Stop 3: Rabbit Hash & Rising Sun

  • Laura Smith Haviland: A well-known anti-slavery activist and daughter of Quaker parents, she founded the Raisin Institute in Michigan with her husband. In 1847, she attempted to extract John “Felix” White’s wife and children from the Stephens’ farm in Rabbit Hash/East Bend area.
  • John “Felix” White: Escaped from George W. Brasher in 1846 and attended Haviland’s Raisin Institute in Michigan. After Haviland’s aborted attempts to extract his wife Jane and their children, White attempted to extract the family himself and they were captured by slave catcher Wright Ray.
  • Rising Sun, Indiana: A river town established in 1814, it was a well-known crossing point for Underground Railroad. The town was also the home of two key African American conductors: Samuel Barkshire and Joseph Edington.
  • Universalist Church: Congregations located on East Bend Road in Boone County, Rising Sun, Indiana and Patriot Indiana. Universalists were staunch abolitionists who established antislavery doctrine by 1840’s.

Story Outcomes:

Laura Smith Haviland: Haviland lived to the ripe old age of 90 years old.  Throughout her long life, continued her activism, helping those in need.  Her Underground Railroad work went on as needed, and she reopened the Raisin Institute, which had closed for a number of years due to financial strain and illness and loss in the Haviland family. The Raisin Institute closed permanently in 1864, as many of the students and staff had joined in the fight of the Civil War.  Haviland then became involved in war relief efforts, helping displaced war orphans, starting schools for African Americans and fighting for the rights of women and newly freed people of color.

Jane Stephens: After the attempted escape and capture of Jane, her 5 children and Solomon (enslaved overseer of Stephens’ farm,) the decision was made to sell the group.  Slaveholder Benjamin Stephens, who was known to be the biological father of Jane, instructed that the group be sold in Lexington, and asked that they be kept together and not sold south.  Jane Stephens died of cholera around this time, though it’s unclear if she died in Boone County or elsewhere.    Laura Smith Haviland wrote in her autobiography that John White was later reunited with the children he had with Jane Stephens. His daughter Catherine and Solomon (the overseer) lived in the town of Chatham, Ontario in 1861 with their children, listed with the surname “White.”

John White: John “Felix” White returned to Michigan, where he remarried and started a family with his second wife, Mary; sometime after 1850.  Based on the birthplaces of his later children, census records and narratives, White moved between Michigan and Canada regularly, possibly involved in Underground Railroad activity.