Milton House Cabin
The Milton House, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed by Underground Railroad conductor and Wisconsin pioneer Joseph Goodrich. The unusual grout (lime mixed with coarse gravel and sand) house with its hexagonal three-story tower served as a local inn and the Goodrich family residence. Joseph Goodrich (1800-1867) was born in Massachusetts to a family active in the Seventh Day Baptist Church, a denomination that officially denounced slavery in several resolutions. As an adolescent, Goodrich moved to New York and in 1821 married Nancy Maxon. In 1838, he organized a party of fellow Seventh Day Baptists who traveled westward to Wisconsin to file a claim for unsettled land. The group built a log cabin and surveyed the land for the town that would become Milton. The town, located near the Rock River, a tributary of the Mississippi River, may have been on a route for fugitive slaves escaping to the communities along Lake Michigan that bordered Canada. Goodrich's family moved to Wisconsin the following year and the town soon began to grow. Goodrich added on to the log cabin and built on a frame structure that became the first Milton House Hotel. Prominent Milton citizens, Goodrich and his wife were leaders in the Seventh Day Baptist Church and in local community activities such as the DuLac Academy (later named Milton College), which Joseph Goodrich founded in 1844. A new Milton House Hotel, the building that stands today, was constructed in 1845, with an addition completed in 1868. A part of the original cabin complex remains as outbuildings.
Evidence of the Goodrich family's involvement in the Underground Railroad is substantiated by
oral testimony, letters, and published biographical material. An early statement of Joseph
Goodrich's involvement in the movement is in The United States Biographical Dictionary
and Portrait Gallery of Eminent and Self-Made Men: Wisconsin Volume, published in 1877
which states, "His home was a refuge for the fugitive slave." According to oral tradition,
fugitive slaves would enter the log cabin located approximately 10 feet from the rear of the Milton
House Inn, in order to avoid guests. They would then enter a trap door and walk through a
tunnel that lead to the basement of the inn where Goodrich and his family provided shelter and
food. The tunnel, originally an earthen structure about three to five feet high, is believed to have
been constructed around 1845 when the house was completed. In 1954, the property was
remodeled to accommodate visitors and the tunnel was enlarged and lined with stone. The
Wisconsin State Journal wrote of Goodrich after his death in 1867, "He was an
uncompromising friend and advocate of the cause of temperance, and of human rights. The poor
and oppressed were received by him as a legacy of the Lord..."
The Milton House is located at 18 South Janesville Street in Milton, Wisconsin. From May until Labor Day, the museum is open from 10:00 am to 4:00 pm daily. From Labor Day thru Memorial Day the museum is open from 1:00 pm to 4:00 pm on Monday thru Friday. Group tours are available year round. Please call to make a reservation for group tours at 608-868-7772. The museum is handicap accessible except for the tunnel. For more information please visit their website.
Previous | List of Sites | Home | Next
Comments or Questions
Last Modified: EST