Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing and Rest Area

Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing and Rest Area
A Confluence Attraction

Contact
Doug Eller, Grace Hill Settlement House
(314) 584-6703

Participating Confluence Organizations
Great Rivers Greenway District
Grace Hill Settlement House
Missouri Department of Natural Resources, State Historic Preservation Office
National Park Service Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program

Location
Nine-acre site on the St. Louis Riverfront Trail, three miles north of downtown St. Louis and just north of the Merchant’s Bridge

Directions
(By car) From downtown St. Louis, take I-70 West to the Adelaide exit. Turn right (east) on Adelaide, which ends at Hall Street. Turn right (south) on Hall and proceed to Prairie (this part of the route is through an industrial district). At Prairie, turn left and park near the ADM grain elevators, at the break in the floodwall. The Riverfront Trail is on the river side of the floodwall. The Meachum site, containing a marker, is a short distance to the right (south) and can be reached on foot or by bicycle.
(By bike) The Riverfront Trail can be reached from the Confluence Trail in Illinois via the Old Chain of Rocks Bridge. (See Confluence Trail description on this website.)

History
In the early morning hours of May 21, 1855 a small group of runaway slaves and their guides crossed the Mississippi River at St. Louis, attempting to reach a route to freedom through Illinois. Accompanying them was Mary Meachum, a free woman of color and the widow of a prominent African American clergyman. Even today, the activities of the Underground Railroad remain largely shrouded in mystery. This event is remarkably different because the group was apprehended and, since the slaves belonged to the prominent St. Louisan Henry Shaw, a detailed story of the escape was covered in local newspapers. Thus was preserved for posterity a rare example, with exact location, of an Underground Railroad event in Missouri – in fact, the first documented site in the state. In December 2001, the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing was dedicated as part of the National Park Service’s Undergound Railroad Network to Freedom.

Current Features
At present, the area is marked by a designation sign. A colorful wall mural, executed by students of Logos School, interprets the Meachum event.

A rest stop and native plant nursery are housed nearby in a former Coast Guard boat facility. The building features a spacious deck overlooking the river. It is staffed during peak periods by the Grace Hill AmeriCorps Trail Rangers, who provide directions, general and mechanical assistance.

The Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing was featured in the September 2004 issue of St. Louis Magazine. To print or view a PDF format of this article, click here (8.9 mb).

The Meachum Feedom Crossing is now a geocashing site – learn more on the geocashing website

Future Plans
Commemorative and interpretive facilities are planned for the Freedom Crossing. The proposed design, developed through an extensive community process, is now being evaluated by several public agencies. The site will support tourism as well as provide a spot for quiet riverside contemplation.

To view or print a JPEG of the schemtic design visit our Plans section of this website.

Funders
Meachum site design
Great Rivers Greenway
National Park Service, Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Program
The Whitaker Foundation
Rest area and native plant nursery improvements
Genesis Communications
Granite, Inc.
Home Depot
Rich and Nancy Marston
Shell Oil Products U.S.
The Sherwin-Williams Company
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

For more information on the Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing, see
http://www.slfp.com/110101City.htm

For more information on the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, see
http://www.nps.gov/history/ugrr/

For more information about AmeriCorps National Service Programs, see
http://www.americorps.org