Gallatin County is the fifth least populous county in all of Illinois. If you want to go on nature walks and hikes, this is the place you have to visit. In Gallatin County, you can visit the Rim Rock Recreation Trail, Pounds Hollow Recreation Area, Shawnee National Forest, and High Knob Lookout.
However, another reason to visit Gallatin County is because of the Crenshaw House. Many say it is haunted and some people were not able to spend the night in this area because of the voices and sounds they heard.
An old photo of the Crenshaw House. (Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkWmRZWkusY&app=desktop)
The History Of Crenshaw House
The Crenshaw House or the Old Slave House was built sometime in the 1830s. It was where John Crenshaw, his wife, and their five children lived. It was one of the biggest structures in the area during the time it was built. Classic Greek style was used to construct the home. It had large columns, a balcony, and was three stories high.
A photo of John Crenshaw and his wife. (Link: http://journeyphoto.blogspot.com/2007/11/old-slave-house.html)
However, it was not only a residence but also served as a station for kidnapped and escaped slaves. Crenshaw was actually known as an illegal slave trader. Back in the day, the Illinois State Constitution banned slavery. However, the law still permitted people to use slaves to do salt-related work because it was too difficult that no one wanted to do the job. Salt was a very vital product then because of its nutrients and it was used to preserve food. Crenshaw was then legally entitled to keep slaves because of the salt industry. Later, keeping the slaves turned illegal as for Crenshaw because he operated a Reverse Underground Railroad to transport escaped slaves and kidnapped black people to states that allowed slavery.
Crenshaw was already indicted for kidnapping back in the 1820s even before the Crenshaw House was built. It is unclear what the result was. In 1842, he was once again indicted but acquitted. The 1842 case involved Crenshaw kidnapping one Maria Adams and her seven or eight children. They were sold as slaves to Texas. He also kidnapped one Frank Ganger and 15 of his companions and they were sold as slaves to Tennessee. Crenshaw likewise kidnapped a woman named Lucinda and her children and they all ended up as slaves in Kentucky. It is believed that Crenshaw kidnapped 700 slaves or more during the operation of his illegal business.
It is believed that the attic of the Crenshaw House was where the black people were kept. To this day, the attic has barred windows and chains making it all the more believable that it operated as a jail for the people that Crenshaw kidnapped. Some of the slaves were reportedly beaten, raped, and even treated like animals.
The illegal business of Crenshaw started to go downhill after being indicted for kidnapping a black woman in 1842. He also could not justify having slaves anymore since salt-related operations were booming elsewhere.
By 1850, Crenshaw and his family moved to another town. He also hired a German family to live in the Crenshaw House and to operate his farm. By 1864, the Crenshaw House was sold but it was not stated to whom. Crenshaw died in 1871. By 1913, the latest recorded owner of the Crenshaw House was the Sisk family.
In 2004, the Crenshaw House was named by the National Park Service as part of the Underground Railroad National Network to Freedom program. The house being made as such acknowledges the role of Crenshaw in slavery.
The Ghosts At The Crenshaw House
When the Crenshaw House was still open to the public, a man named David Rogers, who was a reported for Harrisburg spent the night there. It was sometime in 1978 and he was the only one to beat out 150 previous people who were challenged to spend the night there but ended up leaving because they could not bear the paranormal activities. According to Rodgers, who spent the night in the slave quarters in the attic, he heard a lot of sounds but could not make anything out of them. Later, he also discovered that his recorder picked up voices that he could not hear.
A researcher of the history of the Crenshaw House named Jon Musgrave said that the house was actually haunted even before. The people near the home heard moans and screams of people whom Crenshaw kidnapped and jailed. When the home was opened in 1920s to the public under a new owner, people who visited claimed they saw blood stains appearing on the walls of the attic and they heard the chains rattling. Some even heard the cries of the slaves.
Others reported that there were extremely cold spots in the house even if it was the hottest days in the summer.
The Ghost Of A Young Black Girl
One visitor revealed that she visited the Crenshaw House with her children without knowing that it was haunted. She noted that when they entered the house, they immediately saw a young black girl in period clothing trying to get her attention. They then proceeded to go to the attic and the woman shared, “My heart began beating rapidly and I smelled and overwhelming smell of human feces and sweat, when I reached the top of the stairs everything and everyone that had been there disappeared and I was seeing this girl walking in front of me.”
The attic at the Crenshaw House. (Link: https://thesouthern.com/news/local/future-of-crenshaw-house-or-old-slave-house-in-question/article_40effc33-b49f-564e-a733-249c7324478d.html)
The girl reportedly said, “See, how he kept us!” The woman continued to share, I looked around the room and it was full of people trying to sleep and move in the “human stalls”, that had been built to house them, then she stopped in the center of the room. In the center of the attic was a center post which seemed to support the whole house and chained to that post was a large man with bloody whip marks on his back. The girl then looked at me and said ‘Remember the evil done here…NOW GET OUT AND LEAVE US IN PEACE!’ I looked around and they were all looking at me seemingly wanting me to help them. I was overcome by emotion and felt physically sick.” She said that she never told anyone about what she saw during their visit and she still sees their faces to this day.
Visitor Saw Chains, Whips, Foot Cuffs In The Cells At The Attic
One visitor shared what they saw when the Crenshaw House was still open to the public. The visitor noted, “Upon walking into this really old home, a guy tossed a metal object my way, and when I examined the object he went on to say, ‘That’s a penis clamp, any male slave trying to have unauthorized sex would be subjected to its cruelty.’ I looked back at it incredulously and placed the item onto the display counter. This too, held real life horrors. Such things as whips, chains, foot cuffs and the like.” When they went to the attic, they found tiny cells where both children and adults were kept.
A photo showing one of the cells where the women and children were kept by Crenshaw. (Link: https://thesouthern.com/news/local/future-of-crenshaw-house-or-old-slave-house-in-question/article_40effc33-b49f-564e-a733-249c7324478d.html)
The visitor continued, “We walked down through a hidden staircase and outside to the main slave quarters. These log cabins were larger, however according to our guide, up to 50 men and women would occupy these cabins. I can say without hesitation, there would not be enough room for ten, much less 50 persons. My girlfriend and I left this terrifying house soon afterwards and we both had felt the oppression. I understand why the home is closed to the public however, I think that anyone who wonders if slavery was man’s greatest sin to date, need only look at this house and see how horrible those poor folks lives really were.”
The Crenshaw House today. (Link: https://www.nps.gov/places/old-slave-house-crenshaw-house.htm)