Built in the 1830s, Hickory Hill, or the Old Slave House, was the home of John Hart Crenshaw (1797-1871), a salt miner and landowner in Gallatin County, Ill. In 1913, the Sisk family purchased the property, and operated Hickory Hill as a tourist attraction from 1926 to 1996. The State of Illinois bought Hickory Hill in 2000, at which time the home became property of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA). In 2004, the National Park Service named Hickory Hill a "station" on the Reverse Underground Railroad to recognize Crenshaw's putative role in selling free blacks into slavery.
After purchasing Hickory Hill the IHPA contracted the Illinois Historical Survey (now the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections) to research Hickory Hill and the life of John Hart Crenshaw. The IHPA hoped to investigate claims that Crenshaw used the third floor of Hickory Hill as a prison for free blacks, whom he allegedly kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. James M. Cornelius was hired to perform the research and to produce a report on his findings. Cornelius submitted his report to the IHPA in June 2002.
This collection contains Cornelius's finished report, drafts, and related publications, correspondence with historians and Crenshaw and Sisk family descendants, and research files, including notes, newspapers, bibliographical materials, interview transcripts, and photocopies of public records.