Current Weather

WRUL On Air Now

Rush Hour Rodeo
Rush Hour Rodeo
2:00pm - 6:00pm

WROY On Air Now

John Summer
John Summer
2:00pm - 7:00pm

Carr Presents on Old Slave House and John Hart Crenshaw History – Watch Here

Folklore has a way of exaggerating what truly happened and while it may make for a more colorful story, it’s not always representative of how things went down.  Todd Carr, President of the Hardin County Historical Society has become an expert on what’s known as the Crenshaw House, the Old Slave House, and perhaps more accurately but lesser known, Hickory Hill and it’s early occupants.  To understand the history of the Crenshaws, you must first know what brought them from the Carolinas, the Great Salt Springs.  Carr expanded on that and much more Monday night at the Shawneetown Public Library in a special presentation.

Despite Illinois joining the Union as a free state, Carr says enslaved people were already here as far back as the French in the 1600’s and a loophole was written into the Illinois Constitution legalizing the practice specifically for salt production.  It allowed for leasing slaves as long as they were offered their freedom papers after a year of servitude.  What slave owners, including Crenshaw, would do says Carr, is lease slaves from nearby slave states such as Kentucky, keep them for example 360 days, return them to Kentucky and re-lease them.  The initial Constitution also allowed for indentured servitude, which Carr says is simply slavery by another name.

Crenshaw began by leasing salt wells and when the state of Illinois began offering them for sale in the 1820’s, he would purchase them outright.  In 1830, he was running 3 of the 9 salt furnaces and owned some 700 enslaved people.  By 1840, he owned all of the area salt furnaces.

You can watch Carr’s presentation in it’s entirety on the WROY/WRUL News facebook page or find it below.  Carr also has books centered around the pirates and outlaws of Cave-in-Rock as well as a book on how the Shawnee National Forest came to be.  You can learn more and find both of those books at



  1. Kay Bradley
    Kay Bradley
    October 17, 2023 at 9:09 am

    So much History that should be restored and preserved the State should keep the Old Slave House open.

  2. Smith Vickie
    Smith Vickie
    October 18, 2023 at 7:24 am

    I have always wanted to go see the old slave house or the Crenshaw house but was never allowed to. Are they allowing people to see it now?

    • KH
      October 18, 2023 at 11:09 pm

      No they are not.

    • Sue Baker
      Sue Baker
      October 19, 2023 at 2:36 pm

      I was able to visit the old Slave House back in the 90’s later they closed it. Wish is was open again very interesting.

  3. Gail McDurmon
    Gail McDurmon
    October 18, 2023 at 7:49 am

    I’m so glad you let us see this presentation. Very interesting. I’d love to take a tour of the house too bad we can’t. It’s a shame it’s not open at least part of the year.

    • Vickie
      October 19, 2023 at 2:10 am

      I’ve been there several times. You go through a lot of emotions. Rooms where Lincoln stayed and the Erie part of where slaves were kept. Scratches on the walls, whipping post etc.

  4. Stephen Watson
    Stephen Watson
    October 18, 2023 at 8:55 am

    Thank You for providing this video. I live over at Marion KY and have been interested in this throughout my life. We visited the Old Slave House when I was a Child. I’m 57 now.

  5. Michael Caudill
    Michael Caudill
    October 18, 2023 at 2:40 pm

    We visited in 1995 and have known it’s been closed a long time but about a month ago we seen a sign for a business at the entrance road so drove down it. The house was empty from what it looked like and the gate was closed with no signs of life. Would love to see it open again

  6. Larry D Auchstetter
    Larry D Auchstetter
    October 18, 2023 at 7:48 pm

    I had plenty of opportunities to visit this when I attended SIU in the late 80s and early 90s, but unfortunately I never did. I really regret that. Is the place still closed to the public? Any plans to open this again?

  7. Melissa Williamson
    Melissa Williamson
    October 18, 2023 at 8:37 pm

    My family had a tour in the ‘80’s, or there about. A lasting memory of history and where it was made.

  8. connie sherrod
    connie sherrod
    October 18, 2023 at 10:08 pm

    Me and my parents and sister did a tour of it when I was 15 I’m 61 now it was so s****y but amazing I would love to tour it again

  9. Phyllis
    October 19, 2023 at 11:19 am

    I visited there in the 50’s & 60’s different stories each time. I gathered Crenshaw was a brutal and evil person no wonder he was attacked by a slave.

  10. Valleri fogle
    Valleri fogle
    October 19, 2023 at 8:01 pm

    I’ve always want to visit but never could. Didn’t know about it until high school did a paper on it in Illinois history class.

  11. Mary Huelsmann
    Mary Huelsmann
    October 20, 2023 at 7:30 am

    We took our oldest kids there in the 60’s it was very interesting but horrible what the slaves
    Endured would go again if they would restore it
    someone should take the people there who
    are trying to ruin history

  12. Kathryn Delucia
    Kathryn Delucia
    October 20, 2023 at 9:37 am

    I was there in the 60s and i cried seeing the chains and stalls where they kept the slaves. It was horrible.

  13. Jerry Stacey
    Jerry Stacey
    October 20, 2023 at 12:16 pm

    My great grandfather owned the house in the early 1900’s . My grandfather was born there in 1913. My great grandfather owned and operated the hickory hill coal mine. There is so much folklore and made up stories about the house and property I doubt if the truth will ever be known. I would love to be able to show my grandchildren the house.

  14. Drew Blair
    Drew Blair
    October 23, 2023 at 4:31 pm

    All I can say is “shame on the Confederate State of America” one, for being traitors and enemies of The United States of America in the first place and second, for being so cruel to people all over the color of their skin and third, actually thinking that the Grant and his Union Army was actually going to let them “take” slaves of any sort back to the southern slave states!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *