While many people don’t realize it, there were several Cape Cod inns on the Underground Railroad. Since Cape Cod is located in the North near a major port city, it was the perfect place for slaves to escape to freedom. In honor of Black History Month, we take a look at some of the Cape Cod inns that played a vital role as part of the Underground Railroad.
The four Cape Cod inns on the Underground Railroad include:
- A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay
- Ashley Manor
- The Old Yarmouth Inn
- The Tern Inn and Cottages
In this article, we will take a deeper look at the four Cape Cod inns thought to be part of the Underground Railroad and a broader look at Cape Cod’s role as part of the Underground Railroad network in general.
What Was Cape Cod’s Role in the Underground Railroad?
Cape Cod would have been a popular stop on the Underground Railway due to its maritime connections and proximity to Boston and New Haven.
Additionally, many of the homes of known abolitionists have been found to have secret passageways and trap doors that would’ve been the ideal location to hide escaped slaves headed towards freedom in Canada.
However, with a lack of historical evidence Cape Cod’s role during this momentous portion of US history is mostly speculative. Abolitionists were extremely secretive which plays a huge part in there not being substantial evidence.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at a few of the Cape Cod inns that were most likely a part of the Underground Railroad.
Cape Cod Inns on the Underground Railroad
Most historians agree that there is strong evidence to suggest that the Underground Railroad did operate on Cape Cod. These four inns help support that theory.
A Little Inn on Pleasant Bay
The main house of the Little Inn dates all the way back to 1798 and is located in Orleans. There is a small stone cellar with a trap door located in the inn’s entrance foyer that was most likely used as a hiding place for escaped slaves.
Today the inn plays host to travelers looking for a luxurious getaway. There’s no better place to soak in a little bit of Cape Cod history while overlooking the beautiful views of Pleasant Bay.
The Old Yarmouth Inn
The Old Yarmouth Inn is located in Yarmouthport and was established in 1696. This is the oldest inn on Cape Cod. Located within the Inn is a hidden door in the attic, which was probably used as part of the Underground Railroad.
Today the Inn is a fully operational restaurant with a wide selection of seafood and other entrees. While you can’t visit the attic, eating in a place with such a colorful history is a treat in itself.
The Ashley Manor is located in Barnstable and dates back to 1699. Located within the walls of the Inn is a secret passage that connects the upstairs and downstairs.
The passage was originally thought to be used as a safe house for the Tories during the Revolutionary war. However, it has also been rumored that the inn was one of the original six inns on the Underground Railroad.
Today you can stay in one of the six luxurious guest rooms that the inn has to offer. If you are able to book the Queen Charlotte’s Suite you can see the ladder that was used as a secret passageway. There is also more evidence of escape routes in the basement where a large set of stairs still exists where the Tories were able to flee out into the woods.
The Tern Inn and Cottages
Constructed over 150 years ago, the Tern Inn and Cottages in West Harwich almost certainly played a role in the Underground Railroad. The inn’s living room rug conceals a small trap door that leads to a round cellar space. If you listen carefully you can hear a creak as you step over the space the hid slaves waiting for passage to Canada.
Today you can stay in one of the inn’s 13 uniquely designed guest rooms. While only 5 of the rooms are located in the historical main house, you also have the option to stay in the carriage house or two cottages.
Fact or Fiction?
While it’s almost certain that Cape Cod played a role in the Underground Railroad the passage of stories through oral history has led to confusion over the extent of individual establishment’s roles in the network.
Without much substantial evidence, it’s hard to decipher which claims are factual and those that are embellishments of stories passed down from generation to generation. However, due to their location and unique structure, it is easy to believe that these four were Cape Cod inns on the Underground Railroad.