How the Underground Railroad Got Its Name


How the Underground Railroad Got Its Name

How the Underground Railroad Got Its Name

 

Excerpted from Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad by Jacqueline L. Tobin and Raymond
G. Ph. D, p. 61 & 62

 

History tells us that a Kentucky slave named Tice was determined to be free. Fleeing the plantation on which he labored, Tice, like so many other runaways, sought shelter in the woods and on neighboring plantations. He finally made it to the shore of the Ohio River across from the Ripley settlement where many abolitionists lived, including the famous John Rankin and family With no boat available to him, Tice dove into the chilly water, determined to swim across. The slaveholder followed him in a skiff

Some writers have suggested that Tice heard the sound of a bell or the call of a bird, one of the local
signals indicating that someone was waiting to help him on the other side of the river. Wilbur Siebert, the noted
nineteenth-century Underground Railroad historian, writes about Ripley Ohio, to guide runaways to safe shores. Siebert
tells us about the house that stood on the summit of a bluff overlooking the river. With its legendary lighted
lantern in the top window, the Rankin house was clearly visible from many miles away in the dark of night. The Rankin
house was a lighthouse for those crossing the River and in desperate need of direction.

Tice probably did not know about the Rankins, but he did know that there were friends on the shoreline of OhioThe slave owner was within clear sight ofTice, who by then was exhausted, swimming with what little strength he had left. Tice made it to the Ohio shoreline. The slave owner, confidant that he was rapidly gaining on Tice, turned his head away for just one moment. When he looked up, Tice was gone: never to be seen again. The frustrated and somewhat bewildered slave owner declared that Tice had vanished before his very eyes. The slave owner declared it was as
if the slave disappeared on some kind of “underground railroad.” style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  It was a timely metaphor. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  What was once the freedom movement eventually
became known as the “Underground Railroad” and the “train” would occasionally be
nicknamed the “Gospel Train.