Guardians of Grover Barn

Built in 1858 by Joel and Emily Grover, the barn at 2819 Stonebarn Terrace played a role in the Underground Railroad in the pre-Civil War era. The Joel and Emily Grover Barn was recently designated as a documented Underground Railroad site on the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom.

The Grover Barn is one of the best preserved Underground Railroad sites still standing in Lawrence.  Ardent abolitionists Joel Grover and his wife Emily, who arrived in Lawrence in 1854 with the second New England Emigrant Aid Company party, sheltered freedom seekers in the stone barn built in 1858 on their farm southwest of Lawrence.  Incidents of the site’s role as a “station” on the Underground Railroad are remarkably well-documented in the historical record. The most significant involved eleven freedom seekers and a free-born baby who were hidden at the Grover Barn in January 1859. The abolitionist John Brown and his men had helped to liberate the group from slavery in Missouri the previous December in a highly publicized raid.  After a brief stay at Grover Barn on his last trip to Kansas, Brown led the freedom seekers to Detroit, Michigan, and saw them cross over into Canada.

In addition to its national significance, the barn is also important to local history, as a territorial period structure remaining in Lawrence and a rare historic agricultural structure within city limits.  The Grover barn and a portion of the original farm remained in the Grover family for 105 years. From 1963-1976 the barn was used as an artist’s studio and in 1980 the City of Lawrence acquired the building for use as a Fire Station through 2006.  The structure is currently used by the Lawrence/Douglas County Fire/Medical Department and the Lawrence Police Department.

Designation on the Network to Freedom will bring national recognition and provide accessibility to grant funds for interpretation and preservation of the site.  A citizens group, the Guardians of Grover Barn, partnered with the city to nominate the site to the Network to Freedom.  They plan to continue this partnership, working to increase awareness and appreciation of the Grover Barn’s important story and to seek grant funding for interpretive signs at the site.

Please explore the site to learn more about the history of Grover Barn, efforts to preserve the story and how you can support those efforts.

Click through on the image below to watch a recent story from KMBC on the effort.

Kerry KMCB

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