Underground Railroad Display at the Steven's Museum

The Stevens Museum at the John Hay Center is happy to announce the opening of our new display, in the main gallery, over the county’s involvement with the Underground Railroad (UGRR).

Freedom Seekers on the Underground Railroad in Washington County Indiana Assuredly, soon after the settling of this area, certain factions of our pioneers were assisting runaway slaves on their trek to freedom. Large groups of Quakers, Presbyterians and Methodist, along with others who held abolitionist views, migrated to this area expressly to withdrawal from the southern institution of slavery.  Free black citizens and blacks who had been granted their freedom were also early pioneer settlers of this county and played a fundamental role in facilitating fugitives through the county’s UGRR.

The earliest report of a runaway slave in the area goes back to 1819. Undoubtedly, the little information we have gleaned about the clandestine operation of the UGRR in our county, would have actually went back another generation.  Most of the information gathered over the operation and its participants was from the descendants of the active members, during its heyday, not the members themselves.  Additionally, by the time stories/traditions began to publicly come out about the county’s operation, all of our former black citizens had relocated away from here, or were unjustly encouraged to leave the area.  Their levels of involvement and activities in the operation were lost at an early date and are therefore poorly represented in the overall scheme.

So by no means can we give a detailed accurate account of the UGRR operation in this county, nor are we able to explicitly say that these were the only routes/station houses/conductors who participated, but we present everything there is to offer from what we know. 

Please plan to stop by to see the new edition to our impressive collection!

Photo of John Milton HayWho was John Hay?

Statesman, Author, Ambassador

John Hay was a great American statesman, diplomat, author and poet, whose political career spanned over 50 years.  He was born in a small brick home in Salem, Indiana, on October 8, 1838.

After John displayed considerable potential in his schooling, his Uncle Milton Hay, who was a practicing lawyer in Springfield, Illinois, took a special interest and sent him to Brown University, where he graduated in 1858. 

In 1860, when John Hay’s childhood friend, John Nicolay, was appointed Abraham Lincoln’s presidential campaign secretary, he was brought on board to assist with the enormous amount of correspondence. 

Hay grew to adore President Lincoln for his goodness, patience, understanding, sense of humor, humility, magnanimity, healthy skepticism, sense of justice, resilience and power, love of the common man and mystical patriotism. Many later noted that Lincoln too, loved Hay as a son and was very attached to him.

In 1903, after years of negotiating treaties, Hay successfully passed legislation that afforded the United States the opportunity to start construction on the Panama Canal. 

Brown University’s John Hay Library was named in his honor, as was the John Hay Air Base, in the Philippines and both his birth home, in Salem, Indiana and his summer estate, The Fells, in New Hampshire, have been historically conserved. 

John Hay Center Hours of Operation

Thursdays - 10:00am – 5:00pm
Fridays - 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturdays - 10:00am – 5:00pm

Tour Pricing

Self-Guided Tours

Adult (Age 18+) - Donation
Child (Age 6-17) - Donation

Guided Tours

Complete Comprehensive Tour
(Museum,Pioneer Village, The Depot)
Adult (Age 18+) - Tour Price  $20.00
Child (Ages 6-17) - Tour Price $10.00
Guided Tours - Free to Members

Steven's Museum Guided Tour
(Approximate 2 hour Tour)
Adult (Age 18+) -  Tour Price $7.00
Child (Ages 6-17) - Tour Price $4.00
Guided Tours - Free to Members

Pioneer Village
(Approximate 1 hour Tour)
Adult (Age 18+) - Tour Price $7.00
Child (Ages 6-17) - $4.00
Guided Tours - Free to Members

The Depot Railroad Museum
(Approximate 1 hour Tour)
Adult (Age 18+) - $7.00
Child (Ages 6-17) - $4.00
Guided Tours - Free to Members

School Tours

Private & Public School Tours: $3.00 per student/parent (Teachers free & 10 student minimum)

Private Tours

Scheduled Private Tours (More than 5 Guests) (Minimum $50)

Additional Information

*All regular tours are free for Life Members
*Children under 5 are free

Sorry, this website uses features that your browser doesn’t support. Upgrade to a newer version of Firefox, Chrome, Safari, or Edge and you’ll be all set.