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Hickory Hill Plantation

Page history last edited by edadams0197@aol.com 11 years ago

Hickory Hill Plantation





Hickory Hill Plantation is located in Junction, Gallatin County, Illinois. It is 28 miles from Mt. Vernon, Indiana.


Date Constructed/Founded 




Associated Surnames

Crenshaw, Hart, Taylor



Historical Notes

Hickory Hill Plantation, built in 1834, is located in Junction, Illinois. It is 28 miles away from Mt. Vernon, Indiana. Hickory Hill, also known as The Old Slave House and the Crenshaw House, has a legend that says Abe Lincoln had stayed there over night during a political debate. It also has a darker past. It was the site of a station on the Underground Railroad, but this station operated in reverse. John Crenshaw captured runaway slaves and sold them back into slavery. He also sent freed slaves back south. Since he lived only ten miles away from the slave state of Kentucky, this was a very easy thing for him to do.


Some of the things that happened at the Crenshaw House are that he used slaves at his salt works. Crenshaw had slaves at the salt works because they provided free labor and he made much money from their efforts. One hundred fifty years ago the Illinois Supreme Court ended slavery in Illinois, but allowed it at the salt works. Illinois gave permission to lease slaves from slaveholders in the south where slavery was permitted and Crenshaw leased a number of slaves to work. In 1830, he leased 746 slaves. Crenshaw also kept slaves in the attic and kept stud slaves to breed new slaves. Crenshaw also gave slaves as gifts, then would steal them back, resell them, then send them to the South. He never was caught. The book, The Complete History of Illinois, told how Crenshaw sent freed slaves back to the South.


John Hart Crenshaw, land owner and slave trader, leased the Salt Works, Equality, Illinois from the government which permitted the use of slaves. Crenshaw was twice indicted for kidnapping blacks from Illinois, a free state, and selling them in nearby slave states as part of the Reverse Underground Railroad. 


John Hart Crenshaw was the son of William Crenshaw and Elizabeth Hart, the daughter of John Hart of New Jersey, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was born in the southern part of North Carolina on Nov. 19, 1797. His parents moved to New Madrid, Mo., in 1809, and in the earthquake of 1811 their home was ruined. They then removed to Gallatin County, Ill., and settled on Eagle Creek, not far from the salt wells called the "Half Moon." His father died soon after coming to Gallatin County, leaving his mother and seven children. John, being among the oldest children, went to the salt works and began drawing water for the company who were making salt. He continued in this business until after he married Miss Sina Taylor in 18l7. He went to housekeeping in the "Half Moon," and in a few years rented the wells from the state and began to make salt, which industry he followed for many years. He bought a large body of land near Equality, and moved his salt works to his own land, which was heavily timbered. He used the wood in the salt works, and in that way cleared the land. When production of salt became unprofitable, he turned to farming, which he continued to follow until his death, Dec. 4, 1871.



Associated Slave Workplaces

Salt Works, Equality, Illinois .



Associated Free Persons

  • John Hart Crenshaw. – owner
  • Francine Sina Taylor – wife
  • Alexander Crenshaw - son
  • Nancy Crenshaw - daughter



Associated Enslaved Persons

Charles Adams – indentured; worked off his indenture in over twenty years and was freed.

Maria - wife of Charles Adams (possibly called Mariah)

Nelson - son of Charles and Maria

Ellen - daughter of Charles and Maria

Nancy Jane - daughter of Charles and Maria  


Maria Adams – wife of Charles. She was victim of kidnapping with seven or eight of her children in 1842.  They were sold to Lewis and John G. Kuykendall who took them to Texas and sold them as slaves.  


Frank Granger – victim of kidnapping with 15 others who were taken to Tennessee and sold.  


Lucinda – kidnapped with her children in 1828. They ended up in Barren County, Kentucky as slaves.


Peter White – victim of kidnapping with three others in 1840. Sold in Arkansas and later rescued. 


Jemimah Crenshaw Female Black 80, born 1770 Maryland. She is listed on the 1850 Census in the household of John Hart Crenshaw.


Mary Mixon Female Mulatto 15, born 1835 Tennessee. She is listed on the 1850 Census in the household of John Hart Crenshaw.


Rachael Mixon Female Mulatto 11, born 1839 Illinois – She is listed on the 1850 Census in the household of John Hart Crenshaw.


Research Leads and Plantation Records

Illinois State Archives

Servitude and Emancipation Records, 1722-1863


Seventh United States Federal Census, 1850, Equality, Gallatin, Illinois;

Roll: M432_107; Page: 411A; Image: 687.  



Miscellaneous Information

The Crenshaw House, Hickory Hill Plantation, included twelve prison cells in the attic and a carriage door in the rear to allow wagons to carry in kidnapped slaves unobserved. (Springhouse Magazine, December Issue, Jon Musgrave).


John Crenshaw was an influential and wealthy man. By 1830, his plantation covered 5,000 acres and he owned a steam mill and a grist mill near Equality in addition to the salt works. That year he leased 746 slaves.


John Hart Crenshaw was indicted in 1820 and in 1842 . A trial jury acquitted him.


There is more documentation about the 1842 case in which Crenshaw was accused of kidnapping Maria Adams and her children. The case offers a glimpse of life in Illinois at the time. Jon Musgrave, a member of the preservation project, reconstructs the case this way. Possibly as a wedding present, Maria had been promised her freedom by Illinois Territorial Gov. Ninian Edwards when her husband Charles Adams completed his 20 years of indentured servitude. However, Edwards sold the family, and Crenshaw eventually purchased their contracts. Charles filed his freedom papers in 1834, but Crenshaw refused to honor Edwards' promise. Crenshaw was accused of kidnapping Maria and her children, but he was acquitted because the state's attorney couldn't prove where he had taken the family.


Grandfather of researcher Ed Adams said his family came from Egypt. Grandfather later said the family was living in Illinois and was “taken back to slavery”. Ed Adams learned later that the southern part of Illinois was known as Egypt.


One reason that the area became popularly known as Egypt centers on Southern Illinois’ role in supplying grain to northern and central Illinois following the "Winter of the Deep Snow" in 1830-31. Upper Illinois suffered from a long winter and late spring, so crops were not planted until June, and much of that harvest was killed by an early September frost. Southern Illinois had milder weather, however, and produced grain, much of which was shipped north. Wagon trains came south and returned home with corn. Many people believe the similarities with the Bible story of Jacob’s sons going to Egypt to buy grain and survive a famine may have resulted in the nickname.


Another theory is related to a comparison of the land mass surrounded by the great Mississippi and Ohio Rivers with that of Egypt’s Nile delta region. According to historian Barbara Burr Hubbs, the nickname may date back to 1818, when a large tract of land was purchased at the confluence of the rivers and its developers named it Cairo. Today, the town of Cairo still lies on a peninsula where the Ohio River joins the Mississippi. Other settlements in that portion of the state have names with Egyptian, Greek, or Middle Eastern origins.: hebes, Dongola, Palestine, Lebanon, New Athens, Sparta, and Karnak.

During the American Civil War, anti-slavery citizens of northern Illinois would draw less than flattering parallels between the pro-slavery Conferderate sympathizers in southern Illinois and the bondage and injustice inflicted on the Hevrews during their "Egyptian bondage"




History of Gallatin, Saline, Hamilton, Franklin, and Williamson Counties, Illinois: from the earliest time to the present, tog


Hubbs, Barbara, Burr and John Mulcaster, The Romance of the Old Slave House,


Edwards, Ninian W., The Edwards Papers, Chicago: Chicago Historical Society, 1884.


Marshall, Samuel D., April 8, 1842, “Negrophobia” (Shawneetown) Illinois Republican – editorial dealing with Crenshaw’s kidnapping trial and the recently organizing of regulators to drive residents of color from the county.


Davidson, Alexander and Bernard Stuve, A Complete History of Illinois from 1673 to 1873: Embracing the Physical Features of the Country, Its Early Explorations, Aboriginal Inhabitants, French and British Occupation, Conquest by Virginia, Territorial Condition, and the Subsequent Civil, Military and Political Events of the State, Springfield: Illinois Journal Company, 1874.



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