The famous detective, Allan Pinkerton, was a Scottish emigrant who started a cooper’s factory in West Dundee, Illinois. One day while he was out gathering wood for barrel staves, Pinkerton stumbled on a gang of counterfeiters. He alerted local law enforcement and assisted in the subsequent arrest. From this, Pinkerton was appointed a deputy sheriff in Kane County, Illinois. He formed a full time detetive agency in Chicago in 1849.
Allen Pinkerton was an abolitionist and assisted freedom seeking former slaves coming into the Chicago area. The most famous slave escape was a group of 12 Freedom Seekers escorted by abolitionist John Brown, John Henry Kagi and Aaron Stevens. In 1857, former Indiana Congressman, Jim Lane had blazed a trail across southern Iowa to Nebraska City, Nebraska turning south and ending at Topeka, Kansas. This trail became known as the Lane Road. In 1857, the Lane Road became the spine of the Underground Railroad from the Missouri/Kansas border. In the winter of 1858, John Brown’s party of Freedom Seekers followed this route north and east through Iowa into Illinois to the Chicago area. At West Liberty, Iowa, William Penn Clarke and J.B. Grinnell arranged for Brown’s party to ride in a real railroad train into Chicago. At Chicago, Allan Pinkerton arranged for the party to take a train around Lake Michigan to Detroit. From Detroit, they crossed the Canadian border. The Freedom Seekers were left with Canadian abolitionists. Sam Harper was a Freedom Seeker with this party. He married another Freedom Seeker named Jane. Click on Sam Harper to read an interview of Sam Harper. Mr. Harper gives a first hand account of his memory of this trip in an 1895 interview.