The African American Experience in Southern Ohio

Mary Hemings
Former Slaves-Sally Hemings
Churches - Southern Ohio
Civil War
Underground Railroad
Ross County 1818
Thomas Jefferson and the Getting Word Project
The Revolutionary War


Pictures: Left: Mahala Lynch Davis, slave and free woman. She was owned by John Lynch, Lynch's neighbor, Isaac P Davis brought her to Ohio, freed her, then married her in 1857. Go to People
Right: Martha Davis Wilson daughter of Mahala and Isaac P. Davis born in Virginia in 1848. She holds her daughter, Julia Davis (Carr). Mahala and Martha are representative of African Americans that migrated to southern Ohio.

People of color have lived in the Scioto Valley since 1796 when the town of Chillicothe was founded. They have been instrumental in the building of the community from its beginning and many of these African Americans gained state and national prominence .

One group of African Americans who settled in the valley were former slaves from either Virginia or North Carolina who came with former masters. They heiped to carve out a better life for themselves and their families and to provide more opportunities for their children. They especially wanted to ensure their children could learn to read and write.

Another group that settled in Ohio, were runaway slaves escaping from the evils of slavery. Since the late 1700s runaway slave learned that they could cross the Ohio River and hide in the wilderness of what is now southern Ohio.

Other People of color that migrated to southern Ohio were men and women born of free parents and were never ensalved. They were able to buy land and proviide better education for their children. Descendants of these early settlers still live in southern Ohio today.

The first institution organized by people of color in the Scioto Valley was the church. The earliest African American church was founded in 1807 in Burlington on the Ohio River. Then about 1819, another church was organized in Lawrence County. Both were Baptist Churches.

In Chillicothe, the Quinn Chapel AME Church was organized in 1821 and the First Anti-Slavery Baptist Church of God was founded in 1824. The same year the Eden Baptist Church located on the borders of Ross and Pike Counties was established.

The UGRR had it beginnings in the valley as early as 1815 and certainly by 1820's a basic system was in place. African Americans were major players in this movement. For a list of the African American operators, follow the UGRR link ( Underground Railroad)

African Americans fought bravely in the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. During the Civil War, African American men fought in the 5th USCT and the 27th USCT, while some men of color from the Scioto Valley served in the Massachusetts 54 and 55th.

Early African American religious leaders in this region were:

  1. Rev. David Nickens, the first man of color to be ordained in the state of Ohio
  2. Rev. Peter James the founder of the Quinn Chapel AME church
  3. Rev. Adam Brown Quinn Chapel AME
  4. Rev. William Norman, founder of the Second Baptist Church of Circleville, Ohio
  5. Rev. Lewis Woodson, nationally known antislavery activist,orator and businessman.People
  6. Rev. Noah Cannon, among the first AME ministers to be licensed (1826, Highland County.
  7. Rev. John R. Bowles Pastor of the First Baptist Church in Chillicothe(1856) a teacher, choral director and minister.

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