The Underground Railroad in Southern Ohio

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Many heroic men and women joined forces with others in a vast network that helped runaway slaves secure freedom. Three groups of people were most active in the Underground Railroad efforts in southern Ohio. They were the Presbyterians, the Quakers, and Free People of Color. These brave people risked the loss of property, money,imprisonment and even death if caught hiding or helping fugitives.

Three or four Underground Railroad trails or routes were used by fugitives in Ross County. Trails began at the Ohio River and ended at Lake Erie, though for some, the trail ended in southern Ohio. Fugitives sometimes stayed in African American Settlements in southern Ohio, while others found freedom in Canada. Fugitives crossed the Ohio River at Ripley, Portsmouth, Ironton, Marietta and Gallipolis. Meigs County was another place of many crossings, while some crossed the Ohio at Cincinnati.

Fugitives running on the Western Route crossed the Ohio River at Ripley and were often hidden by the residents of the Africa Hill Settlement or by John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister. From there fugitives were conducted to Red Oak (Brown County) to West Union in Adams County. Presbyterian conductors took escaping slaves from West Union to Tranquillity to the home of John T. Wilson and then crossed into Highland County at Sinking Springs.

Here at Sinking Springs the trail split. Options included heading North through Carmel and Greenfield (Thomas Dick in Highland County) and to Washington Court House in Fayette County, where members of the Beatty, Steele, Alexander families or an African American, Ausustus West, conducted them to places of safety. The line then headed north through Madison County and finally going northeast into Franklin County. They then traveled north until they reached Sandusky, Lorian, Cleveland or Ashtabulla, depending on which northern trail was the safest.

Fugitives sent on the second Option trail at Sink Springs passed through Pike County (Eager Inn) and the P. P. Settlement (named for Peter Patrick), an African American settlement, and then crossed into Ross County and proceeded to Bourneville. From Bourneville (Robert I. Robertson station) the trail went north on Lower Twin Road to what is now Route 28 at either Lattaville , Stillguest Settlement or Frankfort. However, from Bourneville the trail might lead them through Chillicothe, or west of the Settlement and then north toward Columbus.

Entering Ohio from Kentucky at Portsmouth slaves very often were brought across the Ohio River by a River Boat Captain, who took them to an African American Farmer. The farmer would take fugitives to the Pee Pee Settlement in Pike County (Eden Baptist Church). Pike County conductors moved them to Ross County usually through Bourneville to Frankfort and then west of Circleville. Finally, the fugitives would be taken north to Franklin County. Sometimes, fugitives followed the trail from Portsmouth to Chillicothe, where they would be taken northward to Franklin County. Elm Grove in Pike County, near Piketon offered a safe haven for fugitives on the way to the P. P. Settlement in Pike County or to Chillicothe.

From Virginia, at Gallipolis runaways followed the trail through Point Pleasant to Porter, Rio Grand , then to Thurman all in Gallia County then to Berlin Cross Roads in Jackson County. From Jackson County, runaways crossed into Ross County and traveling through Richmond Dale (Quaker settlement) and then northeast of Chillicothe through Springfield Township and finally through Pickaway County at Dresbach Station to stations east of Columbus and then points north where they were helped by the Wards, Shepherds, Westwaters, Keltons among others.


The Woodson/Nookes/Yancy/Leach/Wilson families, all African Americans operated stations and safehouses. Two of the Woodson men, John and Thomas Jr. were beaten to death because of their work on the Underground Railroad. The Woodsons received runaways from Poke Patch (Gallia County) and conducted them to either Chillicothe or Washington Court House. Some of the African American operators were:

  • Howell James
  • Noah Noakes (Nookes)
  • Rev. James Stewart
  • Lewis Leach
  • John Wilson
  • Benjamin Wilson Jr.
  • Clifford Nookes(Nookes)
  • George Woodson
  • Thomas Woodson Jr.
  • James Woodson
  • Edward Woodson
  • William Woodson
  • John Cassels
  • James Cassels
  • Thomas Dyer

    1. Robert Chancellor
    2. Richard Chancellor Sr
    3. Richard Chancellor Jr
    4. Jesse Fiddler
    5. John Fiddler
    6. John Jackson
    7. Charles H Langston
    8. Rev. William M Mitchell
    9. Andrew Redman
    10. John Redman
    11. Tucker Isaacs
    12. Jessie Hamilton
    13. James Leach
    14. Lewis Leach
    15. Harrison Valentine
    16. Lewis Woodson
    17. The Hubbard Family

  • Dan Lucas
  • Joseph Love
  • Captain William McClain (white) searched the Ohio River for runaways and would deliver them to JJ Minor in South Webster, Ohio. He in turn would see them to the Lucas or Love farms. The Lucas or Love families (AA) would take them 37 mile north west to the PP Settlement in Pike County. This p;ace was settled by former slaves and freed men from Virginia and North Carolina. The people here sent them to Chillicothe or to other places of safety.


    Pike County was an unfriendly county to people of color. Most African Americans lived in East Jackson Township or near Ross County in the PP settlement or in Harris Station. Slaves who were running away were brought to this place from Portsmouth and other places such as Adams County.

  • Minor Muntz and Henry Muntz
  • James Barnett and Henry Barnett
  • Rev. Christopher Brown
  • Clifford Smith
  • The people of East Jackson Township, Carrs' Run, and Straight Creek Settlements, whose names have not yet been found.


    Slaves coming across the Ohio at Galipolis often came to the John Gee AME Church to be hidden. The Benevolent Society offered saftety as well members of the Paint Creek Baptist Church were operators.

  • John Chavis
  • John and Eliza Stewart
  • T N Stewart
  • James W Stewart
  • Isaac Stewart
  • Jacob Stewart
  • Caliph James
  • Howell James
  • William P.Ellison
  • Joseph Cousins
  • Joesph L Jones

      1. Jacob Clawa
      2. Jefferson Cradolph
      3. Catherine Paul Tolliver
      4. ,
      5. Madison Black
      6. ,
      7. Gabe Johnson,
      8. James Ditcher
      9. Phillip Lynch

    1. Aunt Rhoda Jones
    2. John Parker
    3. Aunt Polly Jackson
    4. Billy Marshall
      1. The Citizens of Africa Hill


      Joe Logan

      Others not POC who were Underground Operators in Adams County

        Sam Baldridge, Benjamin Blackstone, Edward Cannon, Seth Gales, Abraham Hollingsworth, Nate Kirkpatrick, The McKinleys, Robert Ralston, Joesph Rothrock, William Stroup, Rev. John Graham,George Kirker,Rev. Dyer Burgess, Peter Wickersham, James Wilson, Moses and James Woods, John T. Wilson. These persons were largely Presbyterian


      The papers of Wilbert Seibert,Mysteries of the Underground
      By W. Seibert
      Kelley, Stephen, Lore, Legends and Landmarks of Adams (County)
      Kelley, Stephen, Landmarks of West Union


      Many many crossing sites were found in this county. Most of the known activity was by members of the Presbyterian Church. Operators were:Cyrus Jiles, The Miles, Rathbone and Simpson Familes.


      Peter Dent

      Quaker activity was strong in this county as was Presbyterian involvement.

      The Barnett Cemetery
      By Beverly J Gray

      Not far from the Eden Baptist Church, in Pike County, Ohio is the final resting place of several African American heroes and heroines. They were the original settlers of the county and many were conductors on the Underground Railroad.

      Though four evergreen trees traditionally mark the site of the cemetery, it is very difficult to locate the burying ground. Man and time have greatly altered this place.

      Entering a wooded area and using the evergreen trees as a marker, one must search carefully for something that is remotely familiar. A careful of scrutiny of the forest floor finally reveals the remains of a tombstone. The name on the stone is James Barnett, who died March 12 ,1865 aged 87 years. The Barnetts came to Pike County from Virginia in the 1820's and 1830's. Several Barnett families were conductors on the Underground Railroad that operated through this part of Pike County.

      A more careful search of the leaf-covered ground yields still more bits and pieces of tombstones. One stone has the following inscription: Chana Huse (Hughes) wife of Stephen died 1849 about 100 years. Chana Huse was theGrandmother-in-law of Madison Hemings, who was the alleged son of Thomas Jefferson and his slave Sally Hemings. Heming's daughter, Julia is buried here as is in all probability Madison Hemings.

      This was a place of burial for African Americans for nearly 100 years, from 1849 until 1941. Chana Huse was the first burial of record and Henry Williams, Jr. who died in the winter of 1941 was the last. They were the first settlers of the region. They built the community, they were parents, carpenters, coopers, blacksmiths, farmers, scholars, shoemakers, christian and good citizens.

      Unless some restoration is done very quickly, this African American resting place; this last record of the lives of some heroes will be lost from human memory forever. Unfortunately, all over the nation, the resting places of countless African Americans are being lost and forgotten.

      (written for Lest We Forget, published by Bennie McCrae, 1997.)

      The Eden Baptist Church

      by Beverly J Gray

      A tear slid down the cheek of William Garland as he sat in the back pew of the Union Baptist Church of the Pee Pee Hills, in Pebble Township, Pike County, Ohio. William, a runaway slave, reached the Pee Pee settlement some years prior and never failed to give thanks to God.

      Thirteen African American families settled in this southern Ohio community in the early 1820's. The settlers, former slaves and freemen, were a multi-talented group of people. They brought a multitude of skills, talents and considerable wealth to the new community. They built a school, meeting hall and organized a church. At first the settlers worshipped in various homes, but in 1824 organzied into a congregation, most probably influenced by the Rev. David Nickens. Nickens organized another Baptist congregation in Chillicothe the same year (First Baptist Church). The date of the construction of the first log church is not clear, but seems to have been in the 40S. The land for the church was donated by Minor Muntz.

      In addition to providing spiritual leadership, the church soon became the center of activity in the settlement. Through the church, families associated with people in other southern Ohio communities. The membership sent delegates to a Baptist convention in Brown County in 1847, and to a Baptist Association of Churches( probably Providence Association) in 1848. Delegates from Cincinnati, Columbus, Xenia, and Chillicothe were also in attendance at these meetings. These religious gatherings allowed the exchange of political and social ideas, as well as, spiritual guidance. The returning delegates brought to the Pee Pee families and to the church, news of other African American communities, including news of the Underground Road activities. (The UGRR was called the Underground Road prior to 1850)

      From the very beginning, this church possessed an antislavery spirit. Item eight of the church by-laws reads as follows:

      "No persons who hold the principles of slavery or practice it, shall have any part in this church,"

      The James, Henry and David Barnett families, members of Union, were station masters on the Underground Railroad, as was another member Minor Muntz. Both families assisted fugitives like William Garland, to safety either to one of African American communities in southern Ohio, or on the trail to Canada.

      Muntz and Barnett received runaways from stations in Piketon,( Pike County) and from the Ohio River town of Portsmouth. The Barnetts or Muntz then transported the fugitives to Bainbridge, in Paxton Township, Ross County or to the Stillguest Station near Frankfort, Ohio, in Union Township. From these stations other station masters took them to stops near Circleville and then to the Columbus stations. The goal was, of course, to reach Canada and freedom! These families and other members of Union Baptist Church continued this work until the Road ceased operations after the Civil War.

      The church membership grew after the Civil War because of the migration north of scores of African American families to southern Ohio. The church name was changed in 1878 to the Eden Baptist Church and a new church building erected at a site about a mile northwest of the original location on the Cline's Chapel Road. The growing membership brought new ideas to the church, therefore, the church continued to be the center of community activities. Church festivals, fish fries, holiday programs and concerts, homecoming and basket dinner celebrations, picnics and socials, all enriched the lives of the membership and the community. Night classes taught at the church helped to educate those who needed it. Learned men, like Professor Heyward Rose, directed the choirs and taught the membership some semblance of formal music. Great orators spread the gospel and educated the membership as well. The church membership involved itself in many endeavors throughout the years, the UGRR was just one of them.

      William Garland, Minor Muntz and the Barnett families, were major players in the operation of the Underground Railroad in southern Ohio. They remained members of the Eden Baptist Church until their deaths. The church still stands on the hill in Pike County, Ohio, as a testament to these and other unsung heroes.

      (William Garland is an ancestor of the writer of this article and the Eden Baptist is her "home church")This article appreared in LEST WE FORGET magazine, published by Bennie McCrae, 1997

      Copyright 1994, All rights reserved