Caroline Quarlls is one of the most celebrated fugitive slaves of the Underground Railroad.
Quarlls was born around 1826 in St. Louis, Missouri, she is the first known fugitive slave conducted through the Wisconsin network to freedom. Quarlls was forced to do housework for her owner who was also her paternal grandfather, Charles R. Hall, who often beat Quarlls. Although Quarlls could easily pass for white, she was not allowed the same privileges as her half-white siblings.
On July 4, 1842, at the age of sixteen, she was able to escape by passing as a white girl, taking a steamboat to Alton, Illinois, where she began a five-week journey to freedom. Her owner paid lawyers to bring her back, and bounty hunters pursued Quarlls through Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan.
In Milwaukee, local barber Robert Titball feigned assistance (and also later betrayed her), but aid arrived in the form of Asahel Finch of the law firm Lynde and Finch (who famously hid her under a barrel), Westsider Samuel Brown, and an unnamed African American boy. Brown transported Quarlls to the home of Lucinda and Samuel Daugherty in Lisbon, Waukesha County. She next traveled by horse and carriage via key “stations” on Wisconsin’s Underground Railroad: first through Prairieville (now Waukesha), and then to Spring Prairie and Gardner’s Prairie near Burlington, both in Walworth County.
She later met and married her husband and together they raised six children in Ontario, Canada. Caroline Quarrls died around 1886.