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Published: July 13th 2019
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 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 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.
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