During the mid 1800′s, Ohio played an integral role in helping escaped slaves obtain their freedom. The commonly used name, “the Underground Railroad” was actually coined in Ohio when a runaway slave swam across the Ohio River and was being chased by his owner by boat. When the escaped slave made it to shore and escaped before his owner could find him, the owner claimed that the slave must have escaped through an underground road. The Ohio River played an important role as it was the dividing line between slave and free states. Most escaped slaves used Ohio as a temporary residing place as there were still federal and state laws which allowed runaway slaves to be returned to their owners if caught in a “free” state. It is estimated that 40,000 slaves escaped to Canada through Ohio. This could not have been accomplished without a network of 700 safe-houses and three thousand miles of Underground Railroad trails within the state. Cities such as Ashtabula, Painesville, Cleveland, Sandusky, Toledo, Huron, Lorain, and Conneaut served as starting points to getting escaped slaves to freedom in Canada.
Picture via: womeninhistoryohio.com