Maysville Kentucky Blog

The Maysville Kentucky Blog is your guide to the beautiful and historic small town of Maysville Kentucky, snuggled into the rolling hills along the Ohio River. Though this blog has been discontinued, you can get your Maysville Kentucky fix over at Ken Downing's Mason County Kentucky Blog @

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Origin of the Term "Underground Railroad"

Many people are at least somewhat familiar with Maysville Kentucky's place in history as a stop along the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad is, of course, the network of people and safehouses that helped slaves escape the South in the early to mid-1800s. Some are less familiar with the story of how the term "Underground Railroad" came about, and what it has to do Maysville.

From the Louisville Courier-Journal:

The phrase "Underground Railroad" wasn’t used until 1831, when Tice Davids, a slave from Maysville, Ky., fled across the Ohio River into Ohio. The river was part of the Mason-Dixon line that separated the Southern slave states from the Northern free states.

As Davids fled, his white master followed him, determined that he wouldn’t let Davids out of his sight, according to Jerry Gore [from Maysville], an Underground Railroad historian and founder and CEO of Freedom Time, a company that offers historical presentations and tours of Underground Railroad sites.

When Davids reached the Ohio River, he jumped in and swam across. His owner watched carefully to see where Davids emerged on the other side. The master found a skiff at the riverbank and crossed the river himself, planning to catch Davids and bring him back. But when the slave owner reached the other side, Davids was nowhere to be found.

When questioned, no one would admit to having seen Davids. The slave master couldn’t believe it. To him, it seemed as if Davids had simply disappeared. "He must have gone on some underground road," the owner said. In reality, what had happened, according to Gore, was that "he had gone into the free black community," who helped him hide.

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