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The Little Farmer has been learning about Underground Railroad at school this month.  Wouldn’t you know as we planned a visit to the Turkey Farmer’s grandma he shared that she lives in a house that was part of the Underground Railroad.

underground RR house

This house was a stop on the underground railroad

Great Grandma Osterholt was proud to share the history.  She shared that the current kitchen and garage were later additions to the house.  So the first part of our tour was this cupboard in the hallway behind the current kitchen.

kitchen shelves - underground railroad

Kitchen shelves – used to keep up normal appearances.

Nice set of shelves right?  What woman wouldn’t enjoy some extra storage, regardless of her era in history?

Then she shows us the hallway.  The pictures make this fact difficult to observe, but these shelves were only half the depth of the hallway.

secret room clue

Pay attention to find clues of secret rooms

Next she shared some more nice shelves in her bedroom.  I’ve been in several older farm houses, so I know that having this much storage and built in shelving is unusual.  The top couple shelves are actually removable.  In the corner was a small chain on a dumbwaiter type tool that was used to move people from the ground floor to the attic.  The attic was windowless and had a short ceiling, so you wouldn’t suspect this house to have two usable floors.

secret passage in underground railroad

The shelves in the background are removable and they were used to help move slaves to freedom.

Grandma O said there was a ledge around the upstairs where the slaves would sit and wait.  She shared that the house didn’t have stairs until her family added them in order to access the additional space a bit easier.

She also showed on the other side of the bedroom, opposite the “shelving” a black cap that appeared to be to a cistern type unit right outside the window.  The cover actually led to an underground tunnel out to the adjacent field.

underground railroad tunnel cover

The black cover appear to lead to a cistern, but actually lead to an underground tunnel that was part of the underground railroad

Great Grandma Osterholt shared that the Hawkins family owned this farm and operated the Underground Railroad.  The farm’s address is Portland, Indiana.  She also noted that one of Indiana’s first senators had the last name Hawkins and a Portland address, so there might be a connection?

I can’t even imagine the hardships slaves faced.  I also can’t imagine the nerves of steel that would have been required to cover up helping and hiding slaves in their trek to freedom.  I’m grateful to have learned about this small piece of history.  I’m grateful that Great Grandma O shared a piece of history with our family and gave us permission to share the stories and pictures here.

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