorate the location of the now legendary Underground Railroad stop. VFP

Operation Uplift to host April 30 reunion kickoff/fundraiser, in lieu of annual luncheon

West TownOperation Uplift, the Maywood nonprofit that operates the West Town Museum of Cultural History and hosts an annual Martin Luther King, Jr., luncheon, has announced that it will be hosting a reunion kickoff to help support and bring awareness to its daily services in lieu of a luncheon this year.

“Please help us continue to provide more cultural awareness to our local community, stimulate individual growth,  community pride, and educate the Proviso Township area about the collections of art, artifacts and significant historical materials we hold within our doors,” according to a recent release put out by the organization.

The reunion kickoff activities will include educational tours, an African attire fashion show, live entertainment and food.

It will take place on Saturday, April 30, from 1 PM to 4 PM, at Operation Uplift/West Town Museum, 104 S. 5th Avenue, Maywood.

Donations or pledges of any amount are greatly appreciated. Those who give via checks should make them payable to: Operation Uplift, Inc.

For more information please call Jeri Stenson at 708-289-4955 or email operationupliftinc@gmail.com. VFP

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