AAHM Part III, The Underground Railroad and Lakewood

(Part 3 in our Black History Month Series) These excerpts are from our May 2011 Newsletter. Information was researched and compiled by former volunteer, Sabine Kretschmar’s article “Rcokport and Slavery Preceeding the Civil War.”

“It is estimated that nationally, about 1,000 slaves escaped each yeaer. Ohio bordered two slave states, Kentucky and Virginia (after 1963, West Virginia)…Countless numbers of slaves escaped to Ohio. Some stayed but many more traveled through the state on their way to Canada. Free blacks, abolitionists, Quakers and others with religious motivations were often the conductors…

“It is very difficult to know for certain who was involved in the Underground Railroad and exactly which houses were ‘stations.’ Clearly, escaped slaves and those who aided runaway slaves did not keep records. What we know about the Underground Railroad comes primarily from oral histories, some of which are more legend than truth. On rare occasions, we have newspaper article3s offering some information. Some of what we do know about activities in the area comes from Ohio State Professor Wilber Henry Siebert (1866-1961), who began to research the Underground Railroad in the 1890s…

“According to Siebert, one route of the Underground Railroad was roughly northeast through Medina and Berea and up through Lakewood to Cleveland. Stories have been passed down telling of rowboats with escaped slaves that were sometimes launched from Lakewood’s shores or Rocky River. Legends have persisted that tunnels were part orf the route, however this is highly unlikely. One particular tunneled in Lakewood, the subject of a 1935 Plain Dealer article, acknowledged the legend and questioned its veracity…

One of Rockport’s most prominent citizens, Jared Potter Kirtland, was also an abolitionist. According to the research Kretschmar conducted, Kirtland’s home in Poland, Ohio, served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. It is said that at one point, Kirtland entertained two slave owners while “simultaneously hiding their runaway slaves in the kitchen.”

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In the next installment of our Black History Month series, we will look at African-American experiences in the 20th Century.

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