20. Rumours While Living In The House

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They had been living in the house for several years amid rumours that the house was more than a piece of property. It was, in fact, a vital part of American history. But like most inhabitants, they had brushed off the information as fiction and lived on. It turned out, their house was indeed an important evidence of a part of history many Americans would not like.

19. Fiction That Could Have Been Fact

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It was in January 2014, a family realized that the rumours surrounding their house’s history were actually true, quite verbatim. The family had earlier decided to renovate the house for the purpose of improving the energy efficiency in their house. While digging parts of the house, they were to uncover something remarkable.

 18. The 1849 House

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After a lot of days of digging, the family found a secret passageway. The images of the passageway went viral on image-sharing website Imgur by a user named IvebeentoYungay. He posted, “The room was found in the basement of the house I grew up in, which was completed in 1849. It is 25 miles south of the Canadian border.” He was hinting at something more crucial.

17. Secret Hideout Of Smugglers

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Turned out his house was, in fact, a secret hideout for people to cross the borders of America back in the 19th century. Of course, those who crossed the borders were not allowed to do so, legally. So they built secret passageways to hide before they set sail. The room was found hidden behind a set of cylindrical water softeners.

16. The Renovation Begins

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He continued his story saying that the initial rumours had said there was a hiding spot in the fireplace. But since his family never really believed the theory, they began excavating from the basement. He and his family were not exactly looking for secrets when they started the renovation. For them, it was a routine part of life until they were forced to reconsider their own information about the house.

15. Skeletons From The Past

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If they were to believe the rumours, which they eventually did, the hideout was built in a way so as to escape the scrutiny of federal agents and bounty hunters at the time. Well, sure enough, the passageway was behind some 32 inches of stone – the depth of which indicates that this must have been a successful hideout. But what exactly was it hiding?

14. Why A Hideout So Deep?

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He used a small step-ladder to climb up to the opening of the room. And it sure looked like a secret place to either smuggle or hide people, not things. But why were people needed to be smuggled through a home like this? What was the purpose?

13. Slaves Hid Here

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Now reconsider the scenario of the early 19th century America. It was the time when slavery was a harsh reality. Millions Africans were illegally smuggled into the country to be sold as slaves. Most people accepted slaves like they were part of their property, being bought and sold–truly horrendous. Was this house hiding slaves or was it used for something much more sinister?

12. Door To Heaven

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The house was, what was termed as a major “station”, for smuggling African slaves across the border through the Canadian route. Canada was then called British North America or more fondly by the names Heaven or The Promised Land. But they couldn’t have crossed this border without some help. Was there any Moses helping people cross this Red Sea?

11. Moses Of Her People

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Among the real heroes that helped slaves escape America, was a woman named Harriet Tubman, better known as ‘Moses of Her People’. She had returned to the South at least 19 times, unharmed and neither she nor any of her passengers were ever captured by the slave-catchers. They had used hideouts in the houses for a very long time but not all of them were exactly safe.

10. Stations For The Gospel Train

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To give you a full perspective of the situation, the myth of Underground Railroad was not really a myth. Though it was neither underground nor a train. It was called the ‘Gospel Train’ as a way to take African slaves outside the American border. Those fleeing were called passengers while those helping them were called conductors. The houses such as the one belonging to this family were called ‘stations’ used for hiding the slaves before their final leg to freedom. Yet, there were many who wouldn’t be able to make it to The Promised Land. The Underground Railroad was effective but not perfect.

9. The Underground Railroad

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The activists who helped slaves escape were philanthropists from a wide range of backgrounds and religious faiths, including Quakers, Presbyterians, and Wesleyans. The railroad terminology was used in order to hide the actual purpose of these stealth operations. For a very long time, these operations did remain hidden.

8. Smuggling For Freedom

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It is believed that in the late 1850s, the Underground Railroad may have assisted as many as 100,000 slaves to freedom. And this wasn’t easy since, under the Fugitive Act of 1793, free states were legally required to help in the recapture of absconding slaves. This became more stringent in 1850 that gave a wide-reaching immunity to slave-catchers. As a result, more slaves were being captured during their escape. And what happened to them later was even crueler.

7. Never Get Captured

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If captured, the slaves didn’t even have the right to defend themselves legally. To top that, judges were paid $10 to rule against them and $5 to rule in their favour. Worse, often slave children and women were kidnapped due to the fact that selling them at hefty price was a thriving trade–absolutely sickening.

 6. Worth The Risk

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The Underground Railroad was the only hope and the atrocities motivating enough for slaves to undertake such a risk. Imagine this network of contacts in a world of no cell phones or even telephones. So the helpers also didn’t know the entire route but were furnished details of only their own geographical area. The road to The Gospel Train was full of unforeseen dangers.

 5. Travelling At Night

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Getting the escapees to the stations happened at a much later stage. A bigger challenge that was posed before this was arranging an escape plan for slaves from the plantation where they were being held captive. There are tales of many ‘conductors’ risking their lives to help escape people. The slaves and conductors would typically travel at night covering 10 to 20 miles of ground either on foot or by mule. Every single time, they risked their lives.

4. Designated Stops

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The fugitives would stop to rest at designated churches, sometimes houses or barns. The messengers would be deployed at every station to inform the next station master that new passengers were arriving. This network functioned like a high-profile spy operation of today, with one difference– there was no technology to safeguard them, no guns to protect them. But it’s only in these circumstances that we get to see exceptional acts of courage.

3. Tales Of Valour

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The most authentic work on the Underground Railroad has been written by William Still who had helped some 800 slaves to escape. His book was published in 1872 titled The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts. Among the white people who helped the cause was John Farfield who even went undercover to gain the trust of plantation communities. He had helped 28 slaves escape from a funeral procession – a feat that is still considered as a stellar act of bravery from that time. And now this house was bringing to light these fascinating tales from the past.

2. The House Was A Station

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The secret passageway found in the house of this family was most likely a station because it was only 25 miles from the Canadian border. The family also found a ‘bayonet’ hanging on the wall of this secret room, possibly used to protect slaves against the catchers. Would the family be asked to leave so as to preserve history?

 1. Fortunate To Be Part Of History

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Little did his father know, while making a home for his family, he was unconsciously becoming  a piece of history. The family feels fortunate that their home was once used for a great mission. They continue to live in the house while also entertaining guests who wish to take a peek into the ‘station’. They enjoy all the attention his Imgur post is getting.