Eleutherian College's Fall Celebration
college to hold
annual fundraising event
was an important
Underground Railroad stop
Lela Jane Bradshaw
Whenever guests arrive at Eleutherian College, they are
getting a glimpse of the past as the school building rises before them.
The Eleutherian Institute was founded in 1848 by a group of abolitionists
and the two-story limestone building that housed the college was built
by 1854. The college saw men and women, black and white studying together
and also served as an important stop for many escaping slaves on the
Underground Railroad. Standing in the shadow of the school, it is easy
to imagine the passion for freedom of those who worked to change individual
lives and society as a whole during the abolitionist movement.
photo by Don Ward
s portrays Patsy
Harris, wife of Chapman
Harris, an Underground
in the 1860s.
Its an amazing sight to see this beautiful
building up on the hill, says Larry DeBuhr, board member for Historic
Eleutherian College Inc.
During the Eleutherian College Fall Celebration on Sept. 21-23, visitors
will have the opportunity to learn more about one dynamic family though
the performance of Sue Livers. She shares her deep love for the Harris
family by appearing in character and costume as Patsy Harris.
Harris was the wife of Chapman Harris, who served as a conductor on
the Underground Railroad. I talk about my responsibilities as
the wife of an Underground Railroad Conductor and minister, she
While Livers sometimes gives straightforward historical talks, she prefers
appearing in character and speaking in the first person about a family
that endured and triumphed over slavery. I like being Patsy. I
like talking as if I am right there, she says. She says she has
found her heart racing as she considered the fear Harris must have felt
for her nine children in light of the danger that the family could have
faced lynching for assisting escaping slaves.
Friday, Sept. 21, will be devoted to school tours and the public is
invited to come out to the weekend events of tours, presentations, good
music and family fun. Activities will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday and
at 1 p.m. Sunday. Several experts in area history will be giving educational
talks. These include Jeannine Kreinbrink, Northern Kentucky Professor
of Archeology who will be speaking about her work excavating slave pens
in Kentucky; Denise Dallmer, also of NKU who teaches a graduate class
on the Underground Railroad; and Mark Furnish, who is doing graduate
work in history at Purdue.
A Civil War re-enactment group has been invited to attend, and the Jefferson
County Preservation Council will have a display of stone tools from
prehistoric burial mounds available for viewing. On Saturday, the public
is invited to pack a picnic supper and enjoy a musical evening.
DeBuhr says that the board hopes to have three or four groups performing
beginning about 6:30 p.m. Those interested in the college should be
sure to take advantage of the Celebration. This will be the last time
the college will be open for tours this year. Plans are in the works
for expanded programming, including a lecture series for 2013.
Livers explains her fascination with the Harris family and the Underground
Railroad saying, Ive always been interested in history.
The more I talked about it, the more I wanted to know.
While in college, Livers said that she had the opportunity to
spend time with many notable people and one just happened to be Martin
Luther King. He inspired me to want to know more about my history and
culture and how things came to be.
Over the years, she has become so involved with with her research that
it seems like Ive always known (Chapman Harris,) like Ive
always been a part of that family Ive put myself in the middle
Livers believes that Eleutherian College has a role to play in telling
an important story that warrants being told. She explains
that it is important for us to realize that slaves did not just
sit back and accept being enslaved. She believes that slaves and
freed blacks of the era are too often mistakenly viewed as being uniformly
poor and uneducated people who were not active participants in efforts
to free them.
While a slave, Patsy Harris was expected to tutor her owners children
and therefore she went to school with them. So she spoke very
good English. She could read anything.
Livers explains that one of the things Chapman Harris, himself a businessman
and minister, appreciated about his wife was the fact that she was so
intelligent. By portraying Patsy Harris in character, Livers is able
to give voice to an educated black woman of the 1800s.
Livers says she finds it interesting to reflect on the fact that in
1856 there were blacks and whites studying together at Eleutherian.
But when she first began attending school in the 1950s, she found herself
in a segregated education system. She sees the work of Eleutherian College
as a light in the darkness. Its not just a site,
it is alive. It was part of who we are, it is us, it is real.
Eleutherian College is located at 6927
W. State Road 250 in Madison. For more information, please call 812-866-7291.
Institute to sponsor bike ride
As part of the Eleutherian Fall Celebration, the Rivers
Institute at Hanover College and the Madison Area Bicycle Club plan
to hold a Ride Through History on Saturday, Sept. 22.
Eleutherian College was founded by the Neils Creek Anti-Slavery
Society in 1848 and admitted both African-Americans and women in the
years before the Civil War. The main route is 32 miles and passes through
Deputy, Paris Crossing and Commiskey, Ind. An alternate route of 24
miles is also available. Historic sites along the way include several
cemeteries, an Indian burial mound, the James Covered Bridge, and the
Graham Presbyterian & Hopewell Baptist churches.
Check-in begins at 7:30 a.m. The final sweep of the course will be at
approximately 3 p.m. to allow riders to enjoy the music and other activities
taking place at the college. Food will be available on the course. Riders
may register by sending their name and contact information to me via
email to: email@example.com.
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