Underground Railroad Society
      of Cass County, Michigan

Become a Friend of the Bonine House!
                                       URSCC Mission


The mission of the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) is to provide a focal point for exploration into the origins and activities of the Underground Railroad; the unique role the people of Cass County and the surrounding region played throughout its existence, and how it impacted local, state and national history.



Preserve and restore the James E. Bonine House and Carriage House as outstanding examples of Victorian domestic architecture.

Create a museum, learning center and community meeting house as the focal point for understanding the role Quaker, African-American and other abolitionist groups played in the Underground Railroad.

Create a cultural tourism destination for Underground Railroad enthusiasts that will bring visitors and tourism dollars into the community.



URSCC Headlines

5th Annual UGRR Days a Great Success!
Hundreds of local and regional visitors enjoyed Underground Railroad Days.  Friday's "Opening NIght" with Dr. Von and Fran Washington's  terrific play "A River To Cross", the Sam Adams MI History State Champions' "Kentucky Raid in Ten Minutes" and Barbara Groner's reading of "Cass County Brave" by Lois Cross-Hart, played to about 170 people, the audience growing every year. 
The MIchigan 1st and the 102nd Colored Troops camped out on the Vandalia Village green on Saturday, telling their stories and acting their characters for visitors of all ages.  The 102nd had to leave early, but they will all be back next year, saying they really enjoyed the crowd.
Presentations were made to full houses, and displays were informative as well as beautiful in many cases.  You can see the presentations by Keith Harrison on the Civil War, Maurice Sanders on his family; Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox on African American migration to the Midwest before the Civil War, and Mary Charlotte Bonine's talk about Growing Up in the Bonine House, on YouTube. Scroll down for links.  Thanks so much to Wayne Falda and Amir Mohammed for filming these talks.  Sam Adams UGRR Wax Museum was a hit with everyone.  Their show at the Bonine House in June can also be seen on YouTube, again thanks to Wayne Falda. 
Music and storytelling at the "Ramptown Cabin" in the park was a wonderful background for all that was happening.  Guided tours were full both Saturday and Sunday, and hundreds enjoyed the soul food dinner put on by the Vandalia Church of God.  The Sunday morning church service at the cabin in the park was inspirational, and the setting lovely with Christiana Creek flowing by.
Over 750 toured the Bonine House, many stopping to talk with Mary Charlotte Bonine, who is the last Bonine to live in the home 1934-1953. 
All this was made possible by URSCC members volunteering as tour guides and drivers, house docents, information booth staff--and many acting as presenters themselves.  Community involvement, local and regional publicity, and local churches provide a base of support that grows every year, and URSCC cannot express how thankful we are.  Mark your calendars for the 6th Annual UGRR Days July 11 and 12, 2015.  See you there!
YouTube Links: 

Click here   for "African American Pioneers in Cass County, the Sanders and Allen Families"--Maurice Sanders

Click here  for "Growing Up in the Bonine House 1934-1953"--Mary Charlotte Bonine Roberts

Click here  for "Ante-Bellum Migration of Free Blacks to the Midwest Frontier"--
Anna-Lisa Cox

Click here for "The Civil War in Cass County"--Keith Harrison 
Enjoy the photo gallery of UGRR Days 2014--

Dr. Von Washington and Fran Washington present their play "A River to Cross", the Michigan History Days winners perform "The Kentucky Raid in Ten Minutes" and Barbara Groner reads "Cass County Brave".  Scroll down to see the Michigan History Day winning performance.


Presentations and performances at the cabin, in the youth center and around the park.
The 102nd Colored Troops and Michigan 1st Civil War Re-enactors
 set up camp in Vandalia.
Mary Charlotte Bonine Roberts, the last of the Bonine family to live in the Bonine House visited for her 80th birthday.  She entertained us with her piano playing and stories of growing up in the house during the 1930's to the 1950's and re-united with some old friends.

Later, several board members took Mary Charlotte, her son and granddaughter out for some dinner and birthday cake.


Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox
, noted historian, writer and lecturer on race relations in the nineteenth century Midwest was our featured speaker during Underground Railroad Days.  Dr. Cox is a fellow at Harvard University and a consultant to the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.  She is very familiar with Cass County, and many of our founding families, and looks forward to spending time with us.  For more information on Dr. Cox, click here.


Legacy 4H does planting at Historic Bonine House
Some people wish it will happen
Some people wait for it to happen
Legacy 4H makes it happen!
Is the motto for an extraordinary group of over 50 kids and adults, who descended on the historic James E. Bonine House at Penn Rd and M-60  in  Vandala on Saturday, June 22nd to plant the front yard with bushes and trees, and lay a flagstone walkway.

 The Legacy 4H group, led by Linda Bogue and  Rachele Ward, is only three years old, but their spirit and can-do attitude is inspirational.  The group obtained a grant from Enbridge to do planting at a historic site and chose the Bonine House.  Kirk Wagner of Upstream Waters and Kevin Ryder, landscape architect, supervised the installation, which went smoothly until hitting long buried fieldstone.  Undaunted, Legacy member Todd Collins ran home and returned with his excavator, making short work of the problem.  

Linda Bogue said  "The group, from the youngest to oldest, worked like a well oiled machine.  These families and kids are wonderful.  We have a lot of community spirit and the parents love to have their kids involved in positive projects where all ages learn to work together.  We are so proud to be part of the restoration of the Bonine House." 


Sam Adams Students Present the Wax Museum June 13

Sam Adams Elementary School present Cass County and the Underground Railroad Wax Museum at the Bonine House on June 13th. Students researched local characters, wrote a one minute script and 'came to life' when their button was pushed.  Many of the students  portrayed their 4th and 5th generation ancestors.


URSCC and Bonine House were featured on "Our Michiana" program on WSBT
Tuesday, May 13 at 5 PM.

Click here to see the video

Click Here for a YouTube promo of WSBT at the Bonine House.

“Sam Adams Team Wins State Championship”

from left-- Sam Adams students Madison King, Kennedy Brooks,
Otto Reick IV, Anna Leach and Taylor Herwick

Press Release April 26, 2014
Cassopolis – What would it feel like to become a state champion as a 4th or 5th grader? Ask Kennedy Brooks, 4th grade, Taylor Herwick 5th grade, Madison King, 5th grade, Anna Leach, 4th grade, or Otto Reick IV, 5th grade. They’ll tell you it feels unbelievable!
This is the first year students from Sam Adams Middle School in Cassopolis, MI participated in Michigan History Day, so no one, not the students, their teachers, coaches or parents, knew what they were getting into. It turned out to be more time-consuming, more challenging, more educational and more fun than anyone imagined.

It started last September when Charline Nyomo suggested that the Education Committee of the Underground Railroad Society meet with Tamara Barnes, Assistant Director for Diversity and Outreach, Historical Society of Michigan. The Historical Society sponsors Michigan History Day, and Tamara Barnes was in the area working to get more school districts involved.

Michigan History Day champs show off
their awards

Ruth Andrews, Chair of the UGRR’s Education Committee, was immediately attracted to the project. It would piggy-back nicely with last year’s UGRR Wax
Museum effort, which had already introduced many s
students to the Underground Railroad. Since Andrews has an arts and theatre background, she suggested a group performance depicting the Kentucky Raid. Fifth grade teacher Felomina Patton responded with enthusiasm.
Andrews and Patton began asking kids to stay after school to practice two days per week beginning in October. UGRR intern Kelly Thammavongsa joined the team in November. She had previously served as a Michigan History Day judge, and explained to the students that though their performance would be important, their research would count for 60% of their total score.
Saturday practices were added to the schedule. The team learned about primary and secondary sources, and paid a visit to the Cassopolis Historical Library, where they discovered a wealth of information about the Kentucky Raid. Parents, particularly Tina Reick, got behind the project in a big way.
After winning the regionals in Kalamazoo, the team went on a tour of Underground Railroad sites in Cass County. Bill and Brenda Beadenkopf, co-Chairs of the UGRR Society’s Research Committee, provided the tour.
The missing moustache found at last!
(Watch the video for an explanation)

The biggest challenge was figuring out how to enact the Kentucky Raid in ten minutes with a cast of five. Taylor Herwick was assigned four different characters. She was not happy about this heavy load at first, but when she discovered she had the acting chops to pull it off, it became a badge of honor. Kennedy Brooks portrayed three different characters. Anna Leach is related to several of the Quaker families that actually took part in the Kentucky Raid; she portrayed her ancestors. Madison King played a young mother and freedom seeker. Otto Reick played Kentuckian Rev A E Stevens, the primary bad guy. He was quite convincing!
The Sam Adams team not only won the Youth Group Performance Division, but they won the overall Youth Michigan History Day award on Saturday April 26, in Saline.  It doesn’t get any better. A video of the winning performance can be seen on www.urscc.org.  Congratulations to our new state champs! 

Bonine House Open for Touring May 1, 2014!
The historic Bonine House, home of UGRR stationmasters James E. and Sarah Bogue Bonine, will be open for touring May 1st from 1-4 pm. for the rest of the summer.  The home will be open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of every week at those hours.  Docents will take visitors through the Victorian house, explaining the history of the house itself, as well as its connection to the Underground Railroad.

Weekend tours will be scheduled in the near future. 
The Bonine House is located at the corner of Penn Road and M-60 in Vandalia, MIchigan.  Brochures are available at the sign outside the home. 
A 14 site self-guided Driving Tour of Underground Railroad sites around Vandalia is available in the Bonine House as well as at the UGRR MI Historical Marker in Milo Barnes Park on M-60 in the Village of Vandalia.  The marker is the first stop on the tour. 


 The Bonine House Friday, December 6, 2013
2nd Annual Christmas at the Bonine House a Lovely Success!
Over 1200 visitors came to see the Bonine House all dressed up for Christmas, and young and old alike had a wonderful time.  Nutcracker soldiers stood at attention at the front doors, and a host of angels surrounded a live nativity staged by local congregations.  Inside the house URSCC members guided visitors through a beautifully decorated kitchen and dining room.  Santa and Mrs. Claus were in the parlor, and if you were there at the right time, a returning Civil War soldier was sitting in the gorgeous living room.  Mr. Bonine was serving a Christmas breakfast tray to Mrs. Bonine in the quaint Victorian bedroom upstairs. There were a sweet nursery and a little boys' bedroom, and two lovely master bedrooms upstairs also.  Those who made it to the top of the tower were greeted with a revolving angel tree. 
There were local choirs, a soloist, flutes, and a keyboard in the living room, music was everywhere.  Kathy Ruple, URSCC Events Chair and her committee were very pleased to see so many smiles, noting that Christmas at the Bonine House is our way of giving back to our community for all their support.  
Click here for photo galleries of the rooms and activities, 
and video tours

The Art of Paul Collins Show and Sale--a great weekend!



Celebrated Artist Paul Collins attended all three days of the art show at the Bonine House, featuring his spectacular art portraying subjects from around the world.  Paul was gracious in speaking to all who wanted to meet him, giving his message of universal harmony among all people. 


The show was open to the public on Oct 4 and 5 followed by a Members and Guests Reception on Oct 6.  There were over 30 works of art on display throughout the house representing Paul's extensive career.  Three large original oils graced the rooms downstairs, along with museum quality framed prints. Many guests purchased prints of Paul's famed "Harriet Tubman's Underground Railroad" after seeing the original 1978 painting displayed in the parlor.  A beautifully framed giclee (zhee-clay) on canvas print was purchased and donated to the Bonine House by board member Larry Sehy, and will be on display for events.


Paul's wife Carol Collins also attended all three days, attending to the business side of the show.  Paul and Carol donated a portion of all sales to URSCC, and have pledged to remain involved with our projects and our mission.  On behalf of the URSCC Board and Membership, we thank Paul and Carol for their support and generosity. 


For more information on Paul and to see more of his art, please go to www.collinsart.org


Enjoy the photo gallery below-


Click Here
to see a video of the Paul Collins Art Show


                Angling Elementary (Portage, MI) Wax Museum
Portage Angling Elementary 4th grade presented their "Cass County and Beyond" Wax Museum on Wednesday, May 3rd, 2014.  Stacey Bonine and Colette Konkle's class divided into eight groups representing various characters on the Underground Railroad, and were stationed throughout the Bonine House. Visitors from all over the region enjoyed the presentation that began with a specially written song about Cass County abolitionists and the UGRR.

Click here  to see a photo gallery and lyrics of the song.

Angling Elementary from Portage MI shown above before staging their Wax Museum


CLICK HERE for a video of Sam Adams Wax Museum Students at the Bonine House.

CLICK HERE  for a "clear audio" of some of the
 Sam Adams Wax Museum student performances.

Sam Adams "Wax Museum" at the Bonine House April 27, 2013

Shown here are students from Sam Adams Elementary School in Cassopolis after their performance as characters in the Underground Railroad of Cass County Wax Museum.  Over 200 people toured the museum, learning about the UGRR and Cass County connections.  Many of the students portrayed their actual ancestors who were involved in the UGRR.  Scroll through the picture gallery below, then click for more information on the background of the Wax Museum and photos of the process and other productions.  The students will perform again at the Bonine House during UGRR Days lead up week on Tuesday, July 9th 1-3pm

Click here for the rest of the story and many more pictures. 



    Please Become A Friend Of The Bonine  House 


To Join URSCC or Donate, click here

To Contact us, click here

Thank you for helping to restore this iconic house to the shining beacon of freedom it represents!

Underground Railroad Society of Cass County
PO Box 124
Vandalia, MI 49095

Website Builder