How Wisconsin Became a Refuge for former Slaves

A Lesson in American History Can be found at Pleasant Ridge Wisconsin

by Nancy Garduño, age 16

    Recently, a group of Free Press reporters explored some of the historical sights in Southwestern Wisconsin. One notable historic site is Pleasant Ridge. Once an African-American settlement nestled in Grant County, it is now commemorated by a historical marker. Pleasant Ridge was not just any settlement; it was essential to the development of our state.
    Established in 1848 by former slaves, Charles and Isaac Shepard, Pleasant Ridge began on a hillside of about 200 acres. Originally, white southerners had settled much of Southwestern Wisconsin. Some owned slaves. But many others came to Wisconsin to escape the slave labor system that existed in the South at that time. This made Pleasant Ridge a suitable refuge for blacks to escape slavery.
    Slowly, the towns in Grant County around Pleasant Ridge began challenge the moral grounds of slavery. In 1850, one Grant County town became known as the “Abolition Hollow,” where anti-slavery families and churches supported slaves in starting new lives. 
    Unfortunately, the Civil War broke out in 1861, and the idea of slaves starting new lives collapsed— Charles Shepard and his son, John, both died during battle. However, after the war, more southern black families resumed settlement in Pleasant Ridge and the dream became possible once again.
    Pleasant Ridge has much more to offer than prosperous farmland. Its unique placement on the map of Afro-American landmarks makes it worthy of its name. And without a doubt, Pleasant Ridge is also worth a visit. It is a fascinating part of Wisconsin history.

[Source: Wisconsin Historical Society]

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