Historic Washington, Ky. 

Underground Railroad Tours

Washington Underground Railroad Tour Includes
Paxton Inn - This was a station on the Underground Railroad when owned by Mr. James A. Paxton. There is a hidden stairway between the first and second stories of this brick structure. There runaway slaves could be hidden until they could be safely moved across the Ohio River at night under the cover of darkness.  The Underground Railroad was a path that led thousands of slaves from the South to the North to freedom.  Over 2,000 slaves crossed the Ohio River from Kentucky to the safe haven of Ohio.  Paxton Inn, a historical treasure built between 1810 and 1819, played an important part in the social and political life of Old Washington.  There were family connections between the Paxtons and the Marshalls of Federal Hill.  This museum has been restored and furnished in its period and is owned by the Limestone Chapter, D.A.R.

COURTHOUSE FRONT LAWN - Slave auctions were held here on the auction block.  Above is a sketch of the Mason County Courthouse at Washington ca. 1794 erected by Louis Craig.  It was struck by lightning at 6 o'clock in the morning and burned on Friday, August 13, 1909.

The August 13, 1909 Public Ledger's article states "what yesterday was one of the most venerable and celebrated public buildings in the United States is this morning but a smoking mass of embers.
     During this morning's storm about 6 o'clock the quietude of the people of Washington was broken and the whole village startled by a flash of lightning, followed by a crashing peal of thunder, and in a few seconds it was seen that the bolt of heaven had found a "shining mark" and that the beloved old Washington Courthouse, after 115 years of dignified public service, had answered the call of time and history, and, wrapped in a pall of smoke, its noble timbers and staunch floors, which had reverberated with the matchless eloquence of Thomas Corwine, T. F. Marshall, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster and scores of other noted world statesmen, became food for the flames and a sacrifice to the remorseless call of nature and destiny.
     "The old Washington Courthouse" we can truthfully say, was known the world over, and pictures of the venerable structure, whose modest steeple- "a pencil in the sky" - was prominent from Maine to California, was the historic pride of Washington, Mason county and old Kentucky.
     The building was built of limestone and erected in 1794 by Louis Craig, the pioneer Baptist Minister, who was a charter member of the early settlers of Kentucky.  Washington remained the capital of Mason county from 1792 until May, 1848, - 56 years - when the county seat was moved to Maysville.
     Here, in front of this noted structure, Harriet Beecher (Stowe), the author of "Uncle Tom's Cabin," while a guest of Washington friends, walked up the lawn in front of it on the arm of the late Ben D. Parry and saw a Negro man sold on the block.  This occurrence is said to have inspired Mrs. Stowe to write the book which changed the social conditions of the whole human race.
     At 7 o'clock this morning the old bell in the cupola fell among the ruins, where its silent tongue, once the music call to responsive hearts, now lies silent forever, and thus, the building known and trod by Clay, Lafayette, Generals Johnston, Nelson and Stanton, Edward Everett McClung, Wadsworth, Phister and a host of other giants of the forum, is but a picture in the mind.
     When the fire broke forth from the wooden steeple all Washington rushed to the scene, but the village being without fire-fighting apparatus, the blaze ate its way, unmolested, and right before the eyes of hundreds of the old structure was consumed, every wooden portion being destroyed, and naught but the stone walls remain.
     For many years the old Courthouse has been occupied and used as a public school and for the village entertainments.  We are informed that it will be rebuilt and restored to its former looks, but the real structure, with its hallowed, historic and priceless memory and associations, will be numbered among the things that were." (copied from Public Ledger article)

HARRIET BEECHER STOWE - SLAVERY TO FREEDOM MUSEUM - 1807. In 1833 it was here Harriet Beecher visited and witnessed a slave auction on the Courthouse lawn. From that experience she later wrote "Uncle Tom's Cabin". Today this fine structure houses a museum dedicated to the freedom of slavery.

There are many Underground Railroad Tours that include Washington as one of their stops on various Underground Railroad Tours.