On the Trail to Freedom in Lorain County, Ohio

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On the Trail to

FREEDOM The Underground Railroad

Lorain County•Ohio Freedom

“If I am dying for , I could not die for a better cause, I had than be a slave!” −John Copeland - on his

rather die

way to the gallows for his role in the Harper’s Ferry insurrection

The following pages provide a guide to an enriching and entertaining visit including Underground Railroad history, culture, art and shopping. For more information and for group tour arrangements, please call Visit Lorain County at 800.334.1673.

The Underground Railroad in Lorain County

Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in Oberlin, 1964 Photo courtesy of Oberlin College Archives

African-American Heritage in Lorain County, Ohio Lorain County’s rich African-American heritage spans two centuries of an organized, united fight for liberty. In 1965, Martin Luther King delivered a speech at Oberlin titled, “Remaining Awake Through a Great Revolution.” Oberlin was indeed awake. “Red Hot Abolitionism” described Oberlin and its antebellum efforts to abolish slavery. Many who were active in anti-slavery efforts continued their call to advance freedom on Civil War battlefields. Oberlin and Wellington were the sites of a famous slave rescue in 1858 that was said to have raised consciousness nationwide regarding the anti-slavery movement and earning Oberlin the recent title, “The town that started the Civil War.” The famed Underground Railroad to freedom blazed several paths through Lorain County. There are many famous African-Americans from Lorain County. Oberlin’s Westwood Cemetery is now the final resting place of many of Lorain County’s “Faces of Change.” It provides a reflective, meditative setting to explore the histories of those who affected vital changes in civil rights history. The enclosed walking tour map guides visitors to their burial sites and provides short biographies of each. 2

Fugitive slaves passed through Lorain County in their search for liberty until about 1861, following Frederick Douglass’s advice to follow the North Star to freedom in Canada. Lorain County provided a direct route to Lake Erie as northern Lorain County borders Lake Erie’s central basin. Canada was said to be a “Promised Land” for the Frederick Douglass, escaping slaves; however, Library of Congress photo many felt so safe in the little town of Oberlin that they decided to stay. They lived out their lives in peace among the safe confines of the town, some becoming antislavery activists. Because of the efforts of Oberlin’s antislavery activists, no escaping slaves were ever caught in the town and returned to bondage.

This map, published in 1898 by Wilbur H. Seibert shows multiple Underground Railroad Routes that travel through Lorain County. 3

Wellington-Oberlin Slave Rescue On September 13, 1858, a scared 17-year-old former slave, John Price, was tricked into being captured in Oberlin by Federal marshals, who were acting under the laws of the Fugitive Slave Act (1850). The marshals planned to return Price to Kentucky and his “owners,” despite the fact that Price had lived as a free man in Oberlin for two years. There had been three attempted captures of former slaves in the area in 1858 alone. The marshals

24 from Oberlin and two from Pittsfield and Penfield – orchestrated the dramatic re-capture of young Price and returned him to Oberlin. It was a bloodless event. Price was hidden in the home of Dr. James Fairchild, who later became President of Oberlin College. The 37 men who led the rescue were arrested and sent to Cleveland for trial. The “Wellington-Oberlin Rescue” was reported as a triumph throughout the Union media and further roused anti-slavery sentiment, which spurred the start of the Civil War in America. While John Price finally made his way to Canada as a free man, no further evidence of his life there has been discovered.

Explore Wellington-Oberlin Slave Rescue:

American House Hotel c. 1896 drove Price in stealth to the American House (Wadsworth Hotel) in Wellington. Passions ran so high against slavery in Northeast Ohio that few residents of Oberlin or Wellington dallied or debated when they learned that Price had been captured. They took action. They sped off in buggies for the eight-mile journey to Wellington, along what is now Hallauer Road. More than 200 Wellington and Oberlin residents — former slaves and free men, lawyers, college students and professors, religious leaders and ordinary citizens — gathered at the American House in Wellington to pressure the Federal marshals into releasing Price. The marshals refused. Finally, 37 men — 11 from Wellington,

Spirit of ‘76 Museum 201 North Main St., Wellington. Located a short distance from the site of the WellingtonOberlin Rescue, the former American House Hotel, the Museum houses hundreds of artifacts on the WellingtonOberlin Rescue, the Civil War and more. Here you’ll find original photographs of the Rescuers, court proceedings related to them and a bust of the revolutionary abolitionist John Brown, who led the Harpers Ferry raid. Wellington-Oberlin Rescue Monument Stands in Martin Luther King Jr. Park on E. Vine Street in downtown Oberlin. Directly across the street from the monument is the former home of Wilson Bruce Evans built in 1856. Evans was a prominent black leader in antebellum years. The home is a National Historic Landmark. (home is not open to the public and is still owned by descendants of Wilson Bruce Evans. Evans is one of the rescuers pictured on the monument (standing fifth from the left) Westwood Cemetery Morgan St., Oberlin. Here lie former slaves, famous abolitionists, and many who have become known as Oberlin’s faces of change. The natural beauty and park-like atmosphere combine with its rich history for a reflective and ethereal look into the spirit of the Abolitionist movement. Many of the Rescuers are now buried here. See map on page 12 for details and walking tour. Freedom’s Friends: Underground Railroad and Abolitionist History Walk Oberlin Heritage Center. This hour+ long guided walking tour is offered frequently during warmer months and by group reservation, April through October. Visit www.oberlinheritage.org or call 440.774.1700 for tour times, fees and info.


Oberlin-Wellington Rescuers


Underground Railroad Stops Reverend Ansel Clarke Home 25600 S.R. 58 S, Huntington. Former home of abolitionist and Congregational Minister Ansel Clarke. Not open to the public. Webster House 46785 S.R. 18, Wellington. Former home of abolitionist David Webster. Webster and his son often hid fugitive slaves in their wagon and drove them north to Oberlin. Not open to the public. Bardwell House 181 E. Lorain St., Oberlin. Former home of missionary and abolitionist Rev. John Bardwell. Fugitive slaves hid under the eaves of the house where sliding panels opened into dark passageways. Not open to the public. Monteith Hall 218 East Ave., Elyria. Now the home of the Elyria Women’s Club. Former home of John Monteith, who was the manager of the entire southern shore of Lake Erie where hundreds of slaves were put on boats and taken to Canada and freedom. Open by appointment. 440.322.0524 The Burrell Homestead 2792 East River Rd., Sheffield. Built circa 1820, the stately brick house served as a branch school for the Oberlin Collegiate Institute and later was a station on the Underground Railroad as reported by Edward Burrell. Home is now operated by the Lorain County Metro Parks. Call 800.LCM.PARK.

First Church in Oberlin 106 N. Main St., Oberlin. 440.775.1711. Built in 1842. The First Church was the meeting site for the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society and the site of the funeral for Lee Howard Dobbins, the four-year old fugitive slave buried in Oberlin. Oberlin College The students and faculty of Oberlin College were sympathetic to fugitive slaves. Some joined the Anti-Slavery Society, others took part in the rescue and harboring of runaways. Fugitive slaves lived openly within the town, even finding acceptance and a chance to make a living or obtain higher education levels. In 1835 College trustees agreed blacks should be admitted. President Rev. John Keep cast the deciding vote. Oberlin College was also the first college to admit black women. The first black woman in the world to receive a college degree attended Oberlin College and received her degree in 1862. Martin Luther King Jr. Park Vine St., Oberlin. Three monuments stand in the Park. The first monument was erected for the three Oberlin men killed as a result of John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. Another monument pays tribute to the Wellington-Oberlin rescuers and a third is a unique monument to Martin Luther King, Jr. Oberlin Heritage Center 73 South Professor St., Oberlin. 440.774.1700. Three historical homes comprise the Oberlin Heritage Center. The Monroe House is a red brick Italianate-style house built in 1857 for General Giles W. Shurtleff, the leader of Ohio’s first African-American regiment to serve in the Civil War. The home was later owned by James Monroe. Call for hours and admission costs.

Station 100, Said to be the mouth of the Black River and shores of Lake Erie. Many slaves departed from here to freedom in Canada. Black River Landing in Lorain is now the site of the Station 100 Underground Railroad Monument.

Points of Interest Evans Home 33 E. Vine St., Oberlin. Former home of cabinet maker Wilson Bruce Evans. Built in 1856. Evans was a prominent black leader in antebellum years. The home is a National Historic Landmark. Not open to the public. 6

Photo: Holly Miller

Oberlin Underground Railroad Marker & Garden Corner of Main St and Lorain St., Oberlin. In 2009, Nobel Laureate Toni Morrison visited Oberlin and dedicated a bench in the park as part of her “A Bench by the Road” project.


Underground Railroad Sculpture and Healing Garden Outside Talcott Hall, Oberlin College Campus. Includes a healing garden full of plants representative of those used by slaves on the road to freedom. Underground Railroad Quilt 90 E. College St., Oberlin. On display at the Oberlin Senior Center. 440.775.1504 Wright Park Soldiers Monument W. Vine St., Oberlin. Built in 1943 and including a 1871 Civil War Memorial, this monument pays tribute to the town and college casualties of the Civil War, and those who served in the U.S. Black Troops, WWI & II, Korean and Vietnam Wars. Kanisa House 142 Cleveland St., Elyria. Built circa 1851. Served as a stagecoach stop. Now the home of the First Community Interfaith Institute. The Dred Scott Garden at Kanisa House, teaches children and their families about farming, slavery, and the history of the Underground Railroad.

Sheridan Leary when it was assaulted. As a result, he was wounded, captured and almost lynched. After a local minister saved him, he was charged with treason, tried, convicted and was hanged two weeks after John Brown on December 16, 1859. Shields Green He was a runaway slave from South Carolina and a newcomer to Oberlin when he left to help John Brown. He initially escaped to Canada but later moved to Rochester, New York and became Frederick Douglass’s servant. Green decided to join John Brown after Frederick Douglass turned down Brown, knowing it meant certain death. He was hanged for his participation on December 16, 1859 along with Copeland.

Harpers Ferry - Oberlin Three Three men from Oberlin were among the eighteen who marched along with John Brown into Harpers Ferry on Sunday, October 16, 1859. The men severed telegraph wires to the armory, the arsenal, and rifle works before troops under the charge of Robert E. Lee arrived from Washington. Lewis Sheridan Leary Leary, aged 24, was in the rifle works at Harper’s Ferry with John Copeland when it was assaulted. He died after being shot and wounded. He was eventually buried at John Brown’s farm in North Elba, New York along with others who were in the raid. Took part in the WellingtonOberlin rescue but was not indicted. John A. Copeland Jr. An Oberlin carpenter and freeborn black who was the son of a slave. He was active in the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society. He played a role in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue and it was rumored that he escorted John Price to freedom in Canada. Copeland was in the rifle works with Lewis 8

1859-The Harper's Ferry insurrection—The U.S. Marines storming the engine house—Insurgents firing through holes in the doors. Library of Congress

Explore A monument to the three now stands in Martin Luther King Jr. Park on East Vine St. across the street from the former home of Wilson Bruce Evans. The monument lists the names of the three and reads, “Gave their lives for the slaves. Et nunc servitudo etiam mortua est, laus Deo.” [Translation: And now, even slavery is dead. Praise God!] Former Copeland Farm 46785 W. Hamilton St., Oberlin. This farmstead was owned by the parents of John A. Copeland Jr. Copeland Sr. was born a slave who was later freed and traveled from North Carolina with his family to escape persecution in the South. He was active in antislavery activities. Not open to the public.






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Last Stop to Freedom

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Jet Express dock and boarding site COL ORA DO

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Lorain/Sheffield Village


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Lorain Lighthouse

Former Copeland Farmstead

URR Cemetery Tour & Monument





Historical Westwood Cemetery

Weltzheimer Johnson House (Frank Lloyd Wright House)


URR Sculpture & Healing Garden

Oberlin Heritage Center






Oberlin College Tappan Square




First Church


US Steel Mill Site






Future Home of URR Center

Bardwell House (private)


181 E. Lorain



MLK Park & Evans House

Bike rental, repair, sales

URR Park










URR Site Burrell Homestead

French Creek Reservation

Lorain County

West Virginia


Scan this QR code to access maps on your mobile device.








Cedar Point•


Westwood Cemetery, Oberlin Westwood Cemetery is located on Morgan Street, about one mile southwest of Oberlin’s Tappan Square. The numbers on this map correspond with the biographies. The letters represent sections of Westwood Cemetery. The section letters appear on wooden markers at the cemetery. Scan the QR code at the bottom of the page to get an electronic version, including gps locators on your mobile device.

C 4 21





L 10 2






N 17




Missionaries’ Rest


19 14



E 20

Soldiers’ Rest


1 3


12 U

18 11




23 7



“Beyond the reach of tyrants harm, freed spirit, rest forever more.” -funeral of Lee Howard Dobbins





Paved Road Maintenance Buildings

Unpaved Path/Road





Faces of Change The following are Oberlin’s “Faces of Change,” buried in Westwood Cemetery.

1. Rev. John Bardwell Missionary and abolitionist that came

to Oberlin in 1838. His home is the most well-documented Oberlin Underground Railroad structure. After the Civil War, John Bardwell went south to organize schools for black freedmen. In 1866 he was seized in Mississippi and beaten by a former slave owner, backed by a white mob.

2. Simeon Bushnell Oberlin clerk and printer known for his

involvement with the Underground Railroad. Participated in the rescue of fugitive slave, John Price. He died of consumption Dec. 8, 1861 shortly after the trials and the death of his six year old daughter. They are buried next to each other in Westwood. The inscription on the joint monument reads: “Christ hath given us the victory.” Cor. 15:57.

3. Chambers Family Freed from bondage, the family of 16

came to Oberlin where they entrusted their manumission papers to the president of Oberlin College. Descendents of the family still live in Oberlin.

4. Lewis Clark His life was said to have formed the basis for

8. Henry Evans Oberlin cabinetmaker and undertaker. Freeborn black, native of North Carolina. Brother of Wilson Bruce Evans. Took part in the rescue of fugitive slave, John Price.

9. Wilson Bruce Evans Oberlin cabinetmaker and undertaker. Ardent abolitionist. His home is located at 33 E. Vine St., across the street from the memorials to the rescuers and Harper’s Ferry. Served one year in the army during the Civil War. Took part in the rescue of fugitive slave, John Price.

10. James H. Fairchild Student, tutor, professor and later

president of Oberlin College. His best-known role in the anti-slavery movement was the hiding of fugitive slave, John Price in his home for three days.

the character of George Harris in the novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. He risked a daring escape from slavery and recapture by appearing as a speaker at abolitionist meetings in the free states. When he died, the governor of Kentucky ordered that the body lie in state in the city auditorium so that people could pay homage to the ex-slave who made an impact on pre-Civil War history. His body was brought back to Oberlin for burial in Westwood Cemetery.

11. Rev. Charles Grandison Finney Came to Oberlin to minis-

5. Sabram Cox Born a slave, he was later released and

of fugitive slave, John Price. Joined the Fifth United States Colored Heavy Artillery and served a year in Vicksburg. He died penniless in 1909 at age 79.

worked with prominent abolitionist Elijah Lovejoy who published an anti-slavery paper. Lovejoy was eventually killed and his press tossed into a river. Cox retrieved the press. He came to Oberlin in 1839 for an education. He was an active member of the Oberlin community and served as street commissioner.

6. Marie DeFrance The only single, black women who owned her own business at the time (opened 1896). Named Millinery M. DeFrance, the shop was located at 24 S. Main St.

7. Memorial to the life of Lee Howard Dobbins and all fugitives slaves who came to Oberlin Four year old slave child who, in

1853, died in Oberlin on his way to freedom in Canada. His mother died in slavery. Before she died, she entrusted her son to the care of another slave woman who treated him 14

as her own. His adoptive mother was forced to leave him behind in Oberlin because he was extremely ill with consumption (tuberculosis). She had several other children with her and Dobbins’ biological father, who was the slave owner, was hot on their trail. Lee Howard died several days later in the care of an Oberlin family. A funeral was held in Oberlin’s First Church where over 1000 people attended.

ter to college students to “secure their sanctification.” He became pastor of First Church. Although Finney believed slavery was a sin and he belonged to the Oberlin Anti-Slavery Society, he preached against controversy in the matter believing instead that the conversion of the people would end slavery. Finney died August 16, 1875.

12. Jeremiah Fox Fugitive slave who took part in the rescue

13. Henry Johnson Fugitive slave who was said to have been

a servant of Andrew Jackson. He first escaped to Canada but later moved to Oberlin and assisted fugitive slaves along the Underground Railroad by serving as a decoy while the real escaping slaves left town. He lived to be around 110 years of age.

14. Allen Jones Oberlin blacksmith who purchased his and

his family’s freedom from slavery for a total of $5,000. He was a strong believer in education, building a freedman’s school in the south that was burned out three times.


15. Rev. John Keep President of the Oberlin Board of Trust-

ees in 1835 when he cast the deciding vote to allow blacks to enter the college.

16. Mary Kellogg A Louisiana slave who was willed to the

wife of President James Fairchild, by her father who was a wealthy plantation owner in the south. Mary and Prof. James Fairchild immediately emancipated her and she lived with them as their servant. She was 43 when she was emancipated. Her tombstone in the Westwood Cemetery reads, “Born a slave, died free.”

17. Henry Lee Born of slave parents in 1836, he escaped in

1858 by Underground Railroad. He was well known for trouble he had on several railroads while he was fighting against discrimination and for equality. In Indianapolis he was thrown from a train and beaten by three policemen. Following that, he pursued a two year lawsuit against the railroad and won damages.

18. James Monroe Graduated Oberlin College in 1846. Ober-

lin’s leading political abolitionist. Had a personal liberty law enacted in reaction to the Fugitive Slave Law in 1856. It provided a loophole that enabled an alleged runaway slave to apply for a writ of habeas corpus, thus freeing the suspected fugitive and preventing a return to the south. Became a state senator in 1860, served as United States consul at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from 1863 to 1870 and was elected to five consecutive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.

19. Solomon Quinn, Winifred Carter Quinn Conner Winifred

migrated to Ohio in the 1850s with nearly 50 members of her family. Most were property owners in the south but were driven out by the “Black Codes.” Solomon, born free in North Carolina about 1836, served a brief time in the 17th U.S. Colored Troops during the Civil War.

20. John H. Scott Freed slave who became a harness and

trunkmaker in Oberlin. He took part in the rescue of fugitive slave, John Price. He led the group that stormed the attic of the hotel where Price was being held. He joined the Fifth Ohio Calvary in 1865. Became known for being a fervent temperance man and, in one instance became incensed when an Elyria beer company sent a wagon to Oberlin to sell its product. Felt that black residents were targeted as the wagon’s primary patrons.

21. Giles W. Shurtleff Ardent abolitionist and Oberlin College

graduate. Fought in the Civil War. Commanded Ohio’s first regiment of black troops which was organized by John Mercer Langston. A neoclassical statue stands in front of Shurtleff cottage, his former home at 159 S. Professor St. 16

22. James Steele He was among the “Lane Rebels” who

left Lane Seminary due to his anti-slavery convictions. He was one of a group of missionaries who escorted the Amistad captives back to Africa in 1841. (See Sarah Margru Kinson)

23. Henry Thomas Former slave who came to Oberlin and worked for the wealthy Johnson family. He is buried behind the Johnson mausoleum in Westwood.

The following are not buried in Westwood, but their lives greatly impacted Oberlin’s Civil Rights history.

Sarah Margru Kinson She was the youngest passenger on

the slave ship “Amistad” when the slaves aboard successfully mutinied. “Margru,” as she was called, was from Kaw Mendi, West Africa. She was the first female foreign student and first African to study at an American collegeOberlin College. After spending time at Oberlin, she returned to Africa as a missionary.

John Mercer Langston He was born into slavery on a Virginia

plantation. He came to Oberlin for an education and became the first black attorney in Ohio and first black to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court. He was the first black elected official in the United States. Formed the 127th Colored Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was president of the Equal Rights League, forerunner of the NAACP. Fought against slavery and for enfranchisement of blacks. Became inspector-general of the postwar Freedman’s Bureau. Established the law department and later became president of Howard University. Became minister to Haiti in 1877 and later became first and only black Congressman from Virginia. His former home, 207 E. College St., is now on the National Register.

Mary Jane Patterson First black woman to receive a college degree of any kind. She received her B.A. from Oberlin College in 1862.

Lucy Stanton Sessions First black woman college gradu-

ate. Graduated from the literary program at Oberlin. She delivered a speech, “A Plea for the Oppressed” at her graduation from Oberlin, Dec. 17, 1850.


Events/Re-enactments/Experiences Adventure Cycling Underground Railroad Route memorializes the Underground Railroad by allowing cyclists to experience travel along Underground Railroad from the deep south all the way to Canada. The route travels through Lorain County. Note to cyclists: From Findley State Park in Wellington, follow the signs for the Back Roads and Beaches Route into Oberlin. Do not ride on SR 58 north to Oberlin. www.adventurecycling.org/ugrr/ Interactive Underground Railroad Experience (April), French Creek Nature Center, Sheffield Village, 440.458.5121, www.metroparks.cc Play the role of a pre-Civil War slave travelling the Underground Railroad. TrueNorth Cultural Arts and Lorain County Metro Parks’ re-enactors will provide dramatic and emotion-evoking performances fit to leave a lasting impression, blending arts with historical educational content. Experience firsthand the trials of those involved in a dark period of our nation’s history.

Recurring African-American and Cultural Events Martin Luther King, Jr. Festival, Elyria, January, 366.3244, www.fciiohio.org Martin Luther King Annual Commemorative Celebration, Elyria, January 322.5388 Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Musical Tribute, Elyria, January 322.5388 African-American History Festival, Elyria, February, 366.3244, www.fciiohio.org Freedom Display, Elyria, First Sat. in April, 366.3244 www.fciiohio.org

Lorain International Festival, Lorain, June www.loraininternational.com Kwanzaa, Elyria, December, 366.3244, www.fciiohio.org Kwanzaa, Lorain, 244.0359, www.harrisonccc.com Community Drum Circle, Common Ground, Oberlin, 965.5551, www.commongroundcenter.org

Organizations Oberlin African American Genealogy and History group www.oaaghg.com Oberlin Underground Railroad Society, Oberlin 440.774.6968 oberlinundergroundrailroad.bravehost.com

Oberlin Underground Railroad Center Implementation Team www.cityofoberlin.com

The city of Oberlin is well into the process of restoring this historic Gasholder Building structure and developing an Underground Railroad center. The structure will serve as a visitors center and a park and ride facility serving cyclists. For local travel information including lodging, dining, shopping, galleries, arts, museums and more, go to www.visitloraincounty.com. Cyclists exploring the Underground Railroad may want to visit www.backroadsandbeaches.com for cycling specific information. Both sites provide visitor information guides, bike maps and up-to-date event information. To get visitor information including lodging, maps, dining and more on your mobile device, scan the QR code below.

Juneteenth Oberlin, June, slave memorial; African arts, drumming and fashion, www.juneteenthoberlin.com Juneteenth Celebration, Lorain, 244.0359 www.harrisonccc.com 18


On the Trail to Freedom, Lorain, County, Ohio is a project of Lorain County Heritage. Lorain County Heritage is a subsidiary of Visit Lorain County with the mission to preserve, promote and provide education regarding Lorain County’s unique history, culture, arts and natural environment. Lorain County Heritage, Inc. encourages responsible travel to and inside Lorain County. Cover adapted from original photo by Howard McGuire With support and funding from: The African American Community Fund of the Community Foundation of Lorain County

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8025 Leavitt Rd., Amherst, OH 44001 800.334.1673 www.visitloraincounty.com www.backroadsandbeaches.com On the Trail to Freedom: The Underground Railroad in Lorain County is part of: