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Burkle Estate

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Subject: Memphis, Tennessee, History of Memphis, Tennessee, Memphis metropolitan area, Sherwood Forest, Memphis, Hyde Park, Memphis
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Burkle Estate

The Burkle Estate
Established 1997, built in 1849
Location 826 N Second St, Memphis, TN

The Burkle Estate is a historic home at 826 North Second Street in Memphis, Tennessee. It is also known as the Slavehaven. Although disputed by some historians, the Burkle Estate is claimed by some to have been part of the Underground Railroad, a secret network of way stations to help slaves escape to freedom in the northern states. The house was constructed in 1849 by a German immigrant by the name of Jacob Burkle.

Since 1997 the estate is home to the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum.

Underground Railroad

The Burkle Estate is claimed by some to have served as a way station on the Underground Railroad for runaway slaves. Publicly, Mr. Burkle was a livestock trader and a baker. Privately, some claim, he was a conductor on the Underground Railroad.[1] Many believe his home was the last stop in a series of Memphis homes connected by underground tunnels. The house included a small cellar which might have been used to hide escaping slaves.[2] Slaves could then get on boats to take them upriver to other way stations in the free states north of the Ohio River.


The role of the home as a part of the Underground Railroad is subject to debate. Although a spokesman for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in Memphis states that the soil, which is made up of loess, would provide a good material for tunnels, there is no evidence of tunnels under the house.[3] The escape network was underground solely In the sense of being an underground resistance,[4] in which the term underground would refer to the secrecy of the operation rather than its literal meaning as a network of tunnels.

Some local historians go even further and state that there is no evidence to substantiate the claims regarding the Underground Railroad and the use of the Burkle Estate as a part of any effort to assist runaway slaves.

Slavehaven Museum

The house opened as a museum in 1997 and tours of the one-story, white clapboard house are available. The house is decorated with 19th-century furnishings and artifacts and served as part of the overall civil rights heritage of Memphis.[5][6] The museum documents the history of the Underground Railroad and the possible role of the house in that secret escape network. Slavery, slave trade, slave auctions and the every day life of slaves in the wider Memphis area are also documented in the museum.

See also


  1. ^ Lorne Blumer (2005-01-26). "This Train Traces the Route of Black Migration North". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  2. ^ "Mississippi Learning". The Sunday Times (London). 2005-01-23. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  3. ^ James Busbee (1997-02-27). "The Persistence of Folklore". The Memphis Flyer. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  4. ^ Blight, David, 2005, p.3
  5. ^ Ruth A. Hill (2004-02-01). "In Memphis, a Crash Course on the Civil Rights Movement". The Record. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 
  6. ^ "African-American Heritage in Memphis". Frommer's. MSNBC. 2006-10-09. Retrieved 2008-04-03. 

External links

  • Encyclopædia Britannica - Underground Railroad
  • Information about the Slave Haven Underground Railroad Museum (Burkle Estate)
  • Information from Memphis Travel

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