The Origin of the Term "Underground Railroad"
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.