The DeLand family name is alive and well in Jackson, Michigan today, and the family can be proud of its heritage.
Charles DeLand, born in 1828 in Massachusetts, was a Civil War hero and settled in Jackson after the war. His homestead was located on the northeast corner of the intersection of S. Mechanic St. and W. Franklin St.
If that location sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the location of our new Habitat neighborhood development slated to break ground this spring (2021). DeLand was a pioneer, humanitarian and writer. In his day, he was well-known for things like editing a newspaper called the American Citizen, which evolved into the Jackson Citizen Patriot. He was an anti-slavery advocate. In his newspaper, he fought against slavery with his words. In addition, DeLand was one of the founding members of the Republican party in Jackson in 1854.
But he also participated in an activity that he had to keep secret for obvious reasons. Charles DeLand was a ‘conductor’ in the Underground Railroad and harbored runaway slaves in his home and transported them to safe houses along their route to freedom. For this he is now known as a true hero who risked his life and the lives of his family to take part in righting an extreme injustice done to the ancestors of people who live among us in our county today.
We just passed through Black History month, and we’re honored to be picking up the pace on a project named after someone who stood up for black people during a time when doing so meant risking his life. This legacy of Charles DeLand is in line with the values of Habitat for Humanity. Habitat was born on a farm in Americus, Georgia, called Koinonia. Koinonia was an inclusive homestead that welcomed people of all races and backgrounds, something that was not only unpopular at the time, but outright dangerous. Koinonia’s commitment to racial equality caused retaliation from the surrounding community, including shootings, boycotting, bombs, and harassment from the KKK.
We’re honored to share values with someone who courageously took part in a risky movement that saved countless lives and helped put an end to the worst practice of inhumanity our country has ever known. In that honor, we named our first Habitat neighborhood after Charles V. DeLand.