The Group Travel Leader

OHIO 2017

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58 2 0 1 7 o h i o h a s i t ! g r o u p t r a v e l g u i d e U N D E R G R O U N D JOHN RANKIN HOUSE RIPLEY Designated a National Historic Landmark and formerly an Underground Railroad Station, the John Rankin House became a stopping point as slaves escaped to freedom. Located in the town of Ripley and overlooking the Ohio River Valley, John Rankin's home was completed in 1829. A new visitors center is slated to be open in 2017. Most of the 2,000 fugitive slaves who traveled through Ripley stayed with this Presbyterian minister on the Rankin farm. An ar- dent abolitionist, Rankin is believed to have been one of Ohio's fi rst and most active "conductors" on the Underground Railroad. Rankin penned the book "Letters on American Slavery," originally written to his brother in Virginia who had recently purchased a slave. e letters were published in 1826 and were among the fi rst clearly ar- ticulated antislavery views printed west of the Appalachians. In her novel "Uncle Tom's Cabin," Harriet Beecher Stowe in- cluded Rankin's account of an escaping slave who carried her child across the thawing ice of the Ohio River and was saved from the bounty hunters when the ice broke up. "We believe our Underground Railroad stories are very accurate because Rankin's autobiography details accounts of his activity," said site manager Betty Campbell. "We have a one-hour guided tour of the house, which recently underwent a research and res- toration process totaling $1.1 million. During that time, we dis- covered beautiful stenciling in two rooms, and we restored that artwork." PUTNAM HISTORIC DISTRICT ZANESVILLE Established in the early 1800s and one of Ohio's oldest settle- ments, the Putnam Historic District played an important role in the Underground Railroad. Prominent buildings include the Putnam Presbyterian Church, built in 1835, and the city's oldest church, which still contains an original Tiff any window. William Beecher, brother of Stowe, served as the congregation's fi rst pastor. e church was actively involved in the abolitionist movement and held a monthly anti- slavery prayer service in its basement for many years. Numerous anti-slavery speakers took the podium there, including Frederick Douglass in 1852. e district's Greek Revival home of George Guthrie was built in 1841 and served as an underground railroad station. e Dr. Increase Mathews house dates to 1808 as Zanesville's oldest building, and its museum and gardens are open for tours. e Stone Academy, an Underground Railroad stop and site of the Ohio Abolition Society conventions in 1835 and 1839, houses another museum. Visitors can still see the cubbyhole under the stairs where runaway slaves hid. "We off er a step-on tour for the district, which is an excellent way to get a feel for Zanesville's history," said marketing and group sales manager Lori Kappes for the Zanesville-Muskingum County Con- vention and Visitors Bureau. "Because the historic district is con- densed into a four-block area, we also off er a guided walking tour." Courtesy Visit Lorain County Courtesy Visit Lorain County Courtesy John Rankin House TRAIL TO FREEDOM DRIVING TOUR LORAIN COUNTY Groups can recapture the spirit of the Underground Railroad on the Trail to Freedom Driving Tour, located between Cleveland and Sandusky. Lorain County's rich African-American heritage and the fi ght for liberty spans more than a century. Touted as the "Prom- ised Land" for escaping slaves, the area provided a direct route to Lake Erie and Canada. It was possibly the most important station along the entire Underground Railroad, second only to Canada as an asylum for the hunted fugitive. In 1965, Martin Luther King Jr. delivered a speech at the Oberlin College commencement titled "Remaining Awake rough a Great Revolution." " ere are many landmarks that honor our history, such as the Lorain Underground Railroad Station 100 Monument, which is quite poignant, since Lorain was the last stop before freedom, and the Burrell Homestead in Sheffi eld Village that was a docu- mented station," said the executive director of the Oberlin Heri- tage Center, Elizabeth Schultz. "But for a guided tour or in-depth information, Oberlin is the best place to visit." e Oberlin Heritage Center off ers several walking tours, in- cluding the 90-minute Freedom's Friends: Underground Railroad and Abolitionist History Walk. e tour starts at First Church, where escaped slaves attended, and ends at Dr. Martin Luther King Park. e Oberlin Heritage Center includes the Little Red Schoolhouse, which was integrated, despite the laws of the time, and the 1884 Jewett House, which highlights Victorian life. KELTON HOUSE COLUMBUS Sophia Stone Kelton seems to grow increasingly nervous as she leads groups through her mansion in Columbus, Ohio. She has noticed bounty hunters outside and fi nally reveals to her guests that she and her family are in a harrowing situation: ey are harboring a fugitive slave fl eeing to freedom on the Under- ground Railroad. Kelton and her husband, Fernando Cortez Kelton, were Marker in Lorain County John Rankin House First Church

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