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This is a contributing entry for Northeast Kansas City Kansas Heritage Trail and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.

From 1855 to 1862, Quindaro operated an essential component of the Underground Railroad to help those escaping from Missouri across the river and into the free state of Kansas. Many sites throughout Quindaro's community were a part of the operation.

The Vernon Multi-Purpose Center is housed in what once was the Vernon School, which closed in 1971. Now the building serves as a museum honoring the legacy of the school and the role that it played in serving as a stop along the Underground Railroad. Today, the Underground Railroad Museum features the local collections of artifacts and photos.

Underground tunnels in Kansas

Yellow, Tints and shades, Brick, City

The Ritchie House

Window, Building, Plant, Wood

Sky, Plant community, Plant, Natural landscape

In 1854, Kansas was established and open for settlement ( It was not until 1861 that Kansas entered the Union and officially declared itself a free state. The Underground Railroad was an essential component in moving people into and through the state. Kansas alone had more than 21 known stops ( In addition, the journey into and through Kansas often involved stopping in Quindaro as this was a port town along the Missouri River.

Due to the secretive nature of escaping into freedom, some of the histories of the Underground Railroad died along with the people who experienced it. What we have today is what remains of the stories told and artifacts uncovered. The Underground Railroad was a series of safe houses and sympathizers that helped formerly enslaved African Americans escape to freedom ( The people that helped along the way were known as conductors, and the safe houses were known as stations, where one could find food, shelter, and even transport. One of the primary means of communication was through quilts, as everything was coded in patterns.

Quindaro’s port was the only port along a long stretch of Missouri that wasn’t controlled by pro-slavery states or sympathizers. Given that all it took was crossing the river into freedom, Quindaro made a great location to create a free-state port settlement. Many relied on Quindaro for passage into freedom via the Parkville-Quindaro route. While it may seem as simple as crossing the river, this was still a very dangerous endeavor. The threat of slave hunters meant relying on boats to cross the river, aside from one historically cold winter where the river was frozen enough to allow those to run across. 

Quindaro’s decline followed the declaration of Kansas as a free state, because the port of entry became a bit less essential than it had been leading up to the rapid growth of the town. With this and the growing demands of the Civil War, the town was left to ruin and the state pulled the town charter. Despite the town losing its ‘official status,’ many former slaves sought to live in what was once Quindaro, taking advantage of the emptying townsite.

Clarina Nichols was one of Quindaros’ most reputable conductors, operating a station out of her home on the bend of Missouri. Not only was Clarina a prominent local journalist for The Quindaro Chindowan, but she also spent her free time aiding those working towards a life of freedom. In her 1882 memoir, she revealed another local house used by the conductors in Quindaro to house runaways known as ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’ ( The Colored School of Quindaro run by Eben Blachly, which would soon become the Vernon School, was also another local Underground Railroad station.

Kansas Historical Society. Underground Railroad, Kansapedia. March 1st 2020. Accessed April 5th 2022.

Kansas Tourism. The Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, Travelks. August 31st 2020. Accessed April 5th 2022.

Plake, Sarah . Quindaro Underground Railroad Museum reveals snapshots of Black history in KCK, KSHB. February 8th 2021. Accessed April 5th 2022.

Quindaro, Kansas – A Free-State Black Town, Legends of Kansas. Accessed April 5th 2022.

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