Brooklyn’s Underground Railroad

Long before Brooklyn, N.Y., was “veined with subway lines,” said John Strausbaugh in The New York Times, “it was a hub of the Underground Railroad.” It’s still possible to retrace the likely routes of some 100,000 slaves as they fled the antebellum South. Begin the tour on the Promenade overlooking the East River waterfront, which once bristled with the masts of Southern cargo ships delivering cotton and other goods. Fugitives often slipped ashore here and found their way into any of several churches where they could hide. Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims, on Orange Street, a few blocks away, was known as “Grand Central Depot.” Abolitionist Henry Ward Beecher used its pulpit to rail against slavery, and invited Frederick Douglass and other abolitionists to address the congregation. A probable “feeding station” for escaped slaves was a house at 227 Duffield Street, home of abolitionists Thomas and Harriet Truesdell.

A fully restored Southern plantation

Water buffalo have returned to a Southern plantation, said Bruce Smith in The Maine Telegram. A decade before the Civil War, nearly a dozen of these Asian animals helped till the fields at Middleton Place in Charleston, S.C. Plantation owner Williams Middleton was the first to import water buffalo to the U.S., and also among the first American farmers to enclose his fields with barbed wire. When war broke out, Union troops butchered and ate some of the buffalo and shipped others to New York’s Central Park Zoo. Nearly 150 years later, water buffalo are now part of a historical exhibit at Middleton Place. The main house, gardens, and stable yards have also been restored, with costumed interpreters demonstrating “the skills once performed by slaves.” It was long thought that water buffalo did not exist in the U.S. outside of zoos until the 1970s. But a recently unearthed letter Middleton wrote in 1854 describes how he imported them from Turkey.