Will You Survive Held at Haines House and Huston-Brumbaugh Nature Center

April 06, 2010

'I don't want to see no eyes!' Imagine hearing these words as you are chained and loaded into a wagon, unsure of your fate. Crowded together, the driver shouts to keep your head and eyes down. A detour stop overlooking the cemetery is made when the transporter notices wandering eyes. She comments that if you don't obey your new master, your future will be much worse.

Twenty-eight participants attended Will You Survive Sunday and experienced these conditions in an Underground Railroad reenactment. Split into two groups, people of different backgrounds and ages not only talked about slavery issues, but were also active participants in this event.

Beginning in the Haines House, located at 186 W. Market Ave. in Alliance, each group took on the role of fugitive slaves and were transported to their 'plantation,' located at Mount Union College's John T. Huston-Dr. John D. Brumbaugh Nature Center. There the slave owners - Mount Union theatre students - put the participants to work. After requiring them to 'clear the field,' the owners left for a brief moment and another slave prompted the group to make their escape.

'Sticking together as a group made it hard,' commented Alan Twaddle, a freshman Mount Union College student. 'We were afraid that we would get caught.'

Running in the mud and through the vegetation, the group hid in a laundry shed and were also later huddled in the darkness of horse stalls. The only light seen in these spots were from slits in the wooden walls, allowing in only the slightest bit of the dusk sky.

'I felt my heart beat faster when we were hiding in the dark. You knew they were coming, and waiting brought an anxious feeling,' said participant Dana Moot. Moot and his wife, Kathie, both described the event as a positive experience.

Transported back to the Haines House, group members hid under blankets in order not to be seen by any passerby. After seeing the lit lantern, they were welcomed into a small attic space where they waited once more, until it was announced that the reenactment was complete.

One participant commented that the whole experience was very realistic. 'You could only imagine if the slaves were discovered, what they would do to them. They would probably be killed,' she said.

Martha McClaugherty, president of the Haines House, aided with the coordination of the event and helped, along with other volunteers, make it a reality.

'I really just wanted the participants to understand and empathize with what it felt like being human property. I've been on a couple of reenactments before and almost every person has said that it is hard to be treated in that way when you're not used to it,' she said.

The Haines House is a historic Underground Railroad site that worked to hide slaves escaping to Canada and freedom. The House is open the first weekend of every month, excluding the Easter holiday, from 10 a.m.-12 p.m. on Saturdays and 1 p.m.-3 p.m. on Sundays. For more information visit www.haineshouse.org.

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