Saturday, March 3, 2018

Tour of Slave Haven

You may remember our trip to Memphis last spring. I shared photos of the Lorraine Motel, iconic glass pyramid, Peabody Duck March, and Memphis Zoo. We returned again this year for a conference, but this time we were only in town for a short 36 hours, rather than a full weekend. While Mr. Handsome attended the conference, I toured the city, as I did last year.

The highlight was visiting an Underground Railroad museum called Slave Haven. Located on the outskirts of downtown Memphis, the museum is a house that was once a stop along the Underground Railroad.

The house, known as the Burkle Estate, was built in 1856 for German immigrant Jacob Burkle and his family. As a devout Christian, Jacob Burkle was very much against slavery, so after his home was completed, he decided to use his cellar to house enslaved Africans seeking freedom in Illinois via the Mississippi River.

Located only a few blocks away from the river, the Burkle Estate likely housed a large number of slaves, historians believe. To allow his home to be easily recognized by these guests and as a signal that his home was a safe place for them to stop, Burkle planted magnolia trees in his front yard. Magnolias are not native to the area, making these the oldest magnolias in Memphis.

Harboring fugitive slaves was a serious crime, so Burkle kept no written records of his actions, and he did everything he could to appear to the public as a "respectable gentleman." Because he owned a Memphis stockyard, he was wealthy and was expected to own slaves. For that reason, Burkle purchased two slaves--a male and female. He treated them like family and then secretly helped them gain their freedom in Canada. To make it look like they had escaped, he ran a newspaper ad offering a reward for their return.

Members of the Burkle family lived in the home for more than 100 years. Photography was prohibited inside the house, but the cellar where the slaves hid was accessible through small hole in the base of the house.


  1. Thanks for sharing these pictures with us Ellie.

  2. Anonymous3/04/2018

    Very interesdting, thank-you for sharing what you did there.

  3. Anonymous3/05/2018

    Another well written interesting travel blog. I learn from each one of them. Thank you for sharing your experiences Ellie. Eileen

  4. Anonymous3/05/2018

    I agree, very interesting. I'm also blessed to have you as a blogger...Jane

  5. Anonymous3/05/2018

    Thank You for this interesting blog. The pictures are lovely. Never heard of the Burkle Estate and family. It is true you learn something new every day.
    Joan,Marion and Marilyn

  6. Anonymous3/05/2018

    Since you are so interested in historical sites, I am wondering if you know anything about the Rosenwald Schools? They aren’t very well known anymore, but they were a really big deal before Brown vs The Board of Education.
    Here’s a link to information about a couple of them that have been preserved in Tennesse.
    I live way too far from the South to visit any of them myself, but I thought maybe you and Mr Handsome would be interested in seeing one of them.

    1. I haven't heard of the Rosenwald Schools, but I looked them up after reading your comment. Sounds like it would be neat to visit some of them. Thanks for mentioning that!