Monday, March 31, 2008
Florida's real "Underground" Railroad
The well-known Underground Railroad was not, of course, an actual railroad nor was it usually underground. This was the name given to the various routes by which escaped slaves made their way north to freedom during the decades leading up to the Civil War.
In Florida, however, the word "underground" in the term "Underground Railroad" was more than just a figure of speech.
19th century newspaper accounts of the caves in Jackson County indicate they were often used as hiding places for escaped slaves as they began their attempts to make their way north to Freedom. The large cluster of caves at today's Florida Caverns State Park was centered along the Chipola River in the center of one of the state's largest plantation districts.
In 1860, Jackson County was one of the three largest counties in the state and also reported one of Florida's largest slave populations. It was only natural that individuals attempting to escape bondage would make use of the vast network of caves along the Chipola River. Although most such attempts failed, a few succeeded and the caves of Jackson County are remembered today as Florida's real "Underground" Railroad.
You can read more about the history of the caves by visiting www.exploresouthernhistory.com and looking for the Florida Caverns State Park heading.