Skip to main content

Underground Railroad Society of Cass County

Identifier: RH-A-4254

Scope and Contents

This collection is composed of photocopies, original documents, and photographs relating to the history of the Underground Railroad in Cass County, Michigan, in addition to research about families in the area. This research was collected by the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, Michigan.

The collection covers a wide range of materials primarily focusing on social, legal, and political issues concerning the African American population in Cass County, Michigan from the late 1700s to the late 1800s. The collection discusses the development of Cass County, and its Quaker Underground Railroad networks. Particular points of interest include the 102nd Colored Unit of the Civil War, the Kentucky slave raid, Quakers operatives, Ramptown (named for the Ramp, a native wild onion), and community memory. The Lawson, Bonine, Vaughn, Bogue, East, and Allen families, along with their genealogies and community contributions, are mentioned extensively.


  • Creation: 1700s-1800s


Conditions Governing Access

These materials should be handled with care.

Biographical / Historical

The Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, in partnership with local researchers Veta Smith Tucker, Estella Sanders Lawson, Tom Kovalak, Barbara Wood Cook, and Mary Anne Bonine, have collected genealogical and historical information about residents of Cass County related to the Underground Railroad. The URSCC was formed in 2009 with the focusing on the research, exploration, and preservation of the Underground Railroad. In 2010 the URSCC purchased the Bonine House, and later obtained the Bonine Carriage House and the Bogue House, both of which are currently in the process of restoration.

Veta Smith Tucker Biography

Veta Smith Tucker holds a doctorate of Arts from the University of Michigan, she taught at Grand Valley State University before her retirement. Her research focused on the Underground Railroad and Abolition movements. Her published works include A Twenty-Frist Century History of the 1847 Kentucky Raid.

Tom Kovalak Biography

Tom Kovalak was born in 1968 and gained an interest in genealogy in 1989. He focuses on his family history which reaches back eleven generations to Virginia and North Carolina. His genealogical research includes the families of Day, Rickman, Pompey, Dungey, Archer, Newsome, and Hawks. His research resulted in his work Colored discussing his family ancestry. This work is included in the collection.

Mary Anne Bonine Biography

Mary Anne Bonine (1947-2013) a teacher and educator with a Masters of Arts in education. Mary Anne was a founding member of the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County. She created the “Wax Museum” program connected with the society as well. Her research focused on Quaker and African American families from the mid to late 1800 censuses in Penn, Calvin, and Porter townships. Along with being a researcher she taught fifth grade at the Augusta Intermediate School.

Barbara Wood Cook Biography

Barbara Wood Cook is a Cass county historian her research deals with slavery, early Quaker families in Penn township, Ramptown, the Kentucky Raid trial, and the UGRR in MI, IN, and Canada.


4 Cubic Feet

Language of Materials


Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection is deposited by the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County. The deposit agreement is in the donor file.

Related Materials

For more information Sondra Mose-Ursery sent her collection to Grand Valley State University Special Collections and University Archives.

Estella Sanders Lawson Biography

Estella Sanders Lawson (1909-2011) was a lifelong resident of Calvin Township. In 1927 she married Forest M. Lawson who she remained married to for over seventy years before his death in 2002. She was involved with the Bethel AME Church, an African Methodist Episcopal Church, beginning 1926 and remained active in the Calvin Community Chapel for most of her life. She researched the Sanders, Allen, and Lawson families extensively. She kept a variety of photographs, both originals and copies, as well as obituaries.

Physical Description

This collection occupies 4.0 cubic feet. The materials vary in size from 4” by 6” to 8 ½” by 14” with most documents being 8 ½” by 11”. The collection is largely in decent condition, some of the older material including photographs, letters, envelopes, and book pages show considerable damage through yellowing, tearing, and other signs of wear.

Photocopied material is in excellent condition.


The collection has been digitized courtesy of the URSCC. Each researcher and their corresponding collections are separated into clearly labeled folders. Digitization of some photographs, obituaries, and newspaper articles are of better quality than their printed counterparts.

Underground Railroad Society of Cass County finding aid
Hannah Garrod; Stephanie Chapman
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Western Michigan University Archives & Regional History Collections Repository

Charles C. and Lynn L. Zhang Legacy Collections Center
1650 Oakland Drive
Kalamazoo MI 49008-5307 US
(269) 387-8490