Abolitionists and the Underground Railroad in the St. Charles Area

Abolitionists and the Underground Railroad in the St. Charles Area
Featuring: Carol Jefferson
Monday, June 6, 6:30 pm
St. Charles Public Library

Stories of the Underground Railroad running through southeastern Minnesota have been whispered for generations and Carol Jefferson has spent years tracking them down. She has also collected stories of abolitionists that have relocated to the St. Charles area. Learn about what Jefferson has discovered, and perhaps share a few stories of your own in this special program at the St. Charles Public Library.

See below for more on the Underground Railroad Story Project…

Underground Railroad Story Project

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of people and routes assisting runaway enslaved people to freedom prior to the American Civil War. Although slavery was prohibited within the Minnesota Territory and later the state of Minnesota, the Dred Scott case showed the world that enslaved people brought here prior to the Civil War were not guaranteed freedom.  Thus, the Underground Railroad was at work throughout the Midwest, assisting Freedom Seekers on their journeys to Canada.

Stories on this topic have been whispered throughout southeast Minnesota communities for generations and we want to hear them. Have you heard local rumors about secret tunnels on hillsides or strange hidden rooms beneath old houses? How about stories of active abolitionists who relocated to southeast Minnesota from eastern states in the mid-1800s? Do you own an old house along the Mississippi River once used as a summer vacation home for southern plantation owners who were accompanied by their enslaved servants on trips to the north? Are you familiar with the old trails, stagecoach routes or early military roads of the area that may have been used to assist runaway enslaved persons? We need your help gathering local stories on this topic.

In partnership with the Whitewater State Park Oral History Project, the Plainview Area History Center and the St. Charles Public Library will be helping collect local stories, legends and myths about the Underground Railroad and possible connections to southeast Minnesota.

Stories will be gathered to document the history of early abolitionists and the Underground Railroad in southeast Minnesota. Sara Holger, Lead Interpretive Naturalist from Whitewater State Park, will follow up with storytellers to conduct interviews in an effort to track down possible origins of these stories.


Stories may be written or typed. You can send them by postal mail or drop them off at one of the three locations listed below. You may also email your stories directly to Sara Holger at sara.holger@state.mn.us . When writing stories, please include your name, birth date, telephone number and email address if you have one. Be as detailed as possible, including names of sources.

To be included in this project, please submit stories before September 1, 2022. If sending by mail, please address the envelope “Underground Railroad Story Project” and send to one of the following addresses:

Plainview Area History Center, c/o Janine Zarling, 40  4th St. SW, Planview, MN 55964

St. Charles Public Library, c/o Jill Veerkamp, 125 W. 11th Street, St. Charles, MN 55972

Whitewater State Park, c/o Sara Holger, 19041 Highway 74, Altura, MN 55910


You can discover more about the Underground Railroad and its reach throughout the Midwest by Googling these websites and articles:

National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, a program of the National Park Service

Minnesota Woman Works to Find Underground Railroad Connection, written by Kyle Farris of the Associated Press and appeared in the Washington Times on February 17, 2018

Joseph Farr Remembers the Underground Railroad in St. Paul, written by Deborah Swanson for the Fall 2000 issue of Minnesota History, a publication of the Minnesota Historical Society

The Mississippi River – Gateway to Freedom, written by Laura Deering for the Fillmore County Journal on February 15, 2021.

Scott R. Morcomb to Speak at St. Charles Public Library

Finding Freedom Through Literacy
Thursday, May 26, 6:30 pm

To celebrate Memorial Day, Brigadier General Scott R. Morcomb, USA, Retired, will speak at the St. Charles Public Library on Thursday, May 26 at 6:30 pm.  Through his presentation, “Finding Freedom Through Literacy,” Morcomb will entwine the theme of Memorial Day with the importance of reading and life-long learning.

Morcomb is a 1981 graduate of St. Charles High School.  His official biography is as follows…

Brig. Gen. Scott R. Morcomb, USA, Ret, graduated as the distinguished military graduate from Winona State University and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant, through the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps at Winona State University in 1986.

Immediately following his commissioning, he entered active duty at Fort Rucker, Alabama and graduated from flight school in February 1988 as the Distinguished Graduate. His first assignment was with the 224th Military Intelligence Battalion in Savannah, Georgia. While with the 224th Military Intelligence Battalion, from March 1988 to December 1991, he served as the Battalion S-2, the Headquarters and Headquarters Company (HHC) Executive Officer, the Bravo Company Operations Officer and as the Maintenance Officer while deployed to Honduras.

In 1990, Brig. Gen. Morcomb (Ret) deployed to Iraq with the 15th Military Intelligence Battalion in Support of Operation Desert Storm. During his deployment, he served as the Executive Officer for Alpha Company 15th Military Intelligence Battalion. Following the Gulf War, Brig. Gen. Morcomb was released from active duty and joined the Army Reserve.

Upon joining the Army Reserve, Brig. Gen. Morcomb (Ret) served in a variety of assignments. They include HHC Commander 6-52nd Aviation Regiment, Battalion S-4 6-52nd Aviation Regiment, Commander Bravo Company 6-52nd Aviation Regiment, Battalion S-3 6-52nd Aviation Regiment, Commander Charlie Company 6-52nd Aviation Regiment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, S-3 Task Force Hawk in support of Iraqi Freedom, S-3 244th Aviation Brigade, Team Chief 75th Training Command, Commander 3rd Brigade Great Lakes Division, 75th Training Command, Chief of Staff for the 11th Theater Aviation Command and Aviation Director, U.S. Army Reserve Command G-3/5/7 Aviation. Commanding General, Army Reserve Aviation Command, and Director, USARCENT, Army Reserve Engagement Cell.

Brig. Gen. Morcomb (Ret) is a Master Army Aviator. He is qualified in the UH-1, RU-21, OV-1, and the C-12. He has flown over 3,500 hours in U.S. Army Aircrafts. His military education includes Combined Arms and Staff College (CAS3), Command General Staff College (CGSC) and the US Army War College.

In his civilian career, Brig. Gen. Morcomb (Ret) works as a pilot for American Airlines. He is currently a Captain on the Boeing 737. With American Airlines, he has flown the Boeing 787, 777, 767, 757, 737 and 727, Fokker 100, McDonnell Douglas S80. He has amassed over 15,000 hours as a Pilot with American Airlines.

Brig. Gen. Morcomb (Ret) received his Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Science from Winona State University in Winona, Minnesota.

His awards include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal with four Oak Leaf Clusters, the Army Commendation Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Air Medal.

Brig. Gen. Morcomb (Ret) has been married to his wife, Janna, for 34 years and currently lives in Winona, Minnesota. He and Janna have two children; Ciara and Bryant, Daughter in Law Shelby, Son In Law Colton and two grandsons, Cameron James and Lucas Ryan.

We Want to Hear from You

We want to hear from YOU! SELCO is conducting a broad-based community needs assessment on behalf of the 37 public libraries in its service area – which includes the St. Charles Public Library. Findings will guide library services, programs, and other priorities in the years to come. Your input into the process is important, because your local library’s end goal is to serve you – effectively and fully.

Fill out the survey here: www.surveymonkey.com/r/NM7K3S5

Minnesota Author Tour to Stop at the St. Charles Public Library

As part of SELCO’s Minnesota Author Tour, the St. Charles Public Library will have visits from three different authors in May.

Kim Todd – May 2, 6:30 pm

Kim Todd, Ph.D., is known for her award-winning storytelling about science, nature, and history.  Her most recent publication, Sensational: The Hidden History of America’s “Stunt Girl Reporters,” is a MN Book Awards Finalist.

Anne Ursu – May 16, 6:30 pm

Anne Ursu is the author of many acclaimed novels including 2022 MN Book Award Finalist The Troubled Girls of Dragomir Academy, and The Real Boys, which was longlisted for the National Book Award.

Brian Freeman – May 24, 6:30 pm

Brian Freeman writes psychological thrillers that have been sold in 46 countries and 22 languages.  He has won Best Hardcover Novel in the annual Thriller Awards and his novel The Deep, Deep Snow was a finalist for the Edgar Award.

Ready, Set, Go…Writing and Publishing Your First Novel

Thursday, April 7
6:30 pm
St. Charles Public Library

So you have an idea for your first novel. Maybe it’s still a tiny seed of a concept, ping-ponging around inside your brain; or perhaps you’ve already jumped in with both feet, written and polished it off, and you’re wondering if it’s ready for a publisher. Now what? How do you know when it’s really done? And how do you get it into the hands of a publisher?

Author and Literary Agent, C.H. Armstrong will walk you through the process of how to get started, when to know your manuscript is ready for the next step, and the various paths available for publishing—explaining in detail the three primary paths to publishing, and the red flags authors should beware of along the way.

Hot Reads for Cold NIghts

The St. Charles Public Library’s winter reading program returns for another year. Designed for adults and teens, the program encourages people to read and visit the library in the cold winter months.

Book Bingo

Drop by the library to pick up a Book Bingo sheet. Each square has a different reading challenge to complete. Get a Bingo and earn a treat (for up to four Bingos). Get a Blackout and earn a $10 gift card to Cabin Coffee.

Reading Rewards

Every three books or audiobooks read earns an entry into the monthly drawing. Every month, the library will be giving away two coffee mugs filled with chocolate.

Find the Goat

Every week, the library goat will pose for a photo somewhere in the local area. Treats will be given to those that correctly guess the location of the photo.

Water Stories Workshop

Thursday, March 17 – 6:30pm
St. Charles Public Library

Open to all ages, this one-hour workshop will explore ways of knowing and experiencing water through shared storytelling.  Participants will reflect on We Are Water themes by listening to local audio stories, exchanging stories with each other, and reflecting as a group.  The workshop will encourage participants to articulate ways that water is meaningful to themselves and explore the different types of relationships we can have with water – survival, practical, scientific, and beyond!

This program is only one of many to be hosted in Winona County in March and April, with the Winona County Historical Society hosting the We Are Water MN traveling exhibit as the centerpiece.  For a complete listing of programs, go to www.winonahistory.org/wearewater.html.

Blind Date with a Book

You won’t be able to judge these books by their covers.  Throughout the month of February, the St. Charles Public Library is encouraging readers to go on a blind date with a book.

All books are wrapped in paper, obscuring their titles.  The only clue as to their contents are a unique personals advertisement.  Take one of these books for a spin, sight unseen.  Who knows?  You might find a new life-long love.