Maintenance Outages: our website is experiencing some issues with pages loading as we undergo maintenance, please check back soon

Quarlls, Caroline (1824-1892) | Wisconsin Historical Society

Historical Essay

Quarlls, Caroline (1824-1892)

Fugitive Slave

Quarlls, Caroline (1824-1892) | Wisconsin Historical Society
Mrs. Caroline Quarlls Watkins
b. 1824
d. 1892

Caroline Quarlls was the first fugitive slave conducted through Wisconsin's underground railroad network to freedom. With a gift of $100 from her grandmother, a free woman, Quarlls left her master's home in St. Louis on July 4, 1842. She travelled by steamboat to Alton, Illinois, and then by stagecoach to Milwaukee, where she arrived in early August, 1842. Pursued by agents of her owner, she was hidden by a series of sympathetic abolitionists in Milwaukee, Pewaukee, Waukesha and Spring Prairie. In early September, Lyman Goodnow of Waukesha agreed to escort her around Chicago and across Indiana and Michigan to Detroit, where she crossed safely to freedom in Canada. She learned to read, married a man named Watkins and lived near Sandwich (modern Windsor), across from Detroit, until her death around 1892.

Davidson, J. N. Negro slavery in Wisconsin and the underground railroad. (Milwaukee, 1897); Goodnow, Lyman. "Recollections of Lyman Goodnow." Manuscript in the Milwaukee Area Research Center (Milwaukee SC 19).