Friday, October 21, 2011

We’re all “honeys” here

Everyone in Kentucky calls us “honey.”  Unless they are younger; then it’s “ma’am” or “sir.”  Guess we're hanging with the old folks, because most of the time, it’s “honey.”
Backing up a bit, before we left Blue Lick State Park we made a trip to Maysville, Kentucky, to see the National Underground Railroad Museum.  I grew up near Oberlin, Ohio, which was one of the railway stops, and have always been interested in the story of how slaves were transported to freedom.  Most of the conductors and safe house owners were free slaves or sympathetic whites.  They helped slaves get west or outside of the country to Canada, Mexico or the Caribbean.
The museum was once owned by the Bierbower family, German emigrants sympathetic to the slaves and while they lived their it was an Underground Railroad safe house.  A conductor brought slaves to the home in a buggy with a false bottom.  Slaves climbed a ladder down into a hidden room below the basement, and were given a blanket, food, a candle and a chance to get some sleep.  Then another buggy would take them to a boat and they’d cross the Ohio River.  Most of the slaves that made a stop at the Bierbower home would go to Canada.
Probably the most interesting thing about the museum was our tour guide, Ms. Marshall  She spent 90 minutes with just me and Jim.  In addition to showing us the hidden room, one of the many items she pointed out was one of the iron collars owners placed on the slaves at night so they couldn’t run away.  She told us about John Parker -- a freed slave, master iron worker, and underground railroad conductor who invented and patented the tobacco press; his mother was a slave, his father a plantation owner, and his father sold him when he was eight years old.  And she said a question she gets from kids is “what did slaves do on their days off?” 
I have to admit, Ms. Marshall’s presentation was disjointed.  Half the time I didn't know if she had a point.  Then 15 minutes later she’d say something -- and up popped the point.   But she talked in a matter of fact way that I found amazing for someone whose ancestors were slaves.  
The Bierbower home was both the home of the Bierbower family and a stop on the underground railroad.  The Bierbowers owned six slaves themselves  -- with a big house like this, it would have been very suspicious if they had not.
This bridge crosses the Ohio River from Aberdeen, Ohio to Maysville, Kentucky.  We drove across it in 2006 in a Jeep Liberty and it sure seemed narrower in our motorhome.  In fact, we thought we’d scraped the passenger side wall of the bridge, but didn’t see any damage.
Maysville flood walls on the bank of the Ohio River are covered with murals.  The latest one is of Maysville native Rosemary Clooney who also lived for several decades in nearby Augusta, Kentucky.  
Another view of the Maysville flood walls.  Jim wondered if there are no flood walls on the Ohio side because Ohioans swim better.

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