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Freedom Trail makes fascinating trek

“Let all the friends of justice and suffering humanity, do what little they can, in their several circles, and according to their various stations, capacities and opportunities; and their little streams of exertion will, in process of time, flow together, and constitute a mighty river that shall sweep away the yoke oppression, and purge our nation from the abominations of slavery.”

Excerpt from Rev. John Rankin a stationmaster for the Underground Railroad from Ripley.

Ironton and Lawrence County have a rich history and heritage of participation in the UGRR. Reverend Rankin visited Ironton frequently and passed away on March 18, 1886 in the Grey House current home of the Lawrence County Historical Society.

There are more stories about Ironton’s founder John Campbell and other local folks that reportedly participated in the UGRR but I’ll save those stories for later.

On my one day UGGR journey I’m crossing the Ohio at the Greenup Dam and heading down the AA highway with the first stop on my “Freedom Trail” tour in Old Washington, Ky. Established in 1786, by the Virginia Legislature, six years before Kentucky. became a state. By 1790 it had grown to 119 log cabins, the second largest town in Ky. After separation from Bourbon County in 1788 Washington became the county seat of Mason County, which included nearly one-fourth of the area of Kentucky. Today it is a quaint stop a few miles southwest heading down U.S. 68.

Start your tour by watching a short video at the Old Washington, Ky. Visitors Center then proceed on foot over to Harriet Beecher Stowe “Slavery to Freedom Museum” and Old Washington Courthouse Lawn.

You will visit the home where Stowe stayed during a visit in 1833 then stand on courthouse lawn where she witnessed a slave auction which left such an impression upon her, she incorporated it into her novel “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”.

Period furniture, displays showing slave life and Civil War documents featured in the Stowe house.

It’s time to saddle up and continue to the National Underground Railroad Museum in downtown Maysville.

On display here are slave artifacts, photos and memorabilia that serve as a testament to the struggle of the men and women who crossed the Ohio River to freedom.

A don’t miss site here at the Bierbower home is the lower level hiding place or safe house for one of the runaways. Our gracious hosts made us feel very welcome as we toured the home.

Now we cross back over the Ohio here at Maysville and motor towards Ripley for lunch, shopping and more sightseeing.

Touring stops here include the John Parker and the Rev. John Rankin houses. However the first stop on my Ripley agenda is lunch.

I’m in the mood for a venue with a view and Ripley offers a couple of options.

Today it is Rockin’ Robin’s Soda Shoppe a themed restaurant on Front Street.

This place is a nostalgic Soda and Sandwich Shoppe offering panoramic views of the beautiful Ohio River.

This is an old fashioned soda fountain creating and hand-dipped ice cream cones and thick shakes.

It serves up a menu of what I term pub grub-hearty homemade soups and sandwiches in a warm friendly atmosphere created by plenty of 50’s & 60’s memorabilia that adorn the walls.

Finished eating we take a short stroll down Front Street to the house of ex-slave, abolitionist and inventor John P. Parker house. By day Parker worked in his own foundry and by night helped slaves escape from Kentucky.

Today his home, a National Historic Landmark, has been restored and offers a glimpse of this intriguing man.

After a short video and house tour we walk back to our car for the short 5 minute drive to the Rankin House, a safe house and refuge to thousands of slaves as they made their way to freedom.

I was amazed at the spectacular view of the Ohio River Valley from this National Historic Landmark and got to walk about 100 steps of the famous “stairway to freedom” that led UGRR passengers up the steep banks Ohio River to a safe conductor’s stop.

This was a full day journey with an early 7 a.m. morning departure and 5 p.m. return.

The good news is that it didn’t cost that much for admission fees to the sites.

I could have spent the evening here and continued my “Freedom” tour down river tomorrow but I’ll leave that segment for another convertible top down day.

Save the date of Tuesday, Feb. 23 for a talk travel on the Caribbean with “No Passport” required. We’ll focus on travel to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands.

The talk is a 6 p.m. at the Briggs Library Chesapeake branch. For questions contact me at 740-533-4559.

As my last couple of scheduled presentations have been cancelled due to inclement weather I hope that this one is not a prediction of more snow. Happy travels!