Cover image for Escape betwixt two suns : a true tale of the underground railroad in Illinois
Escape betwixt two suns : a true tale of the underground railroad in Illinois
Pirtle, Carol, 1938-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Carbondale : Southern Illinois University Press, [2000]

Physical Description:
xxiii, 141 pages : illustrations, maps ; 23 cm.
Reading Level:
1360 Lexile.

Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F547.R2 P55 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks
F547.R2 P55 2000 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Although the northern Illinois chapters of the story of Susan "Sukey" Richardson's escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad are documented, the part played by southern Illinois in that historic episode has remained obscure. Carol Pirtle changes that with her investigation into the 1843 suit Andrew Borders lodged against William Hayes, charging his neighbor with helping slaves from the Borders estate escape to Galesburg. In conjunction with her probe into the past, Pirtle also discovered the Hayes correspondence.


Pirtle documents Hayes's involvement in the Illinois Underground Railroad through approximately two hundred letters received by Hayes from the early 1820s until his death in 1849. Many of these letters specifically corroborate his participation in the escape of slaves from the Borders estate. One such letter came from T. A. Jones in 1843: "You Dear Sir are to me an unknown friend, yet I believe you are a friend to the poor down trodden Slave. This is as good an introduction as I want from any man. My brother, our cause is a holy one." Letters written by Galesburg residents show that several prominent citizens of that community also assisted in the affair, proving that Knox College administrators and trustees were active in the Underground Railroad.


Pirtle also includes excerpts from the trial transcript from the 1844 civil case against Hayes, which was tried in Pinckneyville, Illinois. She researched newspaper accounts of the event, most notably those in the Western Citizen and the Sparta Herald. Records of the Covenanter Presbyterian church of which Hayes was a member provide partial explanations of Hayes's motives.


Telling the story of Hayes and his involvement with Susan Richardson and the Underground Railroad, Pirtle provides insight into the work of abolitionists in Illinois. Escape Betwixt Two Suns , in fact, is one of the few books to substantiate the legends of the Underground Railroad. She tells the story of a quiet man who made a difference, of a man deserving the accolades of a hero.

Author Notes

Carol Pirtle is a professional writer. Her books include Shining Moments and Where Illinois Began: A Pictorial History of Randolph County.

Table of Contents

Forewordp. xiii
Acknowledgmentsp. xvii
Introductionp. xix
1 Sukeyp. 1
2 The Majorp. 5
3 A Divided Countyp. 12
4 A Great Undertakingp. 17
5 The 'Jurney "p. 30
6 Next Neighboursp. 39
7 The Covenantersp. 43
8 The Escapep. 50
10 Searching the Recordsp. 66
11 Preparing for Trialp. 70
12 Legal Wranglingp. 73
13 The Trial Beginsp. 77
14 The Plaintiff's Casep. 81
15 The Defendant's Casep. 88
16 The Verdictp. 93
17 The Supreme Court Decisionp. 98
18 The Tale Endsp. 105
19 A Legacy of Shamep. 108
Afterwordp. 111
Notesp. 119
Bibliographyp. 131
Indexp. 137
Shawnee Booksp. 145