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Abolitionists in the Ohio Valley

For an enslaved person seeking freedom, crossing the Ohio River from Kentucky to Indiana or Ohio was usually a dangerous and daunting task. This region held a place of great importance during the years of slavery and the Underground Railroad. There were many different players involved in the process of helping the enslaved to achieve freedom. Churches, social society groups, politicians, activists, Underground Railroad agents/conductors all played roles.

Friends of Emancipation

The following citizens were nominated to represent Boone County at the 1849 Kentucky Constitutional Convention in Frankfort as “Friends of Emancipation.” It should be noted that some of these representatives were also enslavers, but believed emancipation and the end to slavery was necessary. The list below was published in the Covington Journal, 13 April 1849, p 2, col 6:

Ephraim Porter Erastus Tousey J. W. Coleman John P. Scott Wilson Harper
Stephen Robinson William Perkins Calvin Garnett Benjamin Allen William Hudson
J. H. Brokking Samuel Calvert Thomas Roberts George C. Foster James W. Calvert
William Menzies George M. Bedinger A. F. Crigler John Horton James E. Campbell
James Dinsmore B.F. Bedinger Ben Craven William Graves Chiles Coleman
Alfred Chambers George H. Scott William T. Winston B. F. Stevenson Henry Rouse
William Johnson Jesse Kirkpatrick James Frazier William Masters R. M. Johnson
Hubbel Foster John Masters John Green Robert Hood B. W. White
John Crigler William Bondurant Aaron Crigler John W. Hood J. C. Harrison
B. W. Chamblin James E. Bruce B. F. Stevenson

* Link to article transcription

Churches with Abolitionist Views

Point Pleasant Christian Church

<html><img alt=“Point Pleasant Christian Church” src=“” width=“300” align=“right” title=“Point Pleasant Christian Church”></html>

Prominent Early Members
Walter Scott William Masters Piatt Kennedy Park Walton Joseph Brown
James Ellis William McGlasson James Cullom Jedidiah Foster Simpson Riggs
Benjamin Franklin Philemon Vawter W.S. Keene

Off-shoots of Point Pleasant Christian

Universalist Church

<html><img alt=“Universalist Church Burlington” src=“” width=“350” align=“right” title=“Universalist Church in Burlington”></html> Though other churches in the area were either supportive of enslavement or split in their views, the Universalist Church was consistant in its abolitionism.

First Universalist Church of Boone County

The First Universalist Church was organized in the 1840s and was originally located on East Bend Road, near Waterloo. In 1851, the congregation hosted the Kentucky State Convention of Universalists. In 1876, the congregation moved their meetings to Burlington.

Prominent Boone County Universalist Families
Acra Ayers Bradford Cloud Conner
Craven Crisler Deer Duncan Finch
Gaines Graves Hall Harris Hewett/Hewitt
Horten/Horton Jones Kelly Kirkpatrick Love
McMakin Merrell/Merrill Parsons Passons Pope
Rue Souther Tucker White

Universalist Church of Aurora, Indiana

Universalist Church of Patriot, Indiana

Universalist Church of Rising Sun, Indiana

Listed here are the founding members and pastors of the Rising Sun Universalist Church, some of whom had strong Boone County ties: Benjamin Avery, Shadrach Hathaway, Hugh Espey, Ezekiel Leach, William DeLong, E.M. Pingree, N.M. Gaylord, H. Roberts, Rev. Cravens, S.P. Oyler, B.F. Foster, John Allen, William C. Brooks, F.E. Hicks, G.W. Gage, J.D.H. Corwine, J.B. Grandy

Other Area Abolitionists and Emancipationists

Boone County had a complicated social structure, being a slave-holding county so close to free states. There were many citizens in the county who were abolitionists or emancipationists in their philosophy, but also held enslaved people. It was socially and sometimes physically dangerous to share anti-slavery sentiment in slave-holding localities. At the very best, the vocal anti-slavery supporters could be ostracized. At the worst, they risked physical retribution for speaking their views. Those included in the list below were located in Boone County, Indiana and Ohio. Some helped in passive ways while others were more actively involved.

James Ashley

Portsmouth James Ashley was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1840s.

Joseph Ashton

Pike County Joseph Ashton was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1840s and 1850s.

Gamaliel Bailey

New Jersey, Cincinnati and Washington D.C. Gamaliel Bailey was born in New Jersey in 1807. He moved to Cincinnati in 1831, where he practiced medicine and taught classes at Lane Seminary. He worked with James G. Birney as an editor of “the Philanthropist” and was the founder of the Liberty Party, a political party with a platform based on abolitionism. He moved to Washington D.C. in 1847, and became the editor of the abolitionist paper “The National Era,” which first published Harriet Beecher Stowe's “Uncle Tom's Cabin.”

William & Peggy Bates

Boone County

James G. Birney

Kentucky, Cincinnati. James G. Birney was born into an affluent slave holding family in Danville Kentucky in 1792. He practiced law, served on the State Legislature for both Kentucky and Alabama, and ultimately became a fervent and very vocal abolitionist. In 1835, he moved his family to Cincinnati to publish his abolitionist newspaper, “The Philanthropist.” His printing press was destroyed twice during the 1836 riots in Cincinnati.

Isaac Brown

Brown County Isaac Brown was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1850s.

Dr. Israel T. Canby & family

Boone County and Madison, Indiana Dr. Canby inherited a large group of enslaved people from his cousin Ann Spriggs. Near the time he moved from Boone County to Madison, Indiana, he manumitted some of these people, it's unclear what the fate was of others. Research into Dr. Canby's emancipationist activities is ongoing and there currently is no evidence of his involvement in Underground Railroad activities within Boone County.

Richard Chancellor

Chillicothe Richard Chancellor was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1850s.

Robert Chancellor

Chillicothe Robert Chancellor was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1850s.

William Connoly

William Connoly was a reporter for the Daily Commercial newspaper in Cincinnati. He occupied a room in a building owned by Judge Alphonso Taft, above the floor rented to Jacob W. Piatt. Two freedom seekers claimed by Col. Withers of Covington, were hidden in his room in 1852, and marshals came to arrest him and return them to enslavement. There was a fight, and several were injured. In 1858, Connoly was tried, but was exonerated.

Coombs Family

Lindale The Coombs Family were Underground Railroad workers and were active in the 1850s.

James Cooper

James Cooper was Indicted in Bracken County, KY court for aiding in the 1853 escape of a man from an enslaver named Walter Linn, along with a school teacher named “Cripps” and a free man of color Henry and Isaac Rumsey. There were two young men name “James Cooper” in the homes of their respective parents in 1850, one was 21 and single, the other was 18 and single. It is unclear which one was arrested.

Rev. Joseph Creighton

Ironton Rev. Joseph Creighton was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1840s and 1850s.

Cripps (James B)

Cripps was a school teacher in Bracken County. He was indicted in Bracken County, KY court for aiding in the 1853 escape of a man from enslaver Walter Linn, along with James Cooper and free man of color Henry and Isaac Rumsey. He paid $5,000 bail, and it was suspected he would not return for trial. Though his first name is not mentioned in the news, it is probable that James B. Cripps, who married Elizabeth Humlong in Bracken County, and then moved to Iowa is the same “Crispps.”

Jacob Ebersole

Clermont County Jacob Ebersole was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1840s and 1850s.

Abraham Depew

Boone County

Dr. Israel Evans & family

Ohio, Indiana and Kentucky. The Evans family settled in Highland and Ross counties in Ohio and their participation in Underground Railroad activities is well known. Dr. Israel Evans practiced medicine in Rising Sun in the mid-1840s, and his nephew, James M. Evans came to study medicine with him. While in Rising Sun, James also crossed the River to teach school in Boone County. Dr. Israel Evans settled in Bromley, in a stately riverfront home said to have played an important role in the Underground Railroad.

Robert Fee

Moscow Robert Fee was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.

W. M. Fee

Moscow W. M. Fee was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.

Jesse Fiddler

Chillicothe Jessee Fiddler was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.

John Fiddler

Chillicothe John Fiddler was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.

Thomas Fitzpatrick

Thomas Fitzpatrick was caught in 1856, while attempting to cross the Ohio River along with three freedom seekers escaping from Harrison County enslavers named Ashbroke and Garnet. Fitzpatrick, who worked as a brakeman on the Covington and Lexington Railroad, was charged with “aiding slaves to escape.”

Rev. James Gilliland

Red Oak Rev. James Gilliland was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.

William Henry Harrison

Ohio with Boone County ties

Lucy Ware Webb Hayes

Chillicothe Lucy Ware Webb Hayes, 1831-1889 was a Methodist abolitionist from Chillicothe, Ohio. She married Rutherford B. Hayes in 1852, and is credited for prompting Hayes to a more active role in the Underground Railroad.

Rutherford B. Hayes

Rutherford B. Hayes, 1822-1893 was an abolitionist attorney. He was connected to the Underground Railroad and a friend of Levi Coffin. He was a friend and co-counsel of John Jolliffe. Hayes later became the 19th President of the United States.

Joseph C. Jenkins

Donn Piatt and family

Boone County and Cincinnati. The Piatts, early settlers of Boone County from New Jersey, had a history of both enslavement and abolitionism in their complicated family's past. Donn Piatt's views on the matter were clear; he was an abolitionist who was vocal about his opinions. Piatt practiced law in Cincinnati and his name can be found in cases involving enslavement and manumission. In addition to his legal work, Piatt often wrote for abolitionist newspapers and later served as a Superintendent in the Freedman's Bureau. He was described by contemporaries as “too much of an abolitionist” for the likes of President Lincoln. <html><img alt=“John Cleves Short by the Smithsonian Art Museum” src=“” width=“200” align=“right” title=“John Cleves Short by the Smithsonian Art Museum”></html>

John Cleves Short

Ohio with Boone County ties

Free Blacks in Indiana with ties to Boone County and the Underground Railroad

Conventions of Colored Freemen

Representatives from Hamilton County:

John I. Gaines H.P. Spears Isaac Wilson Wallace Shelton Lovell C. Flewellen
John Liverpool Charles A. Rodgers W. R. Casey Joseph Fowler, Jr. Wm. Darnes
W. M. Nelson Peter H. Clark George W. Brodie W. W. Watson John Jackson

Representatives from Hamilton County:

Wallace Shelton James Johnson H. Parram R. G. Ball I.M. Troy
L.C. Flewellen Jesse Fossett Peter Harbison C. F. Buckner Phillip Tolliver
Thos. J. Goode John I. Gaines Wm. D. Goff A. M. Sumner W. H. Mann
Wm. H. Fuller P. B. Furguson Wm. Darnes George Peterson J. A. Bowan
R. Conarad Capt. J. Hawkins R. Debaptiste Josephus Fowler, Jr. A. V. Thompson

Committee to solicit donations in Hamilton County for the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society:

P. H. Clark T. J. Goode Josephus Fowler Mrs. A. E. Lewis
Mrs. E. Cooper Mrs. M. A. Aray Mrs. Jane Jackson

Abolitionists of National Importance

Salmon P. Chase

Levi Coffin

Frederick Douglass

Calvin Fairbank

William Lloyd Garrison

Laura Smith Haviland

More Information

abolitionists_in_the_ohio_valley.txt · Last modified: 2022/01/11 17:15 by hdelaney