The Underground Railroad


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North America » United States » Kentucky » Maysville
July 12th 2019
Published: July 13th 2019
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Bison sculpturesBison sculpturesBison sculptures

Representing that Maysville is built on an ancient Buffalo trace as they crossed the Ohio River at this point
The term ‘sold down the river’ really hit home today as we listened to the guide at the Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville. She had just done a DNA test and looking at the results wondered why she had so many relations in Louisiana and Mississippi. Maysville and neighbouring Old Washington were centres of the slave trade. So goods were not the only thing to be ‘sold down the river’.

It was in Old Washington that Harriet Beecher (she hadn’t yet met Mr Stowe) first came across a slave auction when she and a friend visited, in 1833, the home of Marshall Key, clerk of Mason County, a wealthy farmer, merchant and manufacturer. The slave auction was held on the Court House front lawn. However good manners meant she had to exhibit passive complacency. Her friend later described her reaction “Miss Beecher went into a kind of fugue state, turning one eye away while carefully remembering every detail“. This experience lead to her writing Uncle Tom’s Cabin which was published in March 1852 selling 10,000 copies in the first week

Some people in the south accused her of making it all up so a few years later she published
Further up the escarpment was built the town of Old WashingtonFurther up the escarpment was built the town of Old WashingtonFurther up the escarpment was built the town of Old Washington

In front of this Court House, on the lawn is where Harriet Beecher witnessed a slave auction
“The Key to Uncle Tom’s Cabin - a detailed account of sources and inspirations.”

Old Washington is quaint very small town on the buffalo trace - the path that buffalo took as they crossed the Ohio River ran up the hill looking for the blue grasses and salt on the plains.

Three or four original log cabins were here and it was fascinating hearing all about life in them, especially about the two storied one which was home to family with 13 children!

Some homes had narrow staircases behind cupboard doors where it was thought slaves were hidden.

Back down to the Underground Railroad Museum located in the former home of the Bierbower family who helped hundreds of slaves escape over the river. They were hidden in an area under the floorboards of the cellar. Unfortunately we weren’t allowed to take photos but the entrance was about 18 inches square with a wooden ladder going down into a hole dug in the ground. But fortunately fugitives were only there for a few days.

However they still weren’t safe after crossing the river to the free state of Ohio, as bounty hunters would follow and if
1795 home of Marshall Key1795 home of Marshall Key1795 home of Marshall Key

Where Harriet stayed in the 1830s. This is now the Harriet Beecher Stowe Museum - Slavery to Freedom.
caught they could be taken back to their owners. Canada was the only place of safety.


Additional photos below
Photos: 22, Displayed: 22


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Old Main Street WashingtonOld Main Street Washington
Old Main Street Washington

Leads to the bridge crossing the Ohio
An original log, two family cottage built 1790sAn original log, two family cottage built 1790s
An original log, two family cottage built 1790s

Used as a residence until the 1950s. Now a print maker’s studio
Simon Kenton StoreSimon Kenton Store
Simon Kenton Store

Simon Kenton was the founder of Old Washington.
Salt trough made of a cottonwood treeSalt trough made of a cottonwood tree
Salt trough made of a cottonwood tree

Salted meat was put in here. The crack at the end is for the liquid to drain out. The wood is very soft, a bit like balsa wood
Our guide Joyce showing herbal plantsOur guide Joyce showing herbal plants
Our guide Joyce showing herbal plants

The purple flowered one is Echinacea while the one she is holding is wild lettuce, the sap of which has antiseptic qualities.
Rugs of African design were thrown over a balcony Rugs of African design were thrown over a balcony
Rugs of African design were thrown over a balcony

to show the house was a safe house for escaping slaves
A plate or dinner warmerA plate or dinner warmer
A plate or dinner warmer

Looks like an iron cupboard in front of the fire, but the back is open to get warmth from the fire to keep plates or food warm.
Methodist Episcopal church with a slave gallery Methodist Episcopal church with a slave gallery
Methodist Episcopal church with a slave gallery

accessible from the two upper outside doors by carts which were drawn up outside.
Implements insideImplements inside
Implements inside

Including a candle dipping ‘machine’
The Underground Railroad Museum in MaysvilleThe Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville
The Underground Railroad Museum in Maysville

The home of the Bierbowers in the 1830s in which they hid escaping slaves in holes under the cellar floor boards.


16th July 2019

Trip progress
All sounding impressive. Quite a lot to take in but an amazing experience.

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