An urban slave escape at Mary Meacham Freedom Crossing (May 24)

May 21, 2008

In 1855, early on the morning of May 21, a small group of slaves and their conductors from the Underground Railroad attempted to escape across the Mississippi River from Missouri into the free state of Illinois.  They left from the home of Mary Meacham, a free black woman whose role in transporting slaves to freedom is legendary.  Some of the group were caught, including a woman named Ester and her two children, who belonged to Henry Shaw (a prominent St. Louis hardware merchant of the day whose name you may have heard in conjunction with the founding of Tower Grove Park and the Missouri Botanical Garden, among other philanthropic works).  His records are among the official documents supporting the Underground Railroad’s work, a rare piece of publicity for an organization whose work was only possibly thanks to its secrecy.  (And I hope someday, someone with some time on his/her hands will update Shaw’s bio on Wikipedia to reflect this piece of history!)

On Saturday (May 24) at 3 p.m., the seventh annual Mary Meacham Freedom Crossing Celebration will feature a reenactment of the daring crossing, complete with costumed participants traveling in secret compartments on wagons to the staging point (part of the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program) and a pursuing posse on horseback.  For children who’re old enough to understand both the drama and the underlying history, this promises to be a memorable event — and one that will probably lead to some good questions.

Other action at the celebration, which runs from noon to 5 p.m., includes a gospel choir, an actor portraying Frederick Douglas, food, crafts and historical displays. The sponsor organizations range from Grace Hill Settlement House to Trailnet to the National Black Tourism Network, so I anticipate a well-done festival all the way around.

For details and directions to the site, read the St. Louis Frontpage site’s writeup ( it’s the second brief as you scroll down) or call Doug Eller at Grace Hill, 314.584.6703.

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2 Responses to “An urban slave escape at Mary Meacham Freedom Crossing (May 24)”

  1. Natalie Hill Says:

    looking for free or low cost activities for kids at my neighborhood center. Interested in when the slave escape reenactment will be held thia year. (Mary Meacham)

  2. Bettina Says:

    I currently live in Shiloh, IL very close Scott Air Force Base, I continuely explore the the Bi-state area every spring, summer and fall and enjoying telling others about where I’ve been and what I’ve seen espcially those new to the area.. I saw the re-enactment of the Mary Mechuam Crossing a couple of years ago, but mised it last year. Have the date for 2012 been set?

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