The Underground Railroad that was organized to help runaway slaves seek freedom was nothing new to many residents who lived in Ottawa, Illinois in the1850s. Several residents had established shelters for runaway slaves although they faced possible confrontations with slave catchers, law enforcement officers and trials that could lead to imprisonment and forfeiture of private property. The Northern District of the Illinois State Supreme Court became the scene of a hearing of a runaway slave Jim Gray who had been arrested in Union County in southern Illinois. The state court ruled that Gray was free of any state charges but he would have to be remanded to the U.S. Commissioner in Springfield who would have to hold a trial for Gray because of the federal fugitive slave law and would probably have to return Gray to his master in Missouri. Several citizens in Ottawa orchestrated a daring plan to free Gray while he was in the LaSalle County Court house and connect him with a nearby Underground Railroad network that would get him to Chicago and on north by ship to Canada. Several prominent citizens who participated in the escape plan were arrested and charged with violation of the federal fugitive slave law and were taken to Chicago to stand trial in federal court. The outcome of this trial surprised the defendants and shocked those who opposed the abolitionists and supported states’ rights that guaranteed slavery.