Hidden history in Maywood: Discover local stop on the Underground Railroad

History often hides in plain sight. The thousands of cars that have passed through the McDonald’s drive-thru on 1st and Lake in Maywood, likely have no clue that they’re just steps away from a stop on the Underground Railroad.

That historical fact was uncovered by Northica H. Stone and Jeri Stenson. They co-founded the West Town Museum of Cultural History in 1995.

The halls of the West Town Museum in Maywood are filled with stories of black history. Soldiers who lost their lives fighting for our country. Maywood was also home to Fred Hampton, the iconic Black Panther Party leader who was shot and killed during a raid by Chicago police in 1969.

George Stone II, who is the son of Northica H. Stone, is on a mission to make sure that history isn’t forgotten.

"Our youth, they’re not getting much in school as far as history," said Stone II, who is the executive director of Operation Uplift Inc. "Dr. King and that’s about it. There’s so much more to black history than Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that is a piece of black history."

As part of Maywood's 2024 Juneteenth National Freedom Day Celebration, the museum will host an African American Heritage Trail Tour. One of the stops includes the Ten Mile Freedom House, which was once a stop on the Underground Railroad.

"The slaves that were running away could only travel so far," said Dorothy Hall, who is the acting curator of the West Town Museum. "They could only travel at night, so it made sense every 10 miles to have some place of refuge."

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The freedom house was torn down in 1927. Its legacy lives on through a monument that sits right off the Des Plaines River and the northeast corner of the McDonald’s Parking lot at Lake Street and 1st Avenue.

"Every 10 miles there was another rest haven," said Stone II. "This was just one of them. Then up through Lake Michigan and up to Canada to freedom."

That’s just a sample of what you’ll learn on the heritage tour, happening this Saturday, June 22. There are two options, one tour at 2 p.m. and the other at 4 p.m. For more information about the tour, visit the Village of Maywood website