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Posted: 02/05/14

Underground Railroad
program at Octagon Hse.


      The historic Loren Andrus Octagon House, long believed to be a major stop on the Underground Railroad, will be the site of an Underground Railroad Experience from 10 a.m.¬≠noon, Saturday, Feb. 22.
       The home, located at 57500 Van Dyke north of 26 Mile Road in Washington Township, will offer visitors a hands-on experience, highlighting the bravery and determination of escaped slaves traveling to freedom and those who assisted in their journey. Both adults and children are welcome to attend, said Susan DiPace, president of the Friends of the Octagon House, a group established to preserve the historic eight-sided structure.
       "Although there is no written record that the Octagon House served as a stop on the Underground Railroad, there is considerable anecdotal information that points to that conclusion," DiPace said. "Visitors will hear the story of the Octagon House and participate in a variety of activities intended to bring alive this part of American history."
       The Octagon House was built in 1860 by farmer and businessman Loren Andrus as a home for his family. In the mid-1970s, several tunnels leading from outlying fields to the house were found, and historians indicated they might have been used to shuttle runaways into the home's basement. Other evidence were plantings on the property that were used to silently signal a home was "safe" and available for assisting in shelter, food and other necessities for escaping slaves on their way to Port Huron, a major crossing point into Canada.
       The five components featured at the House include an interactive experience with a local storyteller; Games and Toys; Language of Quilts; Crafts Corner; and Foods and Chores.
       Visitors will learn to play Mancala, a game that was played in secret by slaves as a way to remain connected with their African heritage. They will be encouraged to make a Mancala to take home.
       The story of the Language of Quilts will be told, detailing a young girl's quilt that contained a symbolic map used to find the way North to freedom.
       At the Craft Corner, children will make a keepsake of the event which they can take home as a reminder of their visit to the Octagon House.
       Food and Chores will illustrate what the "station keeper," the person or family who maintained a stop on the Railroad, would have done to feed and otherwise assist escaping slaves.
       Each of the activities will operate throughout the day.
       Tickets are $8 each and proceeds will be used for restoration and upkeep of the House. Reservations are required. Call (586) 739-6184 for reservations or additional information.
       The Friends of the Loren Andrus Octagon House is a non-profit organization founded in the mid-1980s with the goal of preserving and protecting its extended grounds and buildings for extended community use.


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