Friday, June 27, 2014

The Underground Railroad

Cecilia very kindly invited us to join her homeschool group for a Field Trip to Cumberland, Maryland.
I absolutely love sightseeing and the company involved, not to mention this interesting topic!
I had never been to Cumberland but was intrigued by the looks of this incredibly hilly town as viewed from above, riding on the highway which runs through it. It is filled with beauty and history and we were able to experience that on this many faceted field trip for only 3 dollars a piece.

The kids learned and practiced a complicated hand-clapping game while we waited for the group to arrive.
Our first stop was Emmanuel Episcopal Church which is built over the ruins of  Fort Cumberland. George Washington began his military career during the French and Indian War here. We are looking at a scale model of the fort in this large case.
We had a great tour guide who loves history  to tell us the tale and show us the sites.
He is a member of this church and met his wife there at a teen dance, decades before. He proudly showed us the stained glass windows which are a complete study in and of themselves. There are 24 stained glass windows in this church and each one has a story. He said that no matter what time of day, or season of the year that one sees them, their beauty is ever-changing.
The kids were very patient through his explanations of the subjects in the glass. He told us by whom and when they were commissioned. Unlike my parish church, these windows were created by many different folks and reflect many styles.  The church itself was built in 1849 and has been in continuous use since.
Next we headed down some stone steps to see what we had driven here for...
Please forgive the pictures which are blurry for some reason. These are the earthen tunnels dug in the Fort  (long before the church was built over top of them). See the duct work for the church running through the tops?
These tunnels were actually trenches, dug down deep enough for soldiers to walk along and  obtain water from the river without getting shot at.

It was from boats on that same river that enslaved folks escaped through these tunnels under the church. Then, through more tunnels no longer open to the public they came out under the parsonage and into waiting conveyances to Freedom.

This little alcove is set up as a way station room with food and an area for sleeping and was no doubt used by many folks to rest while hiding and waiting for a moment for the the coast to clear.

What is amazing is that this story of the Underground Railroad in Cumberland has just come to light in the last few decades. It was a well guarded secret in the Black Community which historians are trying to record as the holders of these  stories become very senior. I have never seen anything like this before and it was really a privilege. The tour guide encouraged us to knock on the parsonage door if we want to see it again.
 I would love to go back to experience this again with the rest of my family.
We enjoyed a packed lunch and soaked in the beauty of this gorgeous church.