One of the most fascinating things about Roseland I recently learned is that it was a part in the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves passing through northern Illinois. According to Larry McClellan in “Crossing the Calumet River: First Settlers and the Underground Railroad”, after Roseland was settled in 1849, leaders in the community wanted to help these “freedom seekers”. One man, Cornelius Kuyper, helped many who had traveled north on railroad lines. After 1853, Jan (John) Ton’s farm became a regular stopping point on this path. Apparently, Ton would hide them and wait until night to take them by wagon three blocks to the next stop on their way to Detroit, Hohman Bridge in Hammond, Indiana.
In a Chicago Tribune article from February 26, 2017 by Matt McCall, an estimated 3,600 to 4,600 freedom seekers passed through this southern Chicago area. It was an open secret that Ton and Kuyper participated in the Underground Railroad and it was just simply something they did, believing in freedom for all.
According to the article, Hohman Bridge was located where the current Indiana Avenue bridge crosses the Little Calumet River.
Hohman Bridge is gone and so is John Ton’s farm. As stated in the article, what is very sad and ironic is the area is now economically depressed, prone to poverty and violence, while once being a gateway to freedom for many African-Americans.