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ON THE ROAD: A look back through Jackson's history

Posted at 11:29 PM, Jun 27, 2024
  • Video shows Maurice Imhoff, Jackson County, Michigan Historical Society, sharing some stories behind Jackson's history.
  • Parts of Michigan's first state prison still stand in Jackson, dating back to the 1830s.
  • During the Civil War era, Jackson was known for being the birthplace of the Republican Party in 1854 and the Underground Railroad.

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

"Jackson was one of the most populated cities in the early part of Michigan History, because of its industry," says Maurice Imhoff, President of the Jackson County, Michigan Historical Society. Jackson's story starts with that industry at Michigan's first state prison in the 1830s.

"Which makes it one of the oldest pieces of Jackson's history," says Imhoff. "When you think about Jackson, Jackson was founded in 1829. This is not long after that, and it still stands today as a testament to that history." Bringing in jobs and neighbors, setting the stage for Jackson.

Michigan's first state prison

"This empty space was buildings where they were making things. Couches, furniture, etc. and really putting Jackson on the map with its industry, and it all happened within these walls," explains Imhoff.

About 20 years down the road, in 1854...

"When you think about America history and black history in America, right here in Jackson, Michigan, is where men said, 'Slavery is wrong,' and they gathered by the thousands to repeal the Kansas-Nebraska Act and form a new party." Of those thousands, a committee of 16 made their way to the corner of Second and Franklin, forming the Republican Party.

Under the Oaks, Birthplace of the Republican Party

"Slavery and the United States, how'd that end?" asks Imhoff. "The American Civil War," he continues. "This is part of that buildup that led to the American Civil War and ended slavery. That is the huge role Jackson played, starting right here." Jackson's Civil War history continues with freedom seekers coming through Jackson, but not through the streets.

"The underground railroad is absolutely everywhere. It's the underground railroad," says Imhoff. Imhoff says many of those Jackson supporters joined the Civil War and the fight against slavery. "Jackson's role was really a large part of that," he adds. Leading Jackson into the future, without forgetting the past. Imhoff shares, "We think about Jackson being historic, all of these things make Jackson historic. These early roots of Jackson's history still stand today."

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