Historic Markers Across Tennessee

The Underground Railroad

Marker ID:  
Location: at the intersection of West Hill Avenue and Church Street, Friendsville, TN
County: Blount
Coordinates: N 35° 45.674    W 084° 8.219
  35.76123333    -84.13698333
Waymark: None


The Underground Railroad
Friendsville Quakers and Cudjo's Cave

Members of the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) came to Blount County in the 1790s looking for a place to worship in peace. Hardworking and industrious, opposing war and slavery, they developed the land and founded the prosperous settlements of Unity (now Unitia) and Friendsville. During the Civil War, Friendsville Quakers participated in the Underground Railroad to help conscientious objectors, Unionists, and runaway slaves flee to the North. The Friends raised money at their meetings to help slaves escape to freedom.

After the passage of the Confederate Conscription Act in 1862, Friend William J. Hackney began using a cave near his house to aid these efforts. The cave, across the creek from the meeting house, remained undetected because the entrance was beside a little-used road and was hidden by thick overgrowth. The narrow opening led to a large room that could accommodate about 50 people. A nearby spring provided water, and Hackney supplied bedding and provisions for this guests. His wife shared her husband’s faith and supported his humanitarian efforts by cooking meals and assisting the travelers.

After the Federal army occupied East Tennessee, Hackney was offered a reward for his services and a position on the staff of Union Gen. Ambrose E. Burnside in Knoxville. Despite assisting more than 2,000 people Hackney refused all honors. Although Confederate soldiers confiscated the Friends’ horses, fodder, and other supplies, the pacifist farmers continued to treat both the Federals and Confederates with equal kindness.

While Burnside’s guest in Knoxville, Hackney described the cave and his work to writer John Townsend Trowbridge. Trowbridge based his popular 1863 novel, Cudjo’s Cave, on this account, and since then the Friendsville cave has been known by this name.

Tennessee Civil War Trails