Wilson Bruce Evans House
Wilson Bruce Evans House is a historic house at 33 East Vine Street in Oberlin, Ohio. Completed in 1856, it served a major stop on the Underground Railroad, with its builders, Wilson Bruce Evans and Henry Evans, participating the 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, a celebrated rescue of a slave, it was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1997. The Wilson Bruce Evans House is located south of downtown Oberlin, on the south side of East Vine Street opposite Martin Luther King Jr. Park, a small public park behind Oberlin City Hall; the house is a two-story brick structure, covered by a hip roof. The roof has extended eaves studded with decorative brackets. A single-story porch extends across its shed roof supported by square brick piers; the interior is finished with high-quality woodwork and shaped by Wilson Bruce Evans and Henry Evans. The house was built 1854-56 by the Evans brothers, two free African-Americans, was occupied by Wilson Bruce Evans and his family. At the time of its landmark designation in 1997, it was still in the hands of their descendants.
The Evans house was the home of Wilson Bruce Evans, a prominent African-American abolitionist and early benefactor of Oberlin College, the first college to admit students of color. Evans rose to national attention after his importance in the 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, one of the events that challenged the controversial Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Although Evans was not an outspoken abolitionist like his colleagues Sojourner Truth and Frederick Douglass, Evans was cited as a man who "put justice above his own safety." The house was a frequent stop for travelers on the Underground Railroad such as Harriet Tubman. List of Underground Railroad sites List of National Historic Landmarks in Ohio National Park Service article about the house Oberlin College information about the house
Francis Julius LeMoyne
Francis Julius LeMoyne was a 19th-century American medical doctor and philanthropist from Washington, Pennsylvania. Responsible for creating the first crematory in the United States, he was an abolitionist, founder of Washington's first public library, co-founder of the Washington Female Seminary, an instrumental benefactor to the LeMoyne Normal and Commercial School, to which he made a $20,000 donation in 1870. LeMoyne was the son of John Julius LeMoyne, he graduated from Washington College in 1815. He became a member of the American Anti-Slavery Society, gave public lectures beside his home and travelled to U. S. slave states to lecture and in 1841, 1884 and 1847 ran as a candidate with the Abolition party for the Governor of Pennsylvania. Deducing that decomposing bodies in local cemeteries were contaminating the water supplies and making the citizens sick, Dr. Lemoyne set out to build the first crematory in the United States; the crematory was finished in 1876 on his own land, perched atop a location known locally as Gallow's Hill.
The first cremation took place on December 6, 1876. In 1901, after 41 more cremations were performed, the crematory was closed. Today, the structure can be found in the same location off of South Main Street; the LeMoyne house, built by father John Julius LeMoyne in 1812, was a stop on the underground railroad. It was Pennsylvania's first of six National Historic Landmarks of the Underground Railroad to be registered, it still stands today at 49 East Maiden Street, near the campus of Washington & Jefferson College, where it has been converted into a museum. The house serves as the center of the Washington County Historical Society. LeMoyne married Madeleine Romaine Bureau, their descendants include: John Valcoulon LeMoyne, U. S. Congressman, married the beautiful Julia Nancy Murray, daughter of Magnus Miller Murray, former Mayor of Pittsburgh and his wife Mary Wilkins, daughter of Quartermaster General John Wilkins Jr.. Their children included:Francis Julius Lemoyne, who late in life married Mary I.
Clark, daughter of George Dorsey Clark and Alice Ann Linthicum. William M. Lemoyne, married about 1890 to Gertrude M. McKennan. Madeleine Romaine LeMoyne, married 21 Jul 1890 to Charles Ellis Ellicott and had issue: Charles Ellis Ellicott Jr. married Ann K. Murray and had issue:Nancy Ellicott Dr. Charles Ellis Ellicott III, married Marjorie Foote Madeleine LeMoyne Ellicott, married Alan D. Chesney Dr. Valcoulon Le Moyne Ellicott, married Mary Purnell Gould, daughter of lawyer Clarendon Ivan Theodore Gould and Grace Purnell, had issue:John Valcoulon Le Moyne Ellicott, married Mary Lou Ulery Jacqueline Ellicott Clarendon "Don" Gould Ellicott Mary Ann LeMoyne, married George Dole Forrest and had issue: Julie Murray Forrest, on 25 Sep 1920 married banker Spottswood Page Nelson and had issue: Julie Murray Nelson, married Edward Monroe Williams and had issue. Spotswood Page Nelson Louis Valcoulon LeMoyne, landscape architect, author Julia LeMoyne, who married William Brown McIlvaine and had issue.
Katharine Le Moyne, married Janon Fisher and had issue:Janon Fisher Jr. married Margie James, daughter of lumber merchant Norman James, had issue. Katharine Le Moyne Fisher Jr. Romaine LeMoyne, who married Austin McLanahan, they are ancestors of actress Julie Bowen. Anne LeMoyne, married coal dealer Vachel Harding, their children included: Charles Vachel Harding, married Belle Galbraith remarried in 1886 to Amanda Virginia Hupp by whom he had issue: Carolene H. Harding Madeleine S. Harding Madaline LeMoyne Harding Annie LeMoyne Harding Romaine LeMoyne, married Nicholas King Wade, their children included: Madeleine Romaine Wade, married investment broker Robert Warner Poindexter. Their children were: Robert Wade Poindexter, manufacturing chemist and plant breeder, on 5 Feb 1916 married Irene M. Mersereau and had issue. Romaine LeMoyne Poindexter, no issue. Susan Wade, married Ernest Pryce Mitchell, no issue. Julia Frances Wade, no issue. William Nicholas Wade M. D. married, no issue. Jane LeMoyne, married about 1887 to Prof. James Snodgrass Simonton, elder brother of Ashbel Green Simonton.
No issue. Julius LeMoyne and Treasurer of the Washington County Fire Insurance Co. on 4 Mar 1862 he married Annie H. Kuhn, daughter of Adam Kuhn, a bank president, his wife Priscilla Wheeler, their six children include: Rose M. LeMoyne (b. ab
Robert Purvis was an American abolitionist in the United States. He was born in Charleston, South Carolina, was educated at Amherst Academy, a secondary school in Amherst, Massachusetts, he spent most of his life in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In 1833 he helped found the Library Company of Colored People. From 1845–1850 he served as president of the Pennsylvania Anti-Slavery Society and traveled to England to gain support for the movement. Of mixed race and his brothers were three-quarters European by ancestry and inherited considerable wealth from their native English father after his death in 1826. Purvis's parents had lived in common law marriage, preventing them from marrying because his mother was a free woman of color, of Moroccan and Jewish descent; the sons chose to identify with the black community and used their education and wealth to support abolition of slavery and anti-slavery activities, as well as projects in education to help the advance of African Americans. Purvis was born in 1810 in South Carolina.
His maternal grandparents were Dido Badaraka, a former slave, Baron Judah, a Jewish American native of Charleston. His mother Harriet Judah was therefore a free woman of color. Purvis's father was an English immigrant; as an adult, Purvis told a reporter about his family: his maternal grandmother Badaraka was kidnapped at age 12 from Morocco, transported to South Carolina on a slave ship, sold as a slave in Charleston. He described her as a full-blooded Moor, dark-skinned with curled hair, she was freed at age 19 by her master's will. Harriet's father was Baron Judah, born in Charleston of European-Jewish descent. Baron was the third of ten children born to Hillel Judah, a German-Jewish immigrant, Charleston native Abigail Seixas, his Sephardic Jewish wife. Purvis told the reporter that his grandparents Judah had married; this claim has been questioned by 21st century biographers, given the social prominence of the Judah family in Charleston. Judah's parents owned slaves. Badaraka and Judah had a relationship for several years, had two children together and her brother.
In 1790, Judah broke off his relationship with Badaraka when he moved with his parents from Charleston to Savannah, Georgia. In 1791 he moved to Virginia. There he had four children with her. William Purvis was from Northumberland, his father died while he was a child, his mother moved to Edinburgh for her sons' education. He immigrated to the United States as a young man with some of his brothers to make their fortunes. William was a naturalized United States citizen. William Purvis and Harriet Judah lived together as husband and wife, but racial law prevented their marriage; the couple had three sons: William born in 1806, Robert born in 1810, Joseph born in 1812. In 1819 the family moved north to Philadelphia, where the boys attended the Pennsylvania Abolitionist Society's Clarkson School. William intended to consolidate his business affairs and return with his family to England, where he thought his sons would have better opportunities, he died in 1826. William Purvis had intended his sons to be educated as gentlemen, Robert and Joseph Purvis attended Amherst Academy, a secondary school in Amherst, Massachusetts.
There is no evidence that either Robert or Joseph Purvis attended Amherst College, a common misconception. The brothers returned to Philadelphia. After their father died and his two brothers were to share an estate worth $250,000. In 1828 the oldest brother William died of tuberculosis. Robert and Joseph inherited increased shares of the estate. In 1832, Purvis married Harriet Davy Forten, a woman of color and the daughter of wealthy sailmaker James Forten and his wife Charlotte, both prominent abolitionists and leaders in Philadelphia. Like her parents and siblings, Harriet Forten Purvis was active in anti-slavery groups in the city, including the interracial Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society; the Purvises had eight children, including son Charles Burleigh Purvis. He became a professor for 30 years in the medical school at Howard University. In addition, the couple raised Charlotte Forten Grimké, after her mother died. In her life, Harriet Forten Purvis lectured publicly against segregation and for expanded suffrage for all citizens.
After Harriet died, Purvis married Tracy Townsend, of European descent.. She was from Byberry Township, where Purvis had moved after the 3 day riots threatened his safety; as a public figure, he received some criticism for this marriage, from both whites and blacks who cared about the color line. In 1833, Purvis helped abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison establish the American Anti-Slavery Society in Philadelphia and signed its "Declaration of Sentiments". Living for nearly the rest of the 19th century, Purvis was the last surviving member of the society; that same year, he helped establish the Library Company of Colored People, modeled after the Library Company of Philadelphia, a subscription organization. With Garrison's support, in 1834 Purvis traveled to Britain to meet leading abolitionists. In 1838, he drafted the "Appeal of Forty Thousand Citizens Threatened with Disfranchisement"', which urged the repeal of a new state constitutional amendment disfranchising free African Americans. There were widespread tensions and fears among whites following N
Laura Smith Haviland
Laura Smith Haviland was an American abolitionist and social reformer. She was an important figure in the history of the Underground Railroad. Laura Smith Haviland was born on December 20, 1808, in Kitley Township, Canada to American parents, Daniel Smith and Asenath "Sene" Blancher, who had immigrated shortly before her birth. Haviland wrote that Daniel was "a man of ability and influence, of clear perceptions, strong reasoning powers," while her mother Sene was "of a gentler turn... a quiet spirit and kind to all, much beloved by all who knew her." The Smiths, farmers of modest means, were devout members of the Society of Friends, better known as Quakers. Haviland's father was a minister in the Society and her mother was an Elder. Though the Quakers dressed plainly, forbade dancing and other pursuits they deemed frivolous, many of their views were progressive by the standards of the day; the Quakers encouraged the equal education of men and women, an extraordinarily forward-thinking position in an age when most individuals were illiterate, providing a woman with a thorough education was viewed as unnecessary.
Quaker women as well as men acted as ministers. While most Quakers did not agitate vocally for abolition, the majority condemned slavery as brutal and unjust, it was in this atmosphere. In 1815, her family left Canada and returned to the United States, settling in the remote and sparsely populated town of Cambria, in western New York. At the time there was no school near their home, for the next six years Haviland's education consisted of little more than "a spelling lesson" given to her daily by her mother. Haviland described herself as an inquisitive child interested in the workings of the world around her, who at a young age began questioning her parents about everything from scripture to Newton's Law of Universal Gravitation. Once she had mastered spelling, Haviland supplemented her meager education by devouring every book she could borrow from friends and neighbors, reading everything from religious material to serious historical studies. At sixteen, Laura met Charles Haviland, Jr. a devout young Quaker, whose parents were both respected ministers.
They were married on November 1825, at Lockport, New York. According to Laura, Charles was a devoted husband and theirs was a happy marriage, they were the parents of eight children. The Havilands spent the first four years of their marriage in Royalton Township, near Lockport, New York, before moving in September, 1829, to Raisin, Lenawee County in the Michigan Territory, they settled three miles from the homestead her parents acquired four years earlier. Michigan was a unsettled wilderness, but land was cheap, there were a number of other Quakers in the vicinity. Haviland vividly recalled seeing African Americans verbally abused, physically assaulted, in Lockport, New York, when she was a child; these experiences, combined with the horrific descriptions in John Woolman's history of the slave-trade, made an indelible impression. The pictures of these crowded slave-ships, with the cruelties of the slave system after they were brought to our country affected me to tears... My sympathies became too enlisted for the poor negroes who were thus enslaved for time to efface.
Haviland and other members of the Raisin community helped Elizabeth Margaret Chandler organize the Logan Female Anti-Slavery Society in 1832. It was the first anti-slavery organization in Michigan. Five years in 1837, Haviland and her husband founded a "manual labor school... designed for indigent children,", known as the Raisin Institute. Haviland instructed the girls in household chores, while her husband and one of her brothers, Harvey Smith, taught the boys to perform farm work. At the Havilands' insistence, the school was open to all children, "regardless of race, creed, or sex." It was the first racially integrated school in Michigan. Some of Haviland's white students, upon learning they were to study with African Americans, threatened to leave. Most were persuaded to remain and Laura wrote that once the students were together in the classroom their prejudices "soon melted away."In 1838, Harvey Smith sold his farm, the proceeds were used to erect accommodations for fifty students. The Havilands expanded the school's curriculum, operating it more along the lines of traditional elementary and secondary schools.
They hired a graduate of Oberlin College to serve as the school's principal. Due to their diligence, the Raisin Institute was soon recognized as one of the best schools in the Territory; as the Havilands became more involved in anti-slavery work, tensions grew within the Quaker community. There was a split between the so-called "radical abolitionists," like the Havilands, who wanted immediate emancipation, the majority of Orthodox Quakers. Although the Quakers condemned slavery, most did not approve of active participation in abolitionist societies. By 1839, in order to continue with their abolitionist work, the Havilands, her parents, fourteen other like-minded Quakers, felt compelled to resign their membership, they joined a group of Methodists known as the Wesleyans, who were devoted to the abolitionist cause. In the spring of 1845, an epidemic of erysipelas killed six members of Haviland's family, including both of her parents, her husband, her youngest child. Haviland fell ill, but survived.
At thirty-six, Haviland found herself a widow with seven children to support, a farm to run, the Raisin Institute to manage, substantial debts to repay. Sadly, just two years tragedy struck again, when her eldest son died. Due to lack of funds, Haviland was
Calvin Fairbank was an American abolitionist and Methodist minister from New York state, twice convicted in Kentucky of aiding the escape of slaves, served a total of 19 years in prison. Fairbank is believed to have aided the escape of 47 slaves. Pardoned in 1849 after four years of his first sentence, Fairbank returned to his Underground Railroad work, he was arrested in 1851 with the aid of the governor of Indiana, enforcing the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. Fairbank was served the full sentence of 15 years. Calvin Fairbank was born in 1816 in Pike, in what is now Wyoming County, New York, to Chester Fairbank and his wife, it was the period of the Second Great Awakening, western New York was a center of evangelical activity. Listening to the stories told by two escaped slaves whom he met at a Methodist quarterly meeting, the young Fairbank became anti-slavery, he began his career freeing slaves in 1837 when, piloting a lumber raft down the Ohio River, he ferried a slave across the river to free territory.
Soon he was delivering escaped slaves to the Quaker abolitionist Levi Coffin for transportation on the Underground Railroad to northern US cities or to Canada. The Methodist Episcopal Church licensed Fairbank to preach in 1840 and ordained him as a minister in 1842. Hoping to improve his education, he enrolled in 1844 in the "preparatory division" of Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio, now Oberlin College, it was interracial and a center of anti-slavery sentiment. At Oberlin, Fairbank met future AME bishop, John M. Brown and the pair worked together in underground railroad activities. Responding to an appeal to rescue the wife and children of an escaped slave named Gilson Berry, Fairbank went to Lexington, where he made contact with Delia Webster, a teacher from Vermont, working there and had become active as an abolitionist, she was to help with the rescue. By chance, he met his family, who were planning an escape, he asked Hayden, "Why do you want your freedom?" Hayden responded, "Because I am a man."
Fairbank and Webster transported Hayden, his wife Harriet and Harriet's son Joseph by carriage to freedom in Ripley, Ohio. The fugitive couple put flour on their faces to appear white and, in times of danger, would hide their son under the wagon seat; as Fairbank and Webster returned to Kentucky, they were identified and arrested for assisting the runaway slaves. Webster was tried in December 1844 and sentenced to two years in the Kentucky state penitentiary, but she was pardoned by the governor after serving less than two months of her sentence. Fairbank was tried in 1845 and sentenced to a 15-year term, five years for each of the slaves he helped free, he was pardoned in 1849 in an effort begun by his father. Lewis Hayden ransomed Fairbank, as he raised the $650 demanded by his former master to approve the pardon. Hayden had collected the money within a few weeks from 160 people in Boston, where he and his family had settled. In 1851, Fairbank helped. On November 9 of that year, with the connivance of the sheriff of Clark County and Indiana Governor Joseph A. Wright, marshals from Kentucky abducted Fairbank and took him back to their state for trial.
In 1852, he was sentenced to 15 years in the state penitentiary. While imprisoned, he was singled out for exceptionally harsh treatment. Over his combined imprisonment of more than 17 years, Fairbank was reported to have received 35,000 lashes in prison floggings. In an April 5, 1850 article, The Liberator summarized a letter from Fairbank to William Lloyd Garrison: "He expresses gratitude to the people of Boston, indicates an intention to write a book about his experiences, indicates that letters to him can be sent in care of Lewis Hayden."Finally, in 1864, three years into the American Civil War, Fairbank was pardoned by Acting Governor Richard T. Jacob, who had long advocated the activist's release; when Thomas Bramlette returned to office, he had Jacob arrested and expelled from the state for his attacks on Lincoln during the presidential campaign and support for George B. McClellan. Once free, Fairbank married Mandana Tileston, to whom he had been engaged for thirteen years, since his brief period of freedom in 1851.
Known as "Dana," she moved from Williamsburg, Massachusetts, to Oxford, Ohio, in order to visit Fairbank in prison as as possible and to press the case for his pardon with the Governor of Kentucky. Their only child, Calvin Cornelius Fairbank, was born in 1868; the conditions of Fairbank's life in prison broke his health. Although he held jobs with missionary and benevolent societies, he was not able to support his family. At one point, he and his wife tried to earn a living operating a bakery in the utopian community of Florence, Massachusetts. After Mandana Fairbank died of tuberculosis in 1876, Calvin gave their son to the care of her sister and brother-in-law. Fairbank remarried in 1879, but little is known of his second wife, Adeline Winegar, except that she was the daughter of Henry and Jane Winegar and like Calvin, a native of Pike. In the 1870 census she had been listed as a domestic servant, she died of cancer on February 12, 1901 in Angelica, was buried next to Calvin in the local cemetery.
Fairbank wrote his memoir, publishing it in 1890 under the title, Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How He "Fought the Good Fight" to Prepare "the Way." This effort earned him little money. He died in near-poverty in New York, he was buried there in the Until the Day Dawn Cemetery. He is credited with help
Thomas Garrett was an American abolitionist and leader in the Underground Railroad movement before the American Civil War. Garrett was born into a prosperous landowning Quaker family on their homestead called "Riverview Farm" in Delaware County, Pennsylvania; when Thomas was a boy, one of the family's free black female servants was kidnapped by men who intended to sell her into slavery in the South. The Garrets rescued her, but this incident confirmed them in their abolitionist views, all the sons would become involved in abolitionism, Thomas on a large scale; when their father died in 1839, the original farm was split between Thomas' brothers' Issac and Edward, who renamed their farms "Fernleaf Farm" and "Cleveland Farm", but much is preserved today as Arlington Cemetery. Thomas's house, "Thornfield" built around 1800 and in which he lived until 1822, still stands today in what is now Drexel Hill in Upper Darby Township. In the schism between Orthodox and Hicksite Quakers, Garrett split with his Orthodox family and moved to Wilmington in the neighboring slave state of Delaware to strike out on his own and pursue his struggle against slavery.
He made it prosper. In 1827 Society of the State of Delaware was reorganized as the Delaware Abolition Society, whose officers and directors included Garrett, William Chandler, president John Wales, vice-president Edward Worrell, others; that year and Garrett represented the group at the National Convention of Abolitionists. In 1835, Garrett became a director of the new Wilmington Gas Company, which made gas "made from rosin, at $7 per 1,000 cubic feet" for lighting lamps. In 1836, he, Joseph Whitaker, other partners invested and revived the Principio Furnace in Perryville, near an important crossing of the Susquehanna River at the top of Chesapeake Bay. Garrett worked as a stationmaster on the Underground Railroad in Delaware, working with William Still in Philadelphia and John Hunn further down the Delmarva Peninsula; because he defied slave hunters as well as the slave system, Garrett had no need of secret rooms in his house at 227 Shipley Street. The authorities were aware of his activities.
In 1848, however, he and fellow Quaker John Hunn were sued in federal court for helping a family of eight slaves owned by two owners escape, although their lawyer colleague John Wales had managed to free them from imprisonment the previous year when a magistrate granted a writ of habeas corpus. However, the two slaveowners sued Garrett. U. S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney presided at the trial in the New Castle Court House, James A. Bayard, Jr. acted as prosecutor. Garrett and Hunn were found guilty of violating the Fugitive Slave Act by helping a family of slaves escape; as the "architect" of the escape, Garrett received a $4,500 fine reduced to $1500. According to Kathleen Lonsdale, referencing the American Friends Service Committee, "The fine was so heavy that it left him financially ruined, yet Thomas Garrett stood up in Court and said Judge thou has left me not a dollar, but I wish to say to thee and to all in this courtroom that if anyone knows a fugitive who wants a shelter and a friend, send him to Thomas Garrett and he will befriend him."
A lien was put on his house until the fine was paid, although Hunn ended up losing his house in a sheriff's sale, with the aid of friends Garrett continued in his iron and hardware business and helping runaway slaves to freedom. By 1855, traffic through Garrett's station had increased, Sydney Howard Gay noted that in 1855-1856 nearly 50 fugitives whom Garrett had helped arrived in New York. William Lloyd Garrison, whom Garrett admired once visited him. However, they held different views regarding the opposition to slavery. Garrison was willing to be a martyr to the abolition of slavery and would not defend himself if attacked physically. Garrett, on the other hand, believed slavery could only be abolished through a civil war and, when attacked physically, defended himself by subduing his attackers. Garrett was a friend and benefactor to the noted Underground Railroad Conductor Harriet Tubman, who passed through his station many times. In addition to lodging and meals, Garrett provided her with money and shoes to continue her missions conducting runaways from slavery to freedom.
Garrett provided Tubman with the money and the means for her parents to escape from the South. The number of runaways Garrett assisted has sometimes been exaggerated, he said. During the American Civil War, the free Negroes of Wilmington guarded Garrett's house; when the 15th Amendment passed, giving Negro males the right to vote, Wilmington's African Americans carried Garrett through the streets in an open barouche with a sign: "Our Moses." Garrett died on January 25, 1871, at the age of 81. Freed blacks carried his bier on their shoulders to the Quaker Meeting House on West 4th Street in Wilmington, where he was interred. In 1993, Wilmington named Tubman-Garrett Riverfront Park after the two Underground Railroad agents and friends. Pennsylvania and Delaware have erected historical markers at sites associated with Garrett, in Drexel Hill and Wilmington, respectively, his house, remains private property near the historic marker on Garrett Road in Upper Darby. List of Underground Railroad sites James A. McGowan, Station Master of the Underground Railroad, the Life and Letters of Thoma Garrett, Jefferson, NC.: McFarland & Co. 2005.
Claus Bernet. "Tho
John Rankin (abolitionist)
John Rankin was an American Presbyterian minister and abolitionist. Upon moving to Ripley, Ohio in 1822, he became known as one of Ohio's first and most active "conductors" on the Underground Railroad. Prominent pre-Civil War abolitionists William Lloyd Garrison, Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher Stowe were influenced by Rankin's writings and work in the anti-slavery movement; when Henry Ward Beecher was asked after the end of the Civil War, "Who abolished slavery?," he answered, "Reverend John Rankin and his sons did." Rankin was born at Dandridge, Jefferson County and raised in a strict Calvinist home. Beginning at the age of eight, his view of the world and his religious faith were affected by two things — the revivals of the Second Great Awakening that were sweeping through the Appalachian region, the incipient slave rebellion led by Gabriel Prosser in 1800. With his father's encouragement, John Rankin began his post-secondary education at Washington College under the direction of Rev. Samuel Doak.
An avowed abolitionist, Rev. Doak encouraged his students to follow his anti-slavery ideologies. While at Washington College, John meet his future wife Jean Lowry, she was the granddaughter of John's former mentor. Jean was of high reputation, good-natured, physically attractive, an active church member. John and Jean married on January 1816 after a brief courtship. In his autobiography, John extensively praises her virtues throughout their marriage, he stated, "In every place she exerted a good influence, being exemplary in all her intercourses and showing kindness to all the afflicted and speaking evil of none. But few women have filled as well the place of a minister's wife, she contributed to my success in the sacred office". In 1814, he became a Presbyterian minister. Not a natural public speaker, Rankin worked hard while at Jefferson County Presbyterian Church to deliver an effective sermon. Within a few months, despite Tennessee's status as a slave state, he summoned the courage to speak against "all forms of oppression" and specifically, slavery.
He was shocked when his elders responded by telling him that he should consider leaving Tennessee if he intended to oppose slavery from the pulpit again. He knew that his faith would not allow him to keep his views to himself, so he decided to move his family to the town of Ripley across the Ohio River in the free state of Ohio, where he had heard from family members that a number of anti-slavery Virginians had settled. On the way north, Rankin stopped to preach at Lexington and Paris and learned about the need for a minister at Concord Presbyterian Church in Carlisle; the congregation had been involved in anti-slavery activities as far back as 1807 when they and twelve other churches formed the Kentucky Abolition Society, Rankin's deepening anti-slavery views were nurtured there by his listeners. He started a school for slaves. Spurred by a financial crisis in the area, Rankin decided to complete his family's journey to Ripley. On the night of December 31, 1821 – January 1, 1822, he rowed his family across the icy river.
In Ripley he founded a Presbyterian academy for boys, where in 1838 the young Ulysses S. Grant once attended. In 1822, Ripley was a town of frequent street fights and shootouts where the most common type of business was a saloon. During the Rankins' first few months there and protesters followed the new preacher through town and gathered outside his cabin while their first permanent home was being built just yards from the river at 220 Front Street; when the local newspaper began publishing his letters to his brother on the topic of slavery, Rankin's reputation grew among both supporters and opponents of the anti-slavery movement. Slave owners and hunters viewed him as their prime suspect and appeared at his door at all hours demanding information about fugitives. Soon, Rankin realized. In 1829, Rankin moved his wife and nine children to a house at the top of a 540-foot-high hill that provided a wide view of the village, the River and the Kentucky shoreline, as well as farmland and fruit groves that could provide sources of income.
Folklore associated with the Rankin home suggested that a lantern or candle was placed in the front window to guide runaway slaves from across the Ohio River in Mason County, Kentucky. However, ex-slave narrative recall a pole with a light; this is a more plausible means of being seen based on the proximity of the house to the river. From there the family could raise a lantern on a flagpole to signal fleeing slaves in Kentucky when it was safe for them to cross the Ohio River. Rankin constructed a staircase leading up the hill to the house for slaves to climb up to safety on their way further north. For over forty years leading up to the Civil War, many of the slaves who escaped to freedom through Ripley stayed at the family's home, it became known as the Rankin House and is now a U. S. National historic landmark. During a visit by Rankin to Lane Theological Seminary to see one of his sons, he told Professor Calvin Stowe the story of a woman the Rankins had housed in 1838 after she escaped by crossing the frozen Ohio River with her child in her arms.
Stowe's wife heard the account and modeled the character Eliza in her book Uncle Tom's Cabin after the woman. The film, "Brothers of the Bor