I grew up in a house rich with history. It was built in the early nineteenth century by a Revolutionary War veteran, home to a future Civil War Surgeon, and–quite possibly–a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Central New York is well-known for its participation in the emancipation of slaves and the women’s suffrage movement. Seneca Falls is the historic site of speeches by Frederick Douglass and marches by supporters of Susan B. Anthony, and the entire area is peppered with homes that once hid runaway slaves.
This–and a hundred-plus-year-old quilt–were the seeds of my WIP, And Know They Love You.
Now, no one knows for sure if the house I grew up in was used to shelter runaways. But in my childhood home there lived a tiny “room,” nestled under the front stairs, tucked between three fireplaces. It was directly in front of anyone entering the house, and very hard to see unless you knew it was there.
The vestibule/hallway that was the entrance to the house led to rooms to the left and right. The staircase was opposite the front door and wound its way to the second floor where the “younger generation” lived. The hallway itself was wallpapered as were most of the rooms in the house. (My mother used to grouch about how uneven the walls were, and concluded that back in 1810 its builders must have opened the keg long before the construction was finished.)
Wallpaper is hung in long, narrow strips. And those strips were what helped hide the little room under the stairs. There was no doorknob to give it away and, when closed, the door’s edge looked like just another seam: A refuge hidden in plain sight.
Was it indeed an Underground Railroad Station? We may never know. But it sure makes for a good story.