New historical marker in Troy Grove honors abolitionist, educator Crandall

Prudence Crandall was honored with an historical marker on June 25 in Troy Grove. The abolitionist white school teacher educated black girls across America including in Troy Grove where she lived for 30 years. (Reporter photo by Brandon LaChance)

Woman's rights advocate educated girls of all skin colors

By BRANDON LaCHANCE

Staff writer

TROY GROVE – If you were playing a word association game and the village of Troy Grove came across, the first, easy answer is Wild Bill Hickok.

However, the gunslinger and his family of abolitionists were not the only ones creating chatter around town, making headlines in newspapers, or creating history.

Prudence Crandall, originally from Rhode Island, moved to Troy Grove in 1842 after she had led a female academy in 1831 in Canterbury, Conn. Crandall is reported to be the first or one of the first teachers to have an integrated classroom.

Once white leaders in Canterbury pulled their children from the academy because they didn't want them in the same classroom as African American, Crandall opened the Canterbury Female Academy for Young Ladies and Little Misses of Color in order to prove all children deserve an education. 

Infuriated Crandall would open a black school, the townspeople went to the state capitol and had a black law outlawing education for out-of-state-black people. After the white school teacher continued teaching African Americans, the school was egged, had rocks thrown through windows, cow manure placed on the front steps and in the well water, and it was set on fire in 1834.

The school didn't close until Crandall didn't feel the students had a safe environment when a riot broke out 1 ½ years after it opened.

Crandall's father Pardon Crandall bought 600 acres in Troy Grove in 1838 and built a cabin. After he passed away from malaria, his daughter took residence in his cabin in 1842 at 38 years old.

Along with passing out activist pamphlets across La Salle County, she continued doing what she had in Rhode Island and Connecticut, educating girls of all skin color. 

For her efforts, the La Salle County Historical Society installed a 44”x51” historical marker costing $3,700 in Troy Grove recognizing Crandall for her efforts and being an impactful part of history.

“We actually started the process for the Prudence Crandall marker last year. We were approached by a gentleman through the Illinois State Historical Society because they had a matching grant to place a historical marker,” said Amanda Carter, the La Salle County Historical Society's Museum Director. “They knew of the story of Prudence Crandall and thought that would be a really great fit for a marker.

“The Illinois State Historical Society funded half of the marker cost and then the La Salle County Historical Society, the village of Troy Grove, the Mendota Museum and Historical Society, and the William G. Pomeroy Foundation all pitched in for this marker.

“The village of Troy Grove donated funding and assisted in placing the marker. The marker is located at the Wild Bill Hickok Park on the other side of the Wild Bill monument that sits out there. It's a large plaque installed on a pole that tells the story of Prudence Crandall's life and what she accomplished in La Salle County.”

The county's historical society has implanted history in many towns, but Carter believes this is the first time it has enlightened Troy Grove because the society wasn't involved in the Wild Bill Hickok Monument.

Carter feels Crandall is an important part of history and should be accredited for her work teaching African American students throughout the Civil War.

“It's important for history to be out there. We learn from the past and what has been done in the past,” Carter said. “I think it creates more of a sense of community when you know your roots, where you came from, and who came before you. 

“In La Salle County, I think we have a very interesting history that is not only relevant to the local community, but it's nationally significant as well. For those living in the community, I think it's extremely important for them to know their history.”

Troy Grove Mayor Chuck Mammen, who is also a member of the La Salle County Historical Society Board of Directors, believes Crandall's historical marker is long overdue and he's happy the village played a part in having it displayed.

“I'm happy we were able to help out with the sign. It's nice to have markers explaining the history of the area to people who live here and to those who visit,” Mammen said. “This area is rich in history. 

“People say it's a nice sign and they're glad we worked with the La Salle County Historical Society to get it installed. It's good that we can preserve history for future generations.

“Everyone wants to think about Wild Bill as a gunslinger, but his family were abolitionists. That's another reason this sign is so important to this town because Prudence Crandall was an abolitionist also.

“It's good for the village when people stop. The Wild Bill Hickok monument is on the state map as a stop and we have a lot of people stop here. Not only are they going to see the history of Wild Bill, but they're going to see the history of Prudence Crandall.”

There was a celebration and unveiling of the historical marker on June 25 in which Elise Ellinghausen and Dr. Jennifer Rycenga spoke about Crandall and elaborated on her life and story found on the marker.

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