Maysville Ky is a river town. Located on the banks of the Ohio River, it is a hotspot for UGRR activity. The community of Washington lays about 4-5 miles outside of Maysville. It is reported that Harriett Beecher Stowe got inspiration to write her book while in Washington visiting relatives. She supposedly witnessed a slave auction. Couple that with a river town so close to freedom and the stories are thick. When I was a kid, I spent my summers working on my grandfather’s horse farm (in Mason County). My grandmother told me stories that she had heard as a kid and would point out the houses in and around town that were reported to have been used as stops on the UGRR. While I am sure there were some houses in the area, I doubt as many as she had been told. It was also a station back before statehood. The “fort” had an old cellar that was used to hide from Indians during raids (according to local legend it was used as a stop on the UGRR later on).
I will have to search through some of mom’s stuff, but I had a list from the local sheriff who had captured runaways in Mason County. I also have a picture of the jail that was originally erected to house blacks during the period.
As far as secret rooms…I know some of you have seen Radio. The talk about a mentally challenged youth who was held under the porch isn’t as rare as you may think. Back in the day it was rare to send a family member off to an institution, instead they were kept in the attic or cellar. Usually they were kept away from site because it was an embarrassment to the family. The “challenged” was rarely if ever in contact with very many people at all other than for food. When I was a kid in the early 70’s the folks down the road had a challenged son, he was in his 40’s then. He lived in a chicken coop (with chickens) while his parents (in their 70’s) lived up the hill in the house. My parents, one a social worker the other a teacher, made inquiries. Basically, he was in good health and an adult, not much you could do. When we later moved, our new landlord had taken in his niece who had Down’s. They had no children of their own and raised her as a daughter. But she was sent by her parents out to the country to be hidden away (this was late 70’s). I think that a lot of these “secret” rooms could have been used for anything, and my Radio example is just one of many probabilities.
My brother just bought a 170 year old house, well part of it (a very small part) and guess what, the basement has a secret room! We both think it was probably used to…..make booze during prohibition. Although he has been turning up a lot of very old silver spoons on the hill behind the house…..could it have been payment for the use of the UGRR or perhaps hidden for fear that Morgan’s Raiders were coming, they did come within about 30 miles. But we both agree you could build a good size still and there is a spring that flows about a foot away from the secret room.
Give us an inch and we will make our own history, give us that foot of wall and some copper tubing and we will make our own……