Conductors of the Underground Railroad in Woodford County

An example of the memorial marker that will be place in Oakwood and Morsetown Cemeteries to mark the graves of Woodford County Underground Rail Road Conductors. (Photo Courtesy of MAHP)


There was much opposition to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law. This opposition took the form of an “underground railroad” that ran through Woodford County. Men acted as “conductors” and secretly got the fleeing slaves from McLean and Tazewell counties on north to Marshall County.

The Thursday, May 12 meeting of the Woodford County Historical and Genealogical Society will feature two such men.

The meeting will be held at the Roanoke Park building on Victory Street.  The short business meeting will start at 7 p.m. with the program to follow.

Our speaker for the event will be Linda Kern Moore, whose great-great grandfathers George Kern and Norman Dutton were conductors in Woodford County.

Deacon Dutton was a principal conductor who brought the “freight” into what was called Morsetown where his brick home had a hole in the basement wall that was camouflaged to appear as a solid wall.

Kern lived south of Metamora and moved “freight” from Deacon Street in Tazewell County in the bottom of a wagon covered with grain sacks filled with straw and delivered them to a Magnolia depot in Marshall County.

Members and guests are invited to join in a Dutch-treat dinner at the Gus’s Grill on Route 116 in Roanoke at 5:30 p.m. Those who attend will be able to order off the menu and enjoy getting together as friends. No reservations are required.

This program will continue on Sunday May 15 at Oakwood Cemetery at 701 Coal Bank Road in Metamora under the organization of the Metamora Association for Historic Preservation.  Special grave markers will be unveiled at the resting places of Kern and Dutton at 1 p.m. weather permitting.

Deacon Norman Dutton, a conductor of the Underground railroad in Woodford County. (Photo courtesy of Linda Kern Moore)

The purpose of the WCHGS is to preserve our history and to cultivate the historical sense and diffuse knowledge through informational meetings and publications.  A mini-museum and research library are also maintained at 112 N. Main St., Eureka, open to the public from 1-4 on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

The Woodford County Historical Society meets monthly, March through November, on the second Thursday of the month. So that people living in all parts of the county can access the meetings, they are held in different locations throughout the county.

Everyone is welcome to join the Society, and meetings are free and open to the public. For more information, call Karen Fyke at 309-360-6772 or Beth Miller at 309-275-8860.