Negro Creek

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.
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8 thoughts on “Negro Creek

  1. This is fascinating. I wonder how Dad knew it was Negro Creek? I guess all the map reading he does. Well I wish I had been aware of the runaway slaves all the millions of times I walked there. Thanks for writing this and finding the maps.

  2. good job digging up that UGRR info. I think I was told that by a museum curator once. He said the runaway slaves would come down the Blue River from the Missouri and head west up Negro creek. I suspect the name was not as politically correct at that time. They traveled the riverbeds bc it gave them cover and kept them from getting lost in strange territory

  3. I forgot to mention what you told me about the developers of the neighborhoods in the 90’s who you said found a cave with artifacts but bull-dozed it over in order to keep things moving quickly without having to stop for environmental scientists and the such.

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  4. I grew up on top of Wade’s hill south of New Santa Fe, attended the Martin City elementary school, have researched the area for the last several years and share my findings with the New Santa Fe Trail Historical Society and this is the first time I have heard of the name of this creek along with its “history.” I believe I know what creek this is — is it at the base of Wade’s hill and it runs south of the retirement/nursing home? As far as finding an arrow head — that’s not too far fetched as the Pottawatomi Indians camped at Minor Park (Trail of Death) and followed the Santa Fe Trail from Independence on their way to their reservation in Miami County, KS. in 1838. The Indians were forced from their homes back east and taken to their reservations across the state line into Kansas.. 1000 Pottawatomi, more or less, came from Indiana and it took them the better part of three months to walk to Miami County, KS. If you know of any other history about this, I’d love to hear about it!

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