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Sat, 04.21.1838

The Milton House, Underground Railroad Station opens

The Milton House

*This date in 1838 celebrates the opening of the Milton House. It was a stop (station) on the Underground Railroad, a 19th-century network of people and places that aided the freedom of escaped enslaved people in America.

Behind the house is the Goodrich Cabin, built in 1837 and brought to the site in 1839; it was one of two cabins in which Goodrich lived when he first settled in Milton. The location is 18 South Janesville Street in Milton, Wisconsin, and is known for its hexagonal shape. Joseph Goodrich, the founder of Milton, settled in 1839; he was known for his anti-slavery sentiments.

He added to the Milton House in 1845, which became a popular stop for travelers due to its location at the military road between Chicago and Madison intersection and the road from Janesville to Fort Atkinson. The house's proximity to these routes and the Rock River allowed it to function as a stop on the Underground Railroad; fugitive slaves in Wisconsin frequently followed the river to the area before taking the road to Racine, where a boat could take them to Canada.

A tunnel connects the main building to a nearby cabin; while the circumstances in which the tunnel was constructed are unknown, Joseph's son Ezra claimed he used the tunnel to hide runaway slaves. The Milton House is a grout building consisting of a three-story hexagonal section with a two-story hexagonal wing. The hotel's main rooms are within the tower, which has a central spiral stairway with rooms on the sides; the common rooms are on the first floor, while the upper floors and the wing contain guest rooms.

It is the most prominent abolitionist site still standing in Wisconsin. Goodrich also hosted abolitionist Sojourner Truth at the house when she visited Milton in the 1860s. In 1937 the Milton Historical Society acquired and restored the building. The house and cabin are open to the public via guided tours. Milton House was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1998.

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