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One of Earliest Integrated Schools Is Being Preserved

Mar 07 – Mar 20, 2024
Praising the Past

brownsville school

Cass County, Michigan’s Calvin, Penn and Porter Townships (known as Young’s Prairie) was once home to more than 1,500 freedomseekers. Quaker, Black, and other stationmasters and conductors assisted the freedomseekers the Michigan county, two hours from Chicago. However, many freedomseekers journeyed on to Canada due to the Fugitive Slave Act.

Cass County’s 1860 plat map shows more than hundred Black-owned properties. Free Black people established churches and thriving farms, became respected members of the community, assisted freedomseekers, and sent their children to school.
Integration of Brownsville #1 and several other public one-room schools of Young’s Prairie happened quite naturally, a direct consequence of the Underground Railroad’s presence. To honor and celebrate this legacy, the Underground Railroad Society of Cass County (URSCC) a non-profit, purchased Brownsville School in November 2022.

The school had been part of the Wooden family farm since the 1960s and for a short time was used to store grain. A band around the building shored it up against the weight of the grain, but the band has helped keep the building intact as it sat empty for many years.

The School’s recently stabilized foundation
URSCC hopes to complete these preservation projects by mid-2024.

At that time, Brownsville #1 will open to the public with documents chronicling Brownsville’s history available to the public. URSCC is also creating a documentary about the Underground Railroad and its legacy in Cass County. The film will include interviews with former Brownsville students and former students from the other integrated schools of Young’s Prairie. It will debut at Brownsville #1 during Underground Railroad Days, July 2024.

Note: If you would like to receive preservation updates via e-mail, become a friend of Friends of Brownsville School (FBS), a committee of URSCC, at

Friends of Brownsville School is dedicated to assisting Underground Railroad Society of Cass County, Michigan with research and preservation. For more information about
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