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STATE BUYS OLD SLAVE HOUSE

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EQUALITY - The state of Illinois is the owner of a home near Equality once believed to house a "reverse Underground Railroad," now that a deal to purchase the house for $500,000 is final.

Then-state Sen. Ned Mitchell, D-Sesser, announced the state's intent to buy the Old Slave House, or Crenshaw House, from George Sisk in April 2000.

Sisk said that though the deal is complete, he is surprised the state didn't want to buy any of the antique furniture originally in the house.

"As a little 9-year-old who I was talking to in town said, who wants to see an empty house?" he said.

Sisk said the majority of the furniture, much of which was constructed in the 1850s and 1860s, belonged to his grandfather, born in 1862.

"A lot of the furniture belonged to his father," Sisk said.

Sisk said his grandfather, who lived to be 90, knew the home's original owner, John Hart Crenshaw.

"They both went to the Methodist church in Equality," Sisk said.

Crenshaw, some researchers believe, kidnapped freed or escaped slaves and sold them back into slavery in the South. In addition, some documents compiled by researchers indicate Crenshaw may have illegally kept and bred slaves for work in his salt mine after the Civil War.

Sisk said that because the state didn't buy the antique furniture, he plans to sell it later this spring.

He said those who wish to learn more about plans for the Old Slave House should contact Robert Coomer, division manager of historic sites with the Illinois Historic Preservation Society. Coomer was not available for comment.

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