Tuesday, July 31, 2001

Freedom Center seeks info about slave jail

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        MAYSVILLE — Researchers from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center came to this Ohio River town Monday seeking information.

        Center officials held a public hearing at the Maysville Public Library with a plea: help them tell the story of what is believed to be a slave jail near Germantown.

        The final meeting takes place 7 p.m. tonight at Germantown's Buckhanan Station Restaurant, 4395 Ky. 10.

        Dr. Orloff Miller, director of the Freedom Center's Research Institute, said the jail would be disassembled,

        stored and eventually rebuilt at the center's planned museum along the Cincinnati riverfront by 2004.

        Jerry Gore, 55, helped found Maysville's National Underground Railroad Museum in 1994. The Maysville resident is a great-great grandson of Addison White, a slave in Fleming County in the 1850s who was freed in 1856 and ended up in Mechanicsburg, Ohio.

        Mr. Gore wants the center to keep the jail site where it is, build a replica at the museum and con duct tours to Germantown so people can understand the horror of slavery where it took place.

        “We're talking about the blood of millions of enslaved Africans,” Mr. Gore said.

        Carl Westmoreland, the Freedom Center's senior researcher, said officials are trying to find people who are descendants of either slaves or people involved in the Underground Railroad, which helped slaves escape to freedom in the North.

        He said he was not in Maysville to embarrass anyone over what happened more than a century ago.

        But Mr. Westmoreland also said it was nonetheless important to find out what happened.

        “We came hopefully to heal wounds through understanding each other,” he said.

        The Freedom Center has been involved in preserving the Germantown site since 1999.

        Property owner Ray Evers, a Cincinnati contractor, donated the jail site. In exchange, a year ago the center spent $30,000 to build a barn. Mr. Miller denied reports that the museum is paying $250,000 for the barn.

        Mr. Westmoreland said slaves came to the Germantown site from Virginia and the Carolinas on their way west.

        “All of them were sold at least once when they got to Kentucky and Tennessee,” Mr. Westmoreland said. “They were held in the process of transportation.”

        Dr. Miller said the site was part of a network of similar slave jails. He said it's possible to determine how the slave trade worked in Kentucky by excavating the site, conducting oral history interviews and checking archives.

        Jeannine Kreinbrink, a North ern Kentucky University archaeology professor, said the jail building, which is now covered by a barn, was an integral part of the farm. She also said that slaves possibly built it between 1800 and 1840.

        Jean Rodgers of Covington made the 60-mile trip to Maysville. She said what the researchers have found is exciting but she was sad the building was used for slavery.

        “It's kind of heartbreaking,” said Ms. Rodgers, 67. “You know God didn't make those people to be slaves.”


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