I recently was having some flooring pulled up, to have hardwood floors
installed. This is a century home without a known history. There were
multiply floor coverings along with a layer of plywood, and also a layer of
which looked like barn siding. Underneath it all was some original hardwood
floors which are in terrible shape. Now the for the strange part.
At the back of the main floor stairs which lead upstairs, was a cut out in
the floor near the wall. The cut out size in the floor is about 2'x2'. The
workers lifted this section out, and lo and behold it led to part of the
basement which I didn't even know existed. The basement walls are all old
quarry stone and there isn't a way to access the room from the basement.
Anyways, there is a room down there which is approximately 14'x16'. There
are no stairs, and the ceiling height is only about 5' tall, the floor is
dirt in this room vs. someone had concreted the basement that we know. I
had asked the workers to hold up on further work until I decided whether to
somehow have them add stairs (for whatever reason).
The workers say it might have been part of the underground railroad used to
hide slaves. BTW, this is in Northern Ohio. Needless to say, this is kind
of exciting and scary at the same time. What do you think this room
could've been used for?
A root cellar would definitely have had a bigger opening than 2x2, and it
would have more likely have been in or next to the kitchen via a trap door
or regular door, but with stairs in either case. Have you been in it?
The underground railroad concept is intriguing! Or maybe smuggling,
organized crime, rum running, etc. I doubt it was "it puts the lotion on
its skin," but that was a darned funny comment.
wrote in message
On 17 Feb 2005 10:35:17 -0800, scott firstname.lastname@example.org wrote:
The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 applied to the entire United States. It
prohibited anyone from assisting slaves to escape from their masters,
among other provisions. Northern Ohio was a main route on the
underground railroad. In this area, most of the "conductors" on the
railroad were Quakers. There was a substantial Quaker population in
Ohio and Indiana in the early- and mid-19th century. Many of them had
themselves migrated from North and South Carolina to avoid life in the
dominant slave-owning society there.
However, if the house is really only a century old, it is not old
enough to have been a station on the underground railroad. It would
have to have been built before 1860 or so, and probably a little
earlier. Maybe it's older than the OP thinks. Except for this, it does
sound like a hiding place for escaping slaves.
The room sounds too large and too deep for a root cellar to me, but
I'm no expert.
And be it further enacted, That any person who shall knowingly and
willingly obstruct, hinder, or prevent such claimant, his agent or
attorney, or any person or persons lawfully assisting him, her, or
them, from arresting such a fugitive from service or labor, either
with or without process as aforesaid, or shall rescue, or attempt to
rescue, such fugitive from service or labor, from the custody of such
claimant, his or her agent or attorney, or other person or persons
lawfully assisting as aforesaid, when so arrested, pursuant to the
authority herein given and declared; or shall aid, abet, or assist
such person so owing service or labor as aforesaid, directly or
indirectly, to escape from such claimant, his agent or attorney, or
other person or persons legally authorized as aforesaid; or shall
harbor or conceal such fugitive, so as to prevent the discovery and
arrest of such person, after notice or knowledge of the fact that such
person was a fugitive from service or labor as aforesaid, shall, for
either of said offences, be subject to a fine not exceeding one
thousand dollars, and imprisonment not exceeding six months, by
indictment and conviction before the District Court of the United
States for the district in which such offence may have been committed,
or before the proper court of criminal jurisdiction, if committed
within any one of the organized Territories of the United States; and
shall moreover forfeit and pay, by way of civil damages to the party
injured by such illegal conduct, the sum of one thousand dollars for
each fugitive so lost as aforesaid, to be recovered by action of debt,
in any of the District or Territorial Courts aforesaid, within whose
jurisdiction the said offence may have been committed."
On Thu, 17 Feb 2005 19:50:49 GMT, email@example.com (Tom Miller)
My own house, built in 1921, has a 12' x 8' x 3' crawl space tacked
onto the end of the basement underneath part of the kitchen. It has a
dirt floor and a small opening about 3.5' square that leads into the
main basement at the top of the wall. The main basement is ordinary
height with a concrete floor. It took me quite a while to figure out
why this area was unfinished, until I was up in there fixing a pipe.
There's a boulder buried in the floor about the size of a Volkswagen
that I guess was too big for the builder to move or blast out. So they
just left it and built the house around it.
If it is a hiding place for escaped slaves, someone in town at the
historical society might be able to shed some light on it.
Scary? you afraid of the ghost of the dead people
buried down there coming up and creating havoc?
Seriously, I agree with others that suggested it
was a root cellar, may have also served the
purpose of storing other things also. Probably
not built as a hiding spot unless you find another
entrance or rather an exit to the outside of the
house but may have served that purpose.
Underground railroad is possible in northern Ohio, but I am going to bet
on something a little more recent, like the 1920's. A lot of booze was
brought in across lake Erie during prohibition and a lot of speakeasys had
I bet it's part of the US's first nuclear defense system, built in
about 1779. The plan was to launch nuclear missles from people's
basements, as Britain could not see the launch sites withh their
satellites if they were concealed in homes.
However, after the silos were built, the entire plan was scrapped
because the designers realized that nuclear bombs and satellites would
not be invented for almost 200 years.
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