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.
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 slaveholders, 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|
Though other churches in the area were either supportive of enslavement or split in their views, the Universalist Church was consistant in its abolitionism.
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|
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
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 slaves. In some cases, the enslaved people came to them through marriage or inheritance. 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 anti-slavery views. Those included in the list below were located in Boone County, Indiana and Ohio. Some were more open and active in helping than others, but all were working in some way toward freedom for the enslaved.
Portsmouth James Ashley was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1840s.
Pike County Joseph Ashton was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1840s and 1850s.
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.”
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.
Brown County Isaac Brown was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1850s.
Boone County and Madison, Indiana Dr. Canby inherited a large group of enslaved from his cousin Ann Spriggs. Near the time he moved from Boone County to Madison, Indiana, he manumitted some of the enslaved he held, but not all of them. Research into Dr. Canby's emancipationist activities is ongoing and there currently is no evidence of Underground Railroad activities within Boone County.
Chillicothe Richard Chancellor was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1850s.
Chillicothe Robert Chancellor was an Underground Railroad worker who was active in the 1850s.
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 Marshalls came to arrest him and return them to slavery. There was a fight, and several were injured. In 1858, Connoly was tried, but was exonerated.
Lindale The Coombs Family were Underground Railroad workers and were active in the 1850s.
James Cooper was Indicted in Bracken County, KY court for aiding in the 1853 escape of a man from slave holder 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.
Ironton Rev. Joseph Creighton was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1840s and 1850s.
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 slave holder 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.”
Clermont County Jacob Ebersole was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1840s and 1850s.
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.
Moscow Robert Fee was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.
Moscow W. M. Fee was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.
Chillicothe Jessee Fiddler was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.
Chillicothe John Fiddler was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.
Thomas Fitzpatrick was caught in 1856, along with three freedom seekers from Harrison County slaveholders, Ashbroke and Garnet, in an attempt to cross the Ohio River. Fitzpatrick, who worked as a brakeman on the Covington and Lexington Railroad, was charged with “aiding slaves to escape.”
Red Oak Rev. James Gilliland was an Underground Railroad worker and was active in the 1850s.
Ohio with Boone County ties
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, 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.
Boone County and Cincinnati. The Piatts, early settlers of Boone County from New Jersey, had both slave ownership and abolition in their complicated family history. Donn Piatt's views, however, were not indecisive on the matter. He was an abolitionist and very vocal about his views. He practiced law in Cincinnati, and his name can be found in cases involving slavery and emancipation. He also wrote for abolitionist newspapers frequently. In fact, he has been described as “too much of an abolitionist” for the likes of President Lincoln.
Ohio with Boone County ties
Representatives from Hamilton County: