The Underground Railroad in Erie County, OH

From: The Centennial History of Erie County, Ohio
By: H. L. Peeke
President of the Firelands Historical Society
Sandusky, Ohio 1925


The Underground Railroad

Sandusky was the most important station and terminus of one branch of the underground railroad. That this city was so regarded by the nation at large is shown among other things by the fact that Mrs. Harriet Beecher Stowe in "Uncle Tom's Cabin" piloted the escaping slaves by the underground railway to Sandusky whence they took the boat for Canada. In chapter 37, occurs the following:

"As Tom had informed them that their party would be looked for in Sandusky, it was thought prudent to divide them. Jim, with his old mother, was forwarded separately; and a night or two after George and Eliza, with their child, were driven privately into Sandusky, and lodged beneath a hospitable roof, preparatory to taking their last passage on the lake.

The disguises the party had assumed were in accordance with the hints of Tom Loker. Mrs. Smyth, a respectable woman from the settlement in Canada, whether they were fleeing, being fortunate about crossing the lake to return thither, had consented to appear as the aunt of little Harry; and, in order to attach him to her, he had been allowed to remain, the two last days, under her sole charge; and an extra amount of petting, joined to an indefinite amount of seed cakes and candy, had cemented a very close attachment on the part of the young gentleman.

The hack drove to the wharf. The two young men, as they appeared, walked up the plank into the boat, Eliza gallantly giving her arm to Mrs. Smyth, and George attending to their baggage.

George was standing at the captain's office, settling for his party, when he overheard two men talking by his side.

"I've watched every one that came on board," said one, "and I know they're not on this boat."

The voice was that of the clerk of the boat. The speaker whom he addressed was our sometime friend, Marks, who, with that valuable perseverance which characterized him, had come on to Sandusky, seeking whom he might devour.

It was a superb day. The blue waves of Lake Erie danced, rippling and sparkling, in the sunlight. A fresh breeze blew from the shore, and the lordly boat ploughed her way right gallantly onward."

The underground railroad, so called, was the outgrowth of the concerted action of people friendly to the slaves, and who were willing for principle's sake to give their services, time and money to these fugitives, though at the risk of prosecution and pecuniary loss. The charter was of divine authority and its command was, "Do unto others as ye would that they should do unto you." Its conductors, agents and managers believed that they should obey God rather than man. The road was secretly operated. It published no reports, it declared no earthly dividends to its stockholders, and to all its passengers it supplied, without charge, free through tickets to the land of freedom in Canada, including lodging and meals. They established across the State of Ohio a line of stations, from the Ohio River on the South, to Lake Erie on the north. These stations were generally at or near farm houses, and nearly always the homes of friendly abolitionists. Here the fugitive was concealed during the day, and at night carried in covered conveyance to the next station and there turned over to other friends who would care for them, and in turn give them into the hands of some one else for like treatment. In this way the tedious journey was made across the state, and finally at Sandusky, passage was procured for Canada "the goal of their desire, the Mecca of their hope."

It must be remembered that prior to 1850 there was no line of steam railroad completed between the river and lake, and that a distance of 250 miles had to be traversed in wagons at night, in the midst of a people largely opposed to any interference with slavery, and with prejudice against fugitives. These facts, together with the laws then in force, rendered the escape of a slave a difficult matter, and the act of aiding or abetting such an escape dangerous to one's person and property. The men who engaged in these friendly offices said, "duty is ours, consequences are God's," and they deserve our highest praise for bravery and devotion to what they considered their duty, and an impartial posterity will award them the credit they so justly merit. It is one thing to champion a cause when it is in disfavor, quite another when it has become popular and strong with the people. Humane and generous in its conception, thorough and complete in its simple methods, this institution accomplished much good and brought everlasting happiness and joy to the heart of many a human soul. The first white man upon the Firelands then in the old County of Huron, and residing in Huron Township, and one of the first men in the State of Ohio to aid fugitive slaves, was Judge Jabez Wright, one of the three first associate judges who held the first term of court in old Huron County in 1815. He never failed when opportunity offered to lend a helping hand to the fugitives, secreting them when necessary, feeding them when hungry, clothing and employing them, a rarely good and excellent man.

The first runaway slave to reach Sandusky was in the fall of 1820. He had come on foot across the state, and on the same day that he arrived, his master, named Riley, also came on horseback in close pursuit. The slave had been secreted by Capt. P. Shephard, aided by "John" the black hostler, in the barn belonging to the tavern, then kept by C. W. Marsh, on the same spot where Scott's hotel stood. For three days the master, aided by Captain Shephard (to whom he had offered $300 in gold in case he should find the slave for him), waited, searched and watched, for the master had tracked the slave to Abner Strong's, on Strong's Ridge, and knew he must be in the vicinity, but to no purpose. The slave could not be found, and on the fourth day after the arrival of Riley, the steamboat "Walk-in-the-Water" stopped in port, and he took the boat for Detroit. Captain Shepard then started with his small sailboat (the slave on board) for Malden, where he was landed safely before the end of the next day the first runaway slave landed in Canada of whom there is any account. Riley in a few days returned, paid his bills at Marsh's tavern and departed homeward, but without his slave. In September, 1830, Josiah Hansen escape from slavery in Kentucky with his wife and four children; and in October arrived at Venice, where a kind Scotchman, captain of a small two masted vessel, agreed to take himself and family on board and carry them to Buffalo. Venice at that time was quite a town, and Sandusky in those days was described in the Cleveland "Herald" as a place (near Venice) where steamboats sometimes stopped to wood. After loading the vessel with corn, the captain sailed over to Bull's Island and there came to and at night sent back the small boat for the blacks. They were soon on board and after a two day's passage safely reached Buffalo, and the kind hearted Scotch captain on the 28th day of October landed the escaped slaves in Canada.

In 1831 a fugitive named Tice Davis came over the line and lived just back of Sandusky; he had come directly from Ripley, Ohio, where he crossed the Ohio River. He remained some time at Sandusky and then went to Canada. It was told of him that he gave the name to the underground road in this way. When he was running away his master, a Kentuckian, was in close pursit and pressing him so hard that when the Ohio River was reached he had no alternative but to jump in and swim across. It took his master some time to secure a skiff in which he and his aid followed the swimming fugitive, keeping him in sight until he landed. Once on shore, however, he could not find him. No one had seen him. And after a long and unsuccessful search the disappointed slave master went into Ripley, and when enquired of as to what had become of his slave, said he could not tell; that he had searched all the openings, but could not find him; that he was close behind him when the boy got on shore, and he thought "`the nigger' must have got off on an underground road." This story was repeated with a good deal of amusement, and this incident gave the name to the line. First, the Underground, afterwards, "Underground Railroad."

The colored man Grant Ritchie opened the first barber shop in Sandusky, and was the earliest and most active agent of the line, and always successful in his operations. On one occasion, when through his interference and efforts several fugitives had escaped to Canada, and there being no responsible person to sue for the value of the lost chattels, the slave owners caused Ritchie to be arrested before a justice of the peace and prosecuted for an assault upon the claimant. The lawyer for the prosecution was F. D. Parish, L. S. Beecher being counsel for Ritchie. The justice bound Ritchie over to the Common Pleas Court of Huron County. At the next term, when this case was called at Norwalk, Mr. Beecher appeared as counsel for Ritchie, and after the defendant had pleaded not guilty, Mr. Beecher asked him in a voice loud enough to be heard over the courtroom (the court and lawyers knowing he had a barber shop in Sandusky), "What his business was there; whether he had come over to shave the court?" Ritchie replied that he did not have his kit with him, and Mr. Beecher, sotto voce, then told him, "To go and get it." Soon after, when the prosecution was ready to go with the case, Ritchie was not in court and this was the last of the prosecution. It was not supposed that anyone was anxious to convict him, now that the slave masters were not there. Ritchie removed to Canada in 1834, and afterwards returned to Sandusky in 1841, visiting Rev. Thomas Boston, to whom he expressed his great surprise at learning that Mr. Parish had become an abolitionist. He said that when he left Sandusky Mr. Parish was as bitter an enemy as the fugitive slaves had. Mr. Boston could hardly believe this, and called on Mr. Parish to learn the facts. Mr. Parish said to him. "Yes, what Ritchie says is true. I did prosecute them, but the Lord opened my eyes, and I intended to make up for those acts." And he did.

Benjamin Johnson came over the road about the time Richie left. He was soon after arrested under the claim of his owner and brought before John Wheeler, esq., in Portland Township (Sandusky) F. D. Parish appearing for the claimant, and L. S. Beecher for Johnson. It was claimed by Mr. Parish that Johnson was a fugitive slave, and owned by claimant. Mr. Beecher admitted that the man was a fugitive slave but that he was not the property of claimant. Mr. Beecher told his counsel that he had never seen the claimant before. The testimony of the claimant himself disclosed the fact that after Johnson's escape he had met Johnson's former owner in this state, and that while in Ohio he purchased of him the fugitive; that the bill of sale was drafted, dated and executed in Ohio. On these facts Mr. Beecher claimed Johnson could not be held. Ohio was a free state, and a transfer and sale of slave property could not be legally made within its domain. 'Squire Wheeler sustained this position and Johnson was discharged. He died several years afterwards in Sandusky. For years after securing the discharge of Johnson, Mr. Beecher would speak of him as "his nigger," because he had cleared him in the above manner. This was probably the only attempt made to sell a slave in Ohio. Who that has known F. D. Parish since 1935 could believe that he ever, even professionally, was engaged in the attempt to reclaim fugitive slaves, or that he was other than an abolitionist? Yet such was the fact, and up to the year 1835 Mr. Parish was not an abolitionist, but a member of the colonization society. After this time he became as zealous in the cause as William Lloyd Garrison, and, like Paul after his conversion, "abounded in good works" and was faithful to the end.

In 1838 one Davis came to Sandusky by underground. Afterwards he removed to Cleveland, where he died, having accumulated quite a property. Another of the early runaways from Kentucky was William Hamilton, who came by railroad to Xenia, and thence to Sandusky traveling only at night. Soon after this came father Lason and his wife, bringing with them a little girl. The latter, Mrs. Nancy Boyd, resided in Sandusky. Also about the same time came Daniel Brown and wife. Mr. Brainard of Berlin used to conduct slaves, generally aided with money and teams by O. S. Tillinghast, also of Berlin, most reliable and earnest men. Seth and Elder Ben Parker of Peru, Huron County, Ohio, received, cared for and placed in charge of good conductors any slaves that might be brought to that station. Abner Strong of Strong's Ridge Lyme, Huron County, Ohio, was always ready to receive, care for and send to Sandusky, in good conveyance, the fugitives who reached that "Strong" and safe station.

After the year 1836 there was hardly a time that H. F. Merry of Sandusky had not one or more fugitives in his employ. He was a good and early friend of theirs, and always ready to assist them in any way. S. Bell, a fugitive, lived with Mr. Merry in 1839. In the winter of 1839-40 a party of four runaways arrived in Sandusky, but were so closely pursued by their owners that it was thought best they should not be kept in town, even if secreted, and as the ice on the lake was not strong enough to bear a horse and sleigh, they were conducted over the bay to the Peninsula Point, whence next morning on a bright clear day, they started on their perilous journey to Canada. They had to proceed with the greatest caution hugging close to the shore of Kelley's Island and thence on to Point au Peele, where in the evening they arrived in safety. In 1834 a fugitive named Joe Daniel came over the line to Sandusky. Mr. Parish took him to Rev. Thomas Boston, then living in Perkins Township. He remained some time but fearing he might be captured Mr. Boston advised him to go to Canada and he embarged with the intention of going there. While in Detroit en route he obtained a situation on the steamboat Sultana, and had made trips on her but was discovered, while thus employed, by his master, who was traveling on the boat and who at once reclaimed him and carried him back to Virginia. In less than three week Daniel was a passenger over the line a second time. He reached Sandusky in safety, and after a short stop made his way to Canada. In 1829 a fugitive about twenty two years of age, named Price, arrived in Sandusky over the underground road, and after a time went to work in Perkins Township, burning lime for Samuel Walker. He was a faithful, excellent boy, and strong as a giant. He had left behind him in Kentucky a sweetheart for whom he pined, and to whom he seemed greatly attached. His master learned where he was at work, and arranged with a couple of men to capture and deliver the boy into his hands, which accomplished, he would take him before an officer and prove his property. Knowing his fondness for this girl, the men hired to effect his capture were instructed to tell him that she had also run away and on a certain night would be at the Sulphur Spring, a place in a woods just south of Oakland Cemetery, near Sandusky.

Late on the night agreed the fugitive repaired to the spring to meet his sweetheart, but to his surprise and disappointment did not find her, and was leaving the place when he was suddenly set upon by these men, knocked down and bound hand and foot. He soon recovered from the effects of the blow he had received, and began to cry out and kicked and struggled so effectually that he freed himself from the cords and made his escape. Returning to Mr. Walker's house he drew the money that was due him and started at once for Canada, satisfied with his experience that night and not being willing to again subject himself to the risk of recapture. Mrs. John Hull of Perkins and Mrs. William H. DeWitt of Sandusky both remembered this occurrence perfectly, and it was well known in Sandusky at the time. In 1842 a brave women named Armstrong, with her husband and one child, escaped from a plantation in Kentucky, some ten miles back from the Ohio River. After quite a delay they reached Sandusky by the underground, and soon were safe in Canada. Two years later this woman determined to rescue her children, seven of which she had left on the Kentucky plantation from which she had escaped. Dressed as a man, she, after some delays, reached her old plantation and hid at night near to a spring she knew her children visited early every morning. She was not disappointed, and next morning her eldest daughter came to the spring; she made herself known, and it was arranged that the succeeding night at bed time they should all meet at the spring and make their start for freedom. Five of the seven started with her (the other two the master had so located in or near his own room for that night that they could not start), but the mother dared not wait she had five more of her dear ones and they started.

They walked rapidly all night and by early morning light crossed the Ohio near Ripley, and going from station to station on the underground, at length reached Sandusky, and after a short delay were safely forwarded and soon joined the husband and father and child which first had been carried off, in Malden. It has been stated on good authority that this Mrs Armstrong made another trip and returned in safety, bringing her other two children. At all times the assistance given the fugitives was done secretly, and especially at Sandusky, for knowing this to be the terminus of one of the routes of the underground road, the slave catchers made frequent visits to the place and kept a sharp watch for runaways. The laws of the country were framed to assist in a recovery of the fugitive by his master, and once discovered, it was an easy matter for him to legally obtain possession of his property. Hence secrecy was indispensable to secure the safe passage of the fugitive from bondage into freedom. That slaves were brought through Sandusky prior to 1837 is certainly true; yet the instances were so infrequent and the circumstances so little noticed at the time that it is difficult to gain much information as to the names of the fugitives and the incidents of the escape.

June 23, 1835, great excitement was created in Sandusky by the attempt of one S. G. Wilson, a traveling agent for the Liberator, published at Boston and edited by William Lloyd Garrison, to lecture on slavery at the Methodist Church. He had obtained the consent of John Beatty, Esq., a prominent Methodist abolitionist, and then the mayor of the town, to use the church, but on account of the hostility of the people, it was not considered safe to allow him its use, and it was finally closed against him. A decidedly heated discussion of the advisability of allowing the use of the church for such purpose took place at the mayor's office, and was participated in by John Beatty on behalf of the lecturer and in favor of allowing him the use of the church, and by Col. John N. Sloan in opposition. The sympathy of the people was with the latter at that time.

The total black population of Sandusky as late as 1841 did not exceed forty, and there were, prior to that date, not more than seven abolitionists among the white population to whom fugitives could be directed safely and from whom they could expect aid. The exciting discussions of the political campaign of 1844 increased the number of abolitionists, and at the October election in that year the abolition candidate for governor, Mr. King, received in Erie County votes as follows: Vermilion. 11, Florence 8, Berlin 15, Huron 1, Oxford 8, Groton 1, Margaretta 5, Perkins 1, Milan 2, Portland and Sandusky City 21. One of these two votes cast in Milan at this election was voted by Mr. George Barney, later residing in Sandusky, who was the candidate on that ticket for the office of sheriff, and received a total vote in the county of 66, but was not elected, Isaac Fowler, a Whig, being the successful candidate.

A meeting was held at the courthouse March 6, 1845, at Sandusky, Ohio, about the time two runaway slave boys had been captured, which was largely composed of and attended by the best citizens of the place as related in the columns of the papers then published. Erastus Cooke, brother of Hon. Eleutherous Cooke, was chairman, and James D. Lea, secretary of the meeting, and John Wheeler, Charles Rice, John N. Sloane, William Carkuff and James Wright committee on resolutions, and William B. Smith on printing the proceedings of the meeting. It was stated in the printed report that the meeting was called to correct an erroneous impression that the citizens of Sandusky are so generally abolitionists that they offer every facility to the fugitive to make good his escape, and this meeting is more particularly called at this time in consequence of the treatment to which certain citizens of Kentucky were subjected a few days since, who came here to reclaim their slaves. The immediate cause of said meeting arose from the following transactions:

About noon of the twenty eighth day of February, 1845, Charles S. Mitchell, Andrew J. Driskell, Alexander B. Martin and Dennis Luony seized two black boys as fugitives from labor from the State of Kentucky. One was taken in the woodhouse of the gentleman with whom he had lived, while sawing wood, the other in the street. The boys were carried to an upper room in the "Mansion House" and held under keepers. For these acts the captors were arrested on a writ issued by Z. W. Barker, Esq., and on an examination before him, assisted by Hon. E. B. Sadler, then the mayor of the town, were ordered to give bonds in the sum of $100 each for their appearance at the next court of common pleas, on charge of riot. Immediately an affidavit was made that the boys Dock and William were unlawfully detained, and writs of habeas corpus were at once served on those having them in custody. On Saturday night, by agreement of parties, Judge Farwell ordered the sheriff to take the negro boys from the custody of their keepers at the Mansion House and confine them in the jail until the result of the proceedings could be known. On Monday following they were produced before Moors Farwell, an associate judge of Erie County, and return made of the cause of capture and detention. F. D. Parish and L. S. Beecher appeared as counsel for the boys, and John Wheeler and John N. Sloane as counsel for claimants. The examination and argument of the cases closed about noon on Tuesday, and the judge took the question under advisement until 9'oclock the next morning, at which time it was held that they were not detained in a legal manner and they were discharged.

As soon as the decision was proclaimed, the boys were released from confinement, hurried out of town and sent to Canada. There is no doubt in this case, except for Mr. Parish, no proceedings would have been made, and the boys would have been returned to slavery. It was not, however, for aiding these boys to escape that Mr. Parish was sued, but for the part he took in behalf of other slaves which these same Kentuckians sought to reclaim on the same day, of which latter case the circumstances were as follows: There were at this same time two colored persons, Jane Garrison and her little boy Harrison, stopping at the house of Mr. Parish. The son of the man claiming to own them called at Mr. Parish's house to see them, and stated to Mr. Parish that he was there to reclaim them, that they were the property of his father, Peter Driskell of Kentucky. Mr. Parish asked by what authority, and the reply was by power of attorney, offering to produce it. "You need not show it," said Mr. Parish, "as nothing but judicial authority will do." The slaves went into the house and were not seen afterwards. Suit was brought in the Circuit Court of the United States against Mr. Parish for the value of the slaves, and a jury found a verdict against him for hindering and obstructing the arrest, and awarded damages against him in the sum of $500, the proved value of the slaves at the time of their escape. The amount of judgment and the costs, and the costs and expenses in the suit, $1000 in all, was collected by subscriptions in sums of one dollar each and presented to Mr. Parish. A full report of this case can be found in fifth volume of "McLean's Reports."

The rapacity of the slave power had been constantly increasing. In 1842 they censured Mr. Giddings for offering in Congress a resolution that slavery did not extend on the high seas beyond the jurisdiction of the state. In 1845 they demanded the annexation of Texas with slavery, by which a territory as large as France was added as a slave state to the Union.

Elijah Anderson, a brave and fearless colored man, was the general superintendent of the underground system in this section of Ohio, and probably conducted more fugitives than any other dozen men up t the time he was arrested, tried and convicted in Kentucky, and sentenced to the state prison at Frankfort, where he died in 1857. Anderson said, when coming to Sandusky in 1855, that he had conducted in all, over one thousand fugitives from slavery to freedom, over eight hundred of whom he brought after the act of 1850 had passed. All of these did not come to Sandusky, for after the opening of the Cleveland, Cincinnati Railroad he took many to Cleveland, but Sandusky was the favorite and most important station. One general advantage it possessed was its proximity to Canada and its sheltered position by reason of the islands of Lake Erie, which rendered it possible and safe to make the passage, in an emergency, in a small sail or even an open row boat, if that was all that could be obtained at the moment, both of which means of transportation were often resorted to when it was known that the slave catchers were on the ground watching for their prey, as was frequently the case, and when an attempt to take passage on any regular boat would have been hazardous and unsafe. Sometimes the fugitives would arrive in Sandusky in winter, and then they would be taken across in sleighs to Point au Pelee. James Wright, who for many years kept a livery stable in Sandusky, was always ready to hire his teams, this affording assistance, though he was not an abolitionist, as they then called them. He was an officer at the meeting in Sandusky in 1845 heretofore described. Among the early and earnest friends of the line were John Beatty, F. D. Parish (and whose house was called the "depot"), Samuel Walker, R. J. Jennings, Clifton Hadley, J. N. Davison, Isaac Darling. Rev. John Thorpe was an efficient conductor on the underground road and a willing assistant to all passengers. And since 1848 John Irvine, Thomas Drake, William H. Clark, Sr. and Jr., L. H. Lewis, Otis L. Peck, John G. Pool, S. E. Hitchcock, Homer Goodwin, Thomas C. McGee, George Barney, Herman Guess, C. C. Keech, Samuel Irvine, O. C. McLouth, J. M. Root and H. C. Williams; others might be included, but these all gave money and, the "Irvines" especially, their personal aid at all times to effect the escape of a slave. Richard Veecher, while a slave in Kentucky earned enough money to purchase his wife and children and sent them to some point in Ohio, where he, having run away shortly after, joined them and brought them to Sandusky in 1848.

The line of road after leaving Sandusky, its great northern depot, and passing south to Huron County, had two distinct lines; one extending to Gallipolis, opposite the Virginia shore, and the other by way of Xenia to Madison, Indiana, a town on the Ohio River opposite Kentucky. These were the principal routes of the underground line until after the completion of the Little Miami and Mad River and Lake Erie railroads, by means of which, in the year 1850, a direct connection was made from Cincinnati to Sandusky.

In the autumn of 1850 a party of three came by the underground to Sandusky, the story of whose escape has brought tears to the eyes of multitudes not only in this country but in Europe, yes, in every house where "Uncle Tom's Cabin" has been read and where the story of Eliza Harris and her little boy crossing the Ohio River on the ice is known. George Harris, her husband, escaped some time after his wife Eliza had fled with her little boy, and they all, after several months, safely reached Sandusky, where for two days they were secreted, Eliza cutting short her hair and dressing as a man, her little boy dressed as a girl and claimed by a kind hearted woman as her own, for Eliza and her boy were almost white. This was the party that on a beautiful day boarded the steamer at Sandusky, at a time when Eliza's master was on the wharf, and after a few hours were all safely landed at Malden, on the free soil of Canada.

On the afternoon of the 20th day of October, 1852, the City of Sandusky was the scene of very great excitement, growing out of the arrest of two men, two women and three children by some Kentuckians, aided by O. Rice, then city marshal. Three of the slaves were claimed by one Lewis F. Weimer, and four by Charles M. Gibbons. The slaves had arrived by the afternoon train and were going on board the steamer at the time of her departure for Detroit.

The negroes were forcibly dragged ashore and taken to the mayor's office. The citizens were told by the marshal, as he flourished his cane, that it was a legal arrest and that the fugitives would be discharged unless the mayor should so decide. It was only on this understanding that he was suffered to take the negroes through the streets to the mayor's office, a distance of over half a mile, without molestation. Meanwhile Mr. F. S. Hitchcock, John Irvine and John B. Lott came into the law office of Rush R. Sloane and requested him to appear before the mayor and learn if the negroes were properly arrested and legally detained. Upon reaching the mayor's office they found the negroes there and the room filled with excited people. Pistols and bowie knives were in the hands of many. After waiting a short time Mr. Sloane asked by what authority these persons were held. There was no reply. "Are there any writs or papers to show why they are held ?" There was no reply. He then said, speaking particularly to the men who sought this service, "I see no reason for detaining these persons"; and at this, John B. Lott, a colored man, cried out in an excited voice, "Hustle them out." Immediately the people, carrying the negroes along, crowded out of the office, and as they started, one of the Kentuckians, all of whom had been standing near during the whole of the proceedings, turned to him and said, "Here are the papers. I own the negroes, I'll hold you individually responsible for their escape." He gave them the consoling reply that he was "good for them."

The negroes were that same night placed in a sail boat in charge of trusty conductors, and were received from the small boat the next day by Capt. James Nugent, a noble man, then living at Sandusky, and secreted on board the vessel he commanded, and on the second day after were safely landed in Canada. Soon after, two suits were commenced against Mr. Sloane in the District Court of the United States, at which time the whole state constituted the district and Columbus the place where the courts were held. At the October term, 1854, the cases came on for trial. In the case of Charles M. Gibbons against Rush R. Sloane, who claimed to own four of these slaves, the court instructed the jury that the power of attorney was defective, and to find a verdict in favor of the defendant. In the case of Lewis F. Weimer vs. Sloane, the man who owned three of the slaves, the plaintiff obtained a judgement of $3,000 and costs, which, on motion the court refused to set aside. Hon. Henry Stanbury and one Coffin were the attorneys for plaintiff. Hon. Thomas Ewing, H. H. Hunter and S. F. Vinton were attorneys for defendant. Judge Levitt presided. What the slave ordinance, miscalled law, of 1850 was and what its demands and penalties were, can be seen in the now celebrated case of Weimer vs. Sloane. In this trial occurring at Columbus, the capital of the State of Ohio, a state which by the Ordinance of 1787 had been forever dedicated to freedom, and with the facts in the case clearly proved, the United States judge gave the law of the case to the jury, based on decisions made under the law of 1793, and not under the act of 1850, to which act no reference was made in his charge.

In the summer of 1853 four fugitives arrived at Sandusky, coming over the Cinicinnati & Sandusky Railroad, and who were allowed by a noble hearted conductor to leave the train just east of Mill's Creek, and before reaching the cribbing where the road runs a short space in deep water. Just north of where the negroes were left, there was on the north side of the railroad a little cluster of bushes and trees, and here, until night, the party was secreted. Meanwhile Mr. John Irvine, who is mentioned before, had arranged for a "sharpee," a small sailboat used by fishermen, with one George Sweigels to sail the boat to Canada with this party for which service Captain Sweigels was to and did receive $35. One man accompanied Captain Sweigels, and at 8 o'clock in the evening the party in this small boat started to cross Lake Erie; the wind was favorable, and before morning Point au Pelee Island was reached, and the next day the four escaped fugitives were in Canada. Captain Sweigels later resided in Sandusky. In the year 1854 a party of seven runaway slaves were put on the cars of the Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark Road and safely brought to Sandusky. The earnest men of the different stations from time to time received Grape Vine telegraph dispatches and were always ready to act with promptness in facilitating the onward progress of the fugitive. In the above instance, when the slaves reached the City of the Bay, a small two masted sailboat was in waiting, as it had been learned that it would not be safe to send the party by the Detroit boat, the agents of the owners being in town and watching the steamer daily. Captain Sweigels was also engaged in this exploit and it came near being a disastrous one, for after the boat was in the lake the wind increased so much that she was almost swamped, but at last was run safely into a small creek on the shore of Canada. The Messrs. Irvine, H. F. Merry, George Reynolds and a conductor on the railroad above named could have given further particulars of this incident.

The largest number of fugitives that was ever brought over the road at one time was twenty.

One escape that occurred in 1855 is worth notice: a poor slave had been able by slow stages, now a ride and then a walk, to reach Shelby, and to which place he had been tracked. The departure of each train was watched, and the kind friend (in need) at whose house he was secreted conceived a plan for his escape which he effected, communicating by Grape Vine telegraph the details to Sandusky friends. On a certain train going north, was placed in charge of the express agent, a coffin, containing a poor man, but whose friends wanted his remains carried to Sandusky for interment. The rough box and knotty holes and plenty of shavings had been put in around the "body." The train started, and in about two hours the "remains" were taken in charge by S. R. Irvine and others, taken to a friendly house and the "casket" opened. The eyes were blood shot, the mouth was foaming, the poor man nearly dead. A doctor was quickly summoned, and soon the "corpse" was in a healthy state. He was kept a few days and then in safety sent to Canada. In the winter of 1858 a party of six women and five men arrived. It was a cold winter and the lake frozen across. This party had come on foot, in wagons, on railroad, and again on foot, walking into Sandusky at night. Some had shoes, or what had been, some had stockings, and some had only old rags tied around their feet. The party at midnight of the second day after their arrival was started off in a double sleigh. The moon was full, and everything promised a nice journey and an early arrival in Canada. All went well until they were nearly across, when a blinding snow storm came up and they wandered all night on the lake, and when daylight came they found themselves back near Marblehead Light, almost where they had started. The driver was determined to return to Sandusky (he had been engaged to drive the negroes to Canada by their Sandusky friends), but the blacks compelled him to turn around and drive them to the queen's domain, Point au Pelee Island, where they were left and remained during the winter.

Of the fugitives who had been brought to Sandusky since 1859 by the underground road are the following: William Larkins, John Butler, Simpson Young, Moses Grances, William Resby, R. Dooty, George Bartlett, S. Bartlett and William Bartlett, Nancy Young, Martha Young, Allen Smith, Claracy Gibson, one Gilkner, B. Howard, M. Coleman, B. McKees, William Roberson, B. Franklin, T. Maddocks, L. Howard, J. Freeman, H. Moss, R. Anderson, William Hamilton, I. Gleason, wife and daughter, I. Moore, Sarah Moore, C. Boyd, R. Green, R. Taylor, D. Bell, H. Washington, T. Roberson, F. Bush, wife and son, E. Bell, I. Freemat, H. Cole, H. Johnson, J. W. Coleman, Palmer Pruitt. T. Burnett, wife and three children, S. Falkner, D. Gatewood, I. D. Brant, H. Bartlett, J. Hanshaw, wife and two children, H. Hanshaw, P. Scott, I. Howard, Virginia; G. Brown, Virginia; G. Brown, Kentucky; I. Marshall, wife and four children, a very small portion of the whole number, but no record was kept, of course, and in the lapse of time the names have been forgotten.


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