Chain Lake Baptist Church, Cass County, Michigan
Chain Lake Baptist Church is just a few miles from Cassopolis, Michigan. The church records their history as beginning in 1838 as area African Americans came together in through organized worship services and fellowship. Among these early members were many who supported the abolition of slavery and helped formerly enslaved persons evade their pursuers via the Underground Railroad. In the winter of 1849, the formerly enslaved persons manumitted in Virginia by Sampson Sanders arrived in the community. Local African Americans, including many members of this congregation, people provided aid and shelter. In the years that followed, many of the former slaves from Virginia became members of the church. Owing to the decision to keep Sanders as their surname, the church's roles would demonstrate the impact of this migration with many Sanders families attending the church and becoming active in this community.
Backstory and Context
Chain Lake Baptist Church, located in Calvin Township, dates back to 1838 making this the second African American church organized in Michigan. In 1853, the Antislavery Baptist Associated was formed here and many formerly enslave persons who were seeking freedom were aided by church members in their effort to reach Canada.
Even prior to this time, local black and white citizens came to the aid of fugitive slaves. In 1847 for example, a group of Kentucky plantation owners arrived in Cass County with the intent of recovering their human property. The raid made national news and highlighted the unpopularity of the Fugitive Slave Law in many Northern communities. Most of the white Cass County residents were similar to other Northern communities in their opposition to those who called for immediate abolition. However, when confronted with slave catchers in their own community, they came to the aid of the fugitives or simply refused to help the slave catchers. This incident may have been the reason Sampson Sanders chose this part of the country. Sanders dedicated several years to planning the manumission of his fifty-one slaves and made arrangements with local people to assist them in settling in Cass County, Michigan.
History of the Chain Lake Baptist Church
Michigan History sites
Eldridge, Carrie: An Empire for Freedom - The Manumission of Sampson Sanders Slaves