Slaves breaking away from pre-Civil War bondage traveled what became known as "The Underground Railroad." The path to safety lay through Nicholas County, as well as other areas leading toward Ohio and north to freedom in Canada.
John Rankin, a native of eastern Tennessee, was from an early age strongly and deeply opposed to slavery. A minister by profession, he determined to move his wife and young famiy to Ohio, where slavery was not practiced. On the way, and short on funds, he stopped in Carlisle, Kentucky. The Concord Presbyterian Church needed a minister, and Rankin filled that role from 1817 to 1821, before moving on to Ripley, Ohio. There, he and his growing family worked with like-minded friends to welcome slaves escaping across the Ohio River and to send them on to other safe houses. In this manner slaves moved along a chain to freedom.
While Nicholas County's rugged landscape made it less profitable to work slaves, there were slaves in the county. One country home, the Hayden-Briarly farm on Somerset Road in the southern part of the county, had until recently shackles for slaves in its basement. But, tradition also holds that safe houses, such as the house at 105 West Chestnut Street in Carlisle, provided slaves with a place to rest, before they continued their journey.
Travelers interested in the subject may also want to visit the Underground Railroad in Maysville, Kentucky, as well as the National Underground Railroad in Cincinnati, Ohio, and the Rankin home in Ripley, Ohio.