19 Aug September is International Underground Railroad Month
For many states, September represents International Underground Railroad Month. Last year Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear made this declaration for Kentucky. Both Maryland and Michigan, hotspots for Underground Railroad activity, were trailblazers in the effort to include more states in this celebration, working with the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom to connect with verified Underground Railroad sites, facilities, and programs from across the United States. Oldham County’s very own Oldham County History Center is no exception, having several spots that tie into Underground Railroad activity.
The facility has two sites on the National Park Service National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom that were awarded in 2016. The first designation was the Bibb Escapes/Gatewood Plantation site. This project began as an archaeology field study in 2007 with the purpose of studying the life of slave-turned-abolitionist Henry Bibb, an important figure on the Underground Railroad. The second site is the J. C. Barnett Library and Archives which houses important slave papers from the James and Amanda Mount Collection as well as county court documents that document slave transactions during Oldham County’s Antebellum period leading up to the Civil War.
International Underground Railroad Month acknowledges the significance of the Underground Railroad and all those individuals involved; for its contribution to the eradication of slavery in the United States and as a cornerstone for the more comprehensive civil rights movement that followed. The ideal honors the inspiring efforts of people from around the world who have committed themselves to document, interpret, and share with the public the Underground Railroad through the National Park Service’s National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Oldham County, KY is proud to be one of them. To signify their place among these efforts, the Oldham County History Center has planned several activities to celebrate the importance of International Underground Railroad Month.
Harrods Creek Slave Cemetery Walk and Dinner Talk, September 16, 2021, 6 p.m.
Morris Mount Roberts Fellowship Recipient Robert Bell will present his research, “The 206 African American Union Soldiers from Oldham County”, followed by dinner and a walk to the Harrods Creek Slave Cemetery. Bell’s meticulous research details the names, regiment and company of these African American soldiers who participated as Union soldiers in the Civil War. Many of the soldiers earned their freedom from enslavement as they mustered into the Union army. The lecture and dinner will be followed by a walk to a designated slave cemetery on private property, which contains over 20 unmarked graves of enslaved people from Oldham County. All participants must pre-register. Cost is $35 per person & includes participation in activities, dinner and wine, beer and non-alcoholic drinks.
Dedication of the Mount Parlor Exhibit at the J.C. Barnett Library & Archives with scheduled tours, Saturday, September 25, 2021 beginning at 11 a.m.
This historic building was the former home of Oldham County citizens James and Amanda Railey Mount, who built the home in 1840 and lived there until 1888. James Mount was the county jailor and his wife Amanda Mount’s great aunt, Jane Randolph Jefferson, was President Thomas Jefferson’s mother. The Mounts were known slave holders and surviving artifacts include slave ownership papers, bounty hunter documents and printed ads for slave escapes.
Ad for runaway slave from Oldham County. Photo courtesy of the Oldham County History Center.
In spring 2021, the Oldham County History Center designated a room in the J. Chilton Barnett Library & Archives as the Mount Parlor to educate visitors about the activities of the Mount family and enslaved people who lived in the household. Local interior designer Breck Morgan carefully selected period furniture and artifacts from the museum’s collection to help interpret the culture of the families that lived in Oldham County during the Antebellum era. On September 25 the Mount Parlor will be dedicated and officially unveiled as the newest exhibit at the Oldham County History Center. Regular admission will be charged and includes access to museum: $8 per person, $6 for students, veterans and seniors, under 4 free. Members are free.
Other activities celebrating International Underground Railroad Month include: In 2020, the Oldham County History Center launched “Thirty Days of Stories of the Underground Railroad in Kentucky” as a podcast series on the Oldham Podcast Network. These stories are ongoing and presented by 30 different readers about the stories and activities of the Underground Railroad. To access the podcast go to https://oldhamkyhistory.com/undergroundrailroad.