It happened on June 9, 1849.  Erastus Hussey’s Michigan Liberty Press office, an abolition newspaper, burned under suspicious circumstances, putting him out of the publishing business.

Hussey and his wife, Sarah, were Quakers.   They came to Battle Creek in 1838 and opened a general store. By 1840, they were conductors on the Underground Railroad, hiding escaping slaves in their home, and getting them to the next stop in Marshall.

Erastus Hussey 1884-Willard Library
Erastus Hussey -Willard Library

Hussey went into politics in 1846 or at least tried to. He for the U.S. House of Representatives on the abolitionist Michigan Liberty Party ticket. He lost the election, but only became more determined to fight against slavery. In 1848, Hussey began to publish the Michigan Liberty Press, with the motto “Eternal enmity to all kinds of oppression.” He wasn’t in business for long.

In the book, “Tales of Battle Creek”, Bernice Bryant Lowe writes,

“The anti-slavery attitude came slowly to Battle Creek as a whole, however…..Postal employees refused to deliver the paper and the general public was still antagonistic.  The printing plant was burned June 1849, obviously by an arsonist.”

But Hussey didn’t give up the fight.  He became a state representative and county clerk in 1850, and a state senator in 1854 as a member of the Free Soil Party. He drafted the law that outlawed the capture of runaway slaves in Michigan in response to the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act.

He was a delegate to the Jackson meeting where the Republican Party held its first official meeting, “Under the Oaks”,  on July 6th, 1854.   In 1860, he attended the Chicago convention where Abraham Lincoln was nominated as the Republican candidate for President.

An official State of Michigan Historical plaque was placed on the grounds of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation Headquarters in Battle Creek in 1992.  It quotes Hussey as saying,

"I have fed and given protection to over 1,000 fugitives, and assisted them on to Canada". The plaque goes on to say that when Hussey was asked if any stationmaster had been paid, he had answered, "No.... We were working for humanity."

Hussey, a Battle Creek mayor, died in 1889 at his home at the corner of Washington and Manchester at the age of 88.   He is buried at Battle Creek’s Oakhill Cemetery.

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