Route Development > Underground Railroad

route thoughts

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I googled up a couple of maps, and at a very pragmatic level, I think there are a couple of very unemotional things to consider:

While keeping on a course that parallels one or more Underground Railroad paths, the new route should:
1) connect two or more existing routes
2) be within a half day's drive of several major metropolitan areas
3) be on roads that are as pleasant and rural as possible.

A sample map of UG. Routes is available at this link.

Some obvious choices would be
1) Cairo to Chicago, IL
2) Evansville,IN to Monroville, IN (on to Detroit?)
3) Cincy to Cleveland
4) Portsmouth OH to Buffalo
5) the Susquehanna river valley.

#1 partially duplicates the great river route
#3 is underway as a rail-to-trail project
#4 partially duplicates the #3 route, although the bottom half is pure TOSRV.
#5 suffers from a lack of good roads.

If I might make a few observations about #2
a) it would connect the TransAm & Northern Tier as well as the Lake Erie connector.
b) It would serve Louisville, Indy, Cincy, Detroit, and possibly Chicago, Grand Rapids, etc.  It passes near several cities, but through comparatively few.
c) Low traffic paved roads abound, (plus camping, etc)
d)In combination with the Northern Tier, an "omega" shaped route could be devised as follows: Louisville-Monroeville-Syracuse-Philadelphia-Cumberland (C&O canal path).
e) some rural (read: easy to route to) sites remain, including a "Grand Central Station" (Levi Coffin House, just north of Richmond, IN).

Thanks for reading this far :-) Is it really obvious that I live in Indiana?

I don't want to be rude but how can you possibly make a Underground Railroad without including the southeastern states?  At least start in New Orleans.  That was a major sea port many slaves came through New Orleans.  What about Harriett Tubman's rescue missions.  I think she made some 19 trips to help slaves escape from the south.  In fact she was and escaped slave herself.  Did she start in Ohio?  I don't think so.  I'm looking at ACA's maps and I don't see any maps that go through "Dixieland."

If you want connect to maps why not start in New Orleans, go up through Mississippi, Alabama, perhaps Tennesse or Georgia and connect with the Atlantic Coast map somewhere around North Carolina or so.

Maybe I'm missing something here but if the Underground Railroad route doesn't include the some of the southeastern states I don't see how you could call it and Underground Railroad Map.  States like Mississippi and Alabama and Tennessee are desparate to shead all vestiges of the "old south."  Having part of the ACA Underground Railroad going through their state would be a way for them to ackowledge the wrongs of the past and provide yet another way to recognize the great many people both black and white that helped many slave escape to freedom.

This message was edited by funbun on 9-27-04 @ 8:51 PM

I think the real problem with underground railroad sites south of the Ohio River or Mason-Dixon line is that of documentation. For various reasons, it seems that the underground railroad's route structure was a great deal more cohesive in the free states. Both the UCSD and NPS maps - which seem to pop up with great frequency have a lot more detail about routes in northern states.

I was surprised by this too, but then I thought about the few narratives I've read, and they seem consistent with this.

That said, the "Drinking Gourd" song suggests the Tenn-Tom waterway as a logical route up to the Ohio.  An "Underground Railroad" route owes to its name the tracing of documented routes and the connection of documented sites.  To do otherwise is a disservice.

At a distressingly practical level, a trail that does not get used is not worth the effort to put together.  Would a route roughly paralleling the Natchez Trace be a big enough draw?  I don't know.  Would it be worthwhile to roughly follow the Tennessee, Cumberland, or Kentucky rivers?  Maybe.


I am pleased to read this discussion regarding both the historic record and the spirit of the underground railroad and the implications for the bike route. Clearly we must include locations in the South. I also agree that the creation of the UR route can make a meaingful contribution toward healing the racial divide. This is one of our original intents.  The route must also be "true" to history as well as practical.  Another aim is to have people actually use the route, both for exercise and for exercising the mind and spirit about an important defining period in the history of our nation.

From where I sit, the key is to begin the process with an open mind. I want to thank both of you for getting the discussion started.



I was focused on something Sunfisher wrote:

"a trail that does not get used is not worth the effort to put together."

While I agree, I am not sure what comes first. What do we know about the level of usage for existing AC routes? I serve on the Board of the Rails to Trails Conservency and raised the same question.  It it enough to create a Rail Trail regardless of usage? Clearly we must do both.  What good is a great trail if no one knows about it? With the UR bike route we are trying to do both. Build the route and build public awareness at the same time.

"Be the change you seek in the world", Stephen

This message was edited by sbthomas on 10-4-04 @ 6:23 AM


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