Illinois man discovers 19th century mysterious brick tunnel underneath his home

Originally published at: Illinois man discovers 19th century mysterious brick tunnel underneath his home | Boing Boing


It looks a lot like a brick septic tank to me, but I don’t know if that was a thing in 1840.


Do… do people think that The Underground Railroad was an actual train system that ran through underground tunnels between the South and the North? Is that why everyone in the video kept saying that?


I don’t know if they do, but there would certainly have been hidden rooms, etc, some underground, used to hide people escaping, which is what is being referred to here:


Yeah, I had the same thought lol… people hear “underground” and think literal tunnels. I’m sure there were actual dug tunnels in some places, but there certainly wasn’t a nation wide network of tunnels. Also, this thing would’ve taken a lot of people, money, and time to construct, it seems unlikely that an underground movement would have the resources necessary to build something like this.


You’d be surprised. There were some wealthy people who supported and acted for the cause, such as Mary Ellen Pleasant, a white-passing women who was a conductor on the railroad, later made considerable wealth in San Francisco running boarding houses and working with a banker to invest what she made to enrich them, both, who was a primary funder of John Brown’s attempt to lead a slave revolt. She revealed her race only after the end of the Civil War, which shocked San Francisco, as she was well-known in the inner circles of city power.

Plenty of wealthy northerners, white and a few free Black people of means, also contributed to the cause.

Oh, and let’s not forget that a another means of getting people out of bondage was buying them out.





If I had discovered a secret underground room on my property I would have kept it a secret. How awesome would it be to have a revolving bookcase entry with a spiral staircase (or bat-pole) down to your hidden underground lair? Triggered of course by a candle holder.


I don’t know how hidden it would have been. From the video, I got the impression that it probably opened out onto the street before the road level was raised.

The first rule of slavery capitalism is that “property owners” never suffer loses.


My bet is for storage. Well build by someone who had the money and wanted some sort of ice cellar.

Safe location for ppl. on route to escape into free states? The construction style for that use simply does not make much sense. Why build it so high? Digging holes is laborious, there is no usage for that head space.


I had not gotten to watch the video, so maybe so.

In some cases, enslaved people could and did buy their freedoms and the freedoms of their family, and various groups fund-raised for that specifically. People did what they had to do to ensure their freedom and I’m not sure we should be so dismissive of that tactic, as it often worked. :woman_shrugging:


Yeah, having lived in Galena Illinois, I saw some historical tunnels, as well as “ancient” cellars under historical homes. The other common explanation is too old: the Blackhawk Wars earlier saw the construction of lots of bunker tunnels for townspeople to hide in during raids, but plenty of houses had ice cellars.

In fact, the way it was built I suspect the cellar here was for storing ice harvested in the winter, packed in straw and brick-lined in 1840 to help insulate and keep the ice protected from seepage.


Vintage Porn Vault - Circa 1840. Colorized.


Oh, I’m not dismissing it. It’s a brilliant way of gaming the system!

I just puke at all the times protecting “property rights” were used the other way.

  • In the north, they rarely freed any slaves, just changed it so that any future children would be indentured until 25 or so.
  • Lincoln didn’t free the slaves in the Confederacy until after the Confederacy had repudiated the northern mortgages on them.
  • Haiti beat two French regular armies, a number of expeditionary forces from other countries, but were still strong-armed into repaying their “debt” over generations.

It’s a great book! Looking forward to the TV series.


It is pretty fascinating that there used to be a HUGE industry of harvesting ice every winter and storing it through out the year. Refrigerators where “Ice Boxes” before they actually refrigerated anything. And everything that was made to harvest, store, distribute, and support that industry is now completely redundant and useless (well that, and many lakes aren’t freezing as deep and and frequently as they used to.)


The legal theory behind the Emancipation Proclamation was that it fell under Lincoln’s broad Executive Powers to wage war. That’s why it didn’t cover any of the slaves in states loyal to the Union.

Lincoln didn’t have any lawful mechanism to free the slaves until after the Confederacy had declared themselves politically and financially independent of the United States. If he had then there never would have been a need to pass the 13th Amendment.


It still blows my mind that Delaware (a Union state) continued to have legal slavery until the 13th went into effect on December 6, 1865, about 6 months after Juneteenth, and I somehow didn’t learn that fact until just a couple years ago.


I’d bet it was a storage room or root cellar. You can see the top of the archway prior to the sidewalk issue that revealed the opening in this old street-view from 2013: Google Maps


Yes, but I wonder if that’s the whole story. Slavery capitalism seems to have been carefully left out of the history. I didn’t realize how big it was until I stumbled across the Panic of 1837.

(“Quick note”, my ass! :joy:)

eta: When the British Empire freed (most) slaves, they bought them from the “owners”. God Save the Property Rights!