Fact: my entire existence as a kid growing up revolved around “the creek”. Our house sat right next to the dang thing and all the boys in the neighborhood could be found down there everyday after school. We made forts, caught crawdads, rolled up our jeans and got muddy, the whole 9 yards. It holds some awesome memories.
Just LAST WEEK I learned that our creek, according to my dad, is labeled on historical maps as “Negro Creek” and, above all else, was an interracial part of the under ground railroad between Missouri (a slave state) and Kansas (a free state). What?!
Due to the anti-climatic nature of this comment my dad suddenly decided to share with me, I didn’t believe it. So to the chagrin of my wife, I launched, last night, an obsessive research campaign. Here’s what I found.
First I confirmed that indeed, the exact point at which the Negro Creek crosses state lines is labeled a “major avenue of escape” as shown above. Slaves escaped from Missouri to find their way into Lawrence, KS- an abolitionist strong hold (also where I lived during college). From there they headed north into Iowa.
The map here was extremely hard to find. It was published in 1856 and shows Negro Creek clearly labeled. Just north you can see the Missouri River and where Kansas City would eventually develop and expand. Slaves would follow the creek bed at night into Kansas.
This picture I took of the creek where we played as kids. My parents just a month ago sold the house I grew up in so we took 1 final walk down the trail as a family.
Another picture of the creek: this looking onto a steep bank we coined “Clay Mountain”. Here, the soil was a red clay we painted our faces with and probably threw at each other. We would race to the top of the embankment, grabbing onto big roots and limbs like monkeys.