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The First Presbyterian Church

The First Presbyterian Church

716 College Avenue, Downtown Racine (probable site)

First Presbyterian Church

Artist's rendering of the First Presbyterian Church

First Presbyterian Church

View of the steeple of the First Presbyterian Church from the Racine Heritage Museum

Evidence:

  • Artifacts found in the crawl space.

  • There were known abolitionists in the congregation such as Nathan Burnham, E.W. DeBerard, Henry S. Durand, Hiram Foote and Silas B. Peck. Some of these men signed the 1845 Memorial to Congress, a document that told Congress that the people of the Wisconsin Territory did not approve of slavery.

  • A woman named Nancy R. White was denied membership to the church when it was believed that she had been a slave owner in North Carolina. Later, the church learned that Mrs. White was not legally the slaves’ owner. Notes for the church’s February 16, 1846 meeting read “After considerable conversation the following preamble and resolution were offered by Deacon S.B. Peck, and deliberation passed unanimously: Whereas it appears, upon evidence satisfactory to the Session, that Mrs. Nancy R. White is not in fact a slaveholder, therefore, resolved, that the vote refusing her application as recorded under date of January 3, 1846, be and herby is rescinded. Resolved, that the clerk be and hereby is directed to forward a copy of the foregoing resolution to Mrs. White.”

  • The Church’s Reverend Zebulon Humphrey gave the invocation at the Republican National Convention in Chicago when Lincoln, who favored the emancipation of slaves, was nominated for president.

Possible Underground Railroad Artifacts

In the early 1980s, Pastor Howard Stanton’s four sons and a friend went on an adventure in a crawlspace in the First Presbyterian Church’s basement. What they found would raise questions that are still unanswered. The children uncovered bibles, a small chair, a hat, shoes, tin cans and more. Speculation, and the knowledge of the church’s anti-slavery stance, has led people to tie these artifacts to Underground Railroad. Professional study of the site and further analysis of found materials provided strong physical evidence to their link to the Underground Railroad. The steeple of the First Presbyterian Church can be seen when looking out of the large semi-circular window on the west side of the Racine Heritage Museum.

Artifacts found in the crawl space of the First Presbyterian Church on exhibit at Racine Heritage Museum