Uncle Bob Wilson, stud slave for Hickory Hill. After he became a free man, he became a traveling preacher. He lived to be 112 years old. Robert Wilson (Uncle Bob) died as a treasured resident of the Elgin State Hospital.

Facts About The Novel Hickory Hill

There's a plethora of information on 'The Old Slave House' (Hickory Hill), much of it wild tales told by decades of visitors to the plantation. Much of it simply the sad truth. You may do your own searches on the web by looking up 'The Old Slave House', and read HICKORY HILL then decide for yourself.

The facts are...
Hickory Hill is the name the plantation was given when it was built by John and Francine Crenshaw. It was NEVER called 'Crenshaw House' until the State of Illinois, in its wisdom, gave it that name.

John Crenshaw was accused of kidnapping free blacks and run-away slaves and selling them into slavery. He was brought to trial several times, but never convicted. Still, the stories and accusations continued.

According to George Sisk, who's family had owned Hickory Hill most of the last century, through the many stories he'd told on visits with Sherrie's grandmother and her great-aunts, in the 1950s, '60s and even up through the '80s many people from different organizations came to Hickory Hill claiming that Hickory Hill had been an important leg on the Underground Railroad.

The Sisk family’s personal knowledge of Hickory Hill caused them to stand fast on the side of the slave trading stories, and the Reverse Underground Railroad. After all, they did have plenty of proof of that with whipping posts in the barn, chains and iron bars still on the third floor. Of course, the scandal of those stories probably did help the tourist trade. In reality, as in the book, it could easily have been both. When the Sisk family moved in, the third floor still showed the finishes with painted plaster walls, crown moulding and little painted vines and flowers still visible here and there. Through the years, tourists taking bits and pieces as souvenirs has left it in its current condition, which is a sad state.

There was a tunnel, that has since collapsed, that went from the beech tree behind the house down to the bottom of the hill.
It was long believed that Crenshaw brought the slaves in through that tunnel. But, in that isolated area, John Crenshaw owned the surrounding two-thousand heavily wooded acres, why would he need to hide the fact that he was bringing in slaves? The state allowed him to lease slaves for the salt mines and the plantation, and everyone knew it. At that time, Hickory Hill's taxes made up a great majority of the Illinois budget. Yes, John Crenshaw could pretty much do as he pleased.

Did Crenshaw eventually move to help the slaves? Documentation proves 'the accident' was common knowledge of the time, and did happen when an angry slave chopped off Crenshaw's leg with a broad-ax. During his convalescence he apparently had a change of heart. In the only known surviving portrait of John and Sina he has his 'stump' propped up over Sina's knee so it would be in the portrait. With the hint of a smile on his face, he almost seems proud of it. The 'accident' may have been his wake-up call, to bring him to be a better man. The man his wife always hoped he was. God gives us wake up calls. It's our opportunity to get on the path He's laid out for us. It's our choice to listen, or not.