Day 4: September 1, 2013
Across the Border

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I picked up OH-2 near my motel and headed west. The road is mostly divided four-lane though this cool but unnamed restaurant is on what is rather nice two-lane once you get away from the intersection and its various turn lanes. It is a half-dozen miles east of I-280. I sat at the counter and watched two men work the grill non-stop to feed the steady crowd and prepare my breakfast.

The River Raisin National Battlefield opened in May, 2011. It is the only War of 1812 battlefield in the national park system. In January of 1813 the British occupied the settlement here on the banks of the Raisin River. Americans drove the British out on January 18 but were driven out themselves four days later. Following the battle, a number of captured Americans were killed by Indians allied with the British. "Remember the Raisin" was a battle cry used to great effect in subsequent battles.

I knew of the River Raisin site but visiting it was really a matter of opportunity. It just happened to be conveniently close to my route to a War of 1812 site in Canada.

After checking into a B & B near Blenheim (more on that later), I did a little exploring. I drove back through Blenheim and onto Chatham where I had dinner.

When I called the B & B to reserve a room, I was asked if, like another guest, I was coming for the events at nearby Buxton. I said no then asked as soon as I arrived just what was going on in Buxton. I soon learned that Buxton was one of several communities settled largely by escaped slaves and this was the weekend of their annual homecoming. Of course, this was an opportunity I couldn't pass up. I paced my exploring so that I arrived in time for the "Reenactment".

Until I saw that sign in front of the museum, I don't believe the phrase "A Terminus if the Underground Railroad" had ever occurred to me. I know about the Underground Railroad. I live in Cincinnati and have visited the National Freedom Center (a.k.a. Underground Railroad Museum) more than once. Almost every odd cranny or loose floor board in nearly every old Ohio building is said to be a place where runaway slaves hid. Many were not. An awful lot were. I've visited many Underground Railroad "stations" and read about others. I know the stories of many of the "conductors". I've read tales of runaways crossing the Ohio River and traveling north to Canada where "they lived happily ever after". Some did. Some didn't. Some returned to help others escape and some worked to improve things in their new country. Maybe I hadn't actually thought of them living happily ever after but that's only because I didn't think much at all about life at the end of the railroad.

This was the ninetieth homecoming. This year's "Reenactment" was comprised of scenes from many of the previous eighty-nine. The stories were compelling and entertaining and even familiar to much of the audience. That audience was itself interesting. I'm sure there were others like me who weren't coming home in any real sense but most had some connection to the place and the people. What I might otherwise have thought was a celebration of race was quite obviously a celebration of community. There was a short balding guy wearing a yamaka and at least two young women in hijabs. A dead ringer for Doctor Phil was talking to a fellow who looked a lot like Uncle Remus. There was plenty of blond hair and even a smattering of red. The blue shirted kids on stage are members of Buxton's Next Generation, the group responsible for the "Reenactment". I knew none of the subjects so left during the slide show that followed some short speeches. This was something I had no idea I'd see on this trip. I sure got lucky.


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