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902 UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, BRACKEN CO. Haviland, Laura S. A Woman’s Life-Work: Labors and Experiences of Laura S. Haviland. Cincinnati: Walden and Stowe, 1881. Hudson, J. Blaine. Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in the Kentucky Borderland. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2002. Lawrenceburg Register, May 11, 1848; November 17, 1852; November 14, 1853. Rogers, N. T. “Decatur County’s Role in the Historic Underground Railroad of Slavery Days,” and “Orthaniel Reed to Editor McClasky,” Greensburg (Ind.) Daily News, February 3–17, 1914. Siebert, Wilbur H. The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. New York: Macmillan, 1898. Smith, George Henry. ”Reminiscences of Tanner’s Creek,” 1898, and “Reminiscences of John Clark.” In History of East Fork Stone Chapel. Guilford, Ind., 1921. Tax Assessment Book 2, 1838–1847, Madison, Ind. Thompson, Orville. “Fugit Township Pioneers,” Greensburg (Ind.) Daily News, August 30, 1906.

Diane Perrine Coon

UNDERGROUND RAILROAD, BRACKEN CO. Antislavery feelings, including the colonization movement, were quite evident in Bracken Co. during the 19th century. Abolitionists and the Underground Railroad conductors helping slaves gain freedom in this Ohio River borderland often led perilous lives—risking injury, imprisonment, and occasionally death. Their names and the names of slaves living near the Ohio River (for the enslaved “the River Jordan”) emerge from accounts of their activities. The term Underground Railroad refers to the network of people who helped fugitive slaves from south of the Ohio River reach freedom in the North. Abolitionists quietly organized this system of stations and conductors to move freedom-seekers along the route, while other sympathizers sought less dangerous methods of opposing slavery. A young and impressionable visitor to his uncle’s home in Augusta in Bracken Co. was Stephen Collins Foster, who during the 1840s and 1850s composed songs about life in the South. According to local historical accounts, Foster was often found sitting below the “Negro Church on the Hill,” listening to the voices float soft ly down. Foster objected to the blackface performance style sometimes used by performers singing his songs. He instructed white performers not to mock slaves but instead to get their audiences to feel compassion for them. Also living in the county during this time was John G. Fee, a leading abolitionist. Fee founded the Free Church and School on Hillsdale Rd. in Bracken Co. near Germantown. However, in 1850 Fee was described by the local Circuit Court as an intruder into this quiet community and ordered to leave the county. Many enraged citizens helped to enforce the circuit court’s declaration. Again in 1860 the Bracken Co. Circuit Court demanded that Fee and his associates, who had already been driven from Berea College (“the Berean exiles”), depart the county immediately. They moved to Ohio. Fee’s wife, Matilda, and his mother-in-law, Betsy Hamilton, of Fegan Ridge, Ky., were also

vocal and dynamic abolitionists. Matilda traveled with her husband and supported the schools and churches he founded by teaching the younger students, white or black. The Fees lost one of their own children to an illness that resulted from their constant travels. Adding to their mental anguish was the loss of Fee’s nanny, Juliet Miles. Miles had attempted to return from Ohio and lead her enslaved family to freedom, only to be captured and sentenced to the state penitentiary in Kentucky, where she soon died. Betsy Hamilton placed herself in danger when she concealed a fugitive slave, Ed Mofford, from the local sheriff. Mofford was to be sold at a courthouse auction, but he was able to break loose and run five miles to the Hamilton home. Working with a young colporteur, William Lincoln, Matilda successfully concealed Mofford until his escape to Canada was arranged. One of the leading abolitionists in Ohio was Bracken Co. native James Armstrong Thome (1813–1873). Thome was born in Augusta, graduated from local Augusta College, and was a participant in the famed Lane Seminary Debates held on slavery in Cincinnati in 1834. He later graduated from Oberlin School of Theology in Ohio. Thome was the son of a prominent citizen of Augusta, Arthur Thome, who emancipated his 15 slaves between 1832 and 1836. James Thome became vice president of the American Anti-Slavery Society and, as such, frequently spoke out with fervor against slavery in the United States. While living in Augusta in 1837 and writing his book Emancipation in the West Indies, James Thome was beseeched to help a fugitive slave woman cross the Ohio River to reach freedom in Ripley, Ohio. After completing this exploit, Thome realized that he was no longer safe in either Kentucky or Ohio. He immediately left his teaching position at Oberlin College in Ohio and went to the East, remaining there for a year to avoid arrest and extradition. Arthur Thome, according to a slave narrative published in the Colored American, was reported to be the leading conductor for the Underground Railroad in Augusta. He supposedly supplied freedom-seekers with the necessary food and clothing and conducted them to Ripley, Ohio. As threats to him and his family increased, they moved to Athens, Mo.; there he built a new home, which became a station on the Missouri Underground Railroad. Both Arthur Thome and Fee had close connections with Augusta College (founded December 7, 1822), the first Methodist college in Kentucky and only the third in the world. Several of the professors were abolitionists, and they allowed debates on the topic of slavery in Kentucky as early as 1826. An early president of the college, Rev. Martin Ruter of Ohio, was one of the founders of the Kentucky Colonization Society and an outspoken opponent of slavery. Because of the antislavery sentiments of the faculty and the lack of fi nancial sponsorship of the supporting Methodist conferences, the Commonwealth of Kentucky finally revoked the college’s charter in 1849. Underground Railroad operative E. Patrick Doyle was considered the most courageous con-

ductor in Kentucky. The largest slave uprising in Kentucky was masterminded by Doyle, who was at the time a student at Centre College in Danville, Ky. An estimated 40–75 slaves, assisted by Doyle, fled in the summer of 1848 from Central Kentucky into the hemp fields near Milford in southern Bracken Co. With 100 local men in pursuit, Doyle and his party were captured and jailed. Seven of the slaves Doyle was trying to rescue stood trial in Bracken Co., and three were convicted and sentenced to be hanged. Doyle was found guilty in an emotion-charged trial held in Lexington and sentenced to the state penitentiary, where he died of typhoid in 1863. In addition to Doyle, Juliet Miles, and the seven runaway slaves who were tried as a part of the 1848 slave mutiny, there were eight men from Bracken Co. who were charged during the period leading up to the Civil War with enticing slaves to escape. Most were free persons of color, like David Alexander, who was arrested in 1853. Alexander allegedly assisted Alfred, a slave of John Fee Jr., in getting to the Ohio River shore, where both men were captured. Fortunately for Alexander, his case was fi led away for the Bracken Co. Circuit Court’s May term of 1855. One of the most appalling cases in the county was that of Dr. Perkins, another free person of color, who was accused of trying to aid in the escape of Sanford, a slave who belonged to Blackstone Rankins of Augusta. The 70-year-old Perkins was found guilty of the crime and sentenced to the state penitentiary for three years. Even though a petition had been initiated among Augusta citizens to free Perkins, he died in the prison two years later. Another conductor who operated in Bracken Co., but avoided the penitentiary, was John Fairfield. Considered an extremist by many, especially by noted Quaker and Cincinnati abolitionist Levi Coffi n, he was able to arrange strikes into Kentucky to rescue slaves. However, Fairfield was betrayed while in Bracken Co. and jailed in the stone prison at Brooksville, where he became quite ill. After a winter of incarceration, local citizens were able to secure Fairfield’s escape, and he fled to Ripley and to safety with Rev. John Rankin. Fairfield used many aliases. The only named person jailed at that time for enticing slaves to escape was James Cooper, a laborer; this perhaps was an alias Fairfield used. The man known as James Cooper spent the winter of 1853–1854 in the jail, which is the time most researchers believe that Fairfield was imprisoned. Just before the Civil War ended, James Medley was ordered to appear in Bracken Co. Circuit Court to answer charges of enticing a slave named Henry away from B. C. Clayton. Medley stood trial in Bracken Co. in February 1865 and was found innocent. Also arrested at this time was J. P. McClanahan, who was charged with attempting to entice away slaves, in par ticu lar Bob, belonging to Henry Anderson. He was ordered to appear at the county’s February 1865 circuit court hearing, but records do not reveal the result of this action. One accused conductor, Robert Mains, arrested in 1864

Chapter U of the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky  

The Encylopedia of Northern Kentucky in partnership with NKY.com. Edited by Paul A. Tenkotte and James C. Claypool, The University Press of...

Chapter U of the Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky  

The Encylopedia of Northern Kentucky in partnership with NKY.com. Edited by Paul A. Tenkotte and James C. Claypool, The University Press of...