Giant leaps of faith brought an estimated 2,000 runaway slaves to the house John and Jean Rankin shared with their 13 children on the Ohio River in Ripley.
The slaves knew only to look for a house on a hill with a light in the window.
John, an American Presbyterian minister and outspoken abolitionist, often stood on that hill - Liberty Hill - and used a candle or lantern to signal slaves across the Ohio River. Jean cooked for the runaways and sewed them clothes.
An estimated 100,000 slaves sought freedom in the 1800s through a network of supporters and safe houses known as the Underground Railroad, according to the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati.
Outpost dot southern Ohio operated by folks like the Rankins. .
Clermont County alone has 33 abolitionist or Underground Railroad sites.
The “Conductors” - whites, freed blacks, fellow slaves and Native Americans - guided them to freedom from oppression.
Some of the slaves who made it to Ohio after arduous journeys from Kentucky, Tennessee and other slave states went on to Canada.
Many settled in the Dayton area and other parts of the Ohio.
Springboro for example is thought to have more Underground Railroad depots in and around the city than anywhere else in the state. The Springboro Area Historical Society has documented 27. Remnants of hiding places and tunnels still exist in private houses and businesses there.
The city says more than 4,000 people were helped to freedom there over 50 years.
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Here is a look at some other significant underground railroad sites a stone's throw from Dayton:
1. Harriet Beecher Stowe House
2950 Gilbert Ave., Cincinnati
About this location: Famed author Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired to write her groundbreaking book “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” when she lived on the campus of Lane Seminary where her husband was a professor. Beecher Stowe’s stepmother, three half siblings and father, the president of the seminary, lived in what is now the Harriet Beecher Stowe House. Many of Lane’s students were conductors of the Underground Railroad or abolitionists. Click here for more info. (Photo by Ken-Yon Hardy)
2. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
50 East Freedom Way, Cincinnati
About this location: Situated near where many black slaves crossed the Ohio River to freedom, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center has exhibits and programs that highlight the struggle for freedom. Click here for more info. (Archive Photo)
3. John P. Parker House Museum
300 N. Front St., Ripley
About this location: Parker, a former slave turned foundry owner, risked his life and freedom by sneaking into Kentucky to help those escaping. He then took them to conductors like the Rankins. According to his autobiography, Parker was sold by the time he was 8, later chained to a gang of 400 slaves and helped convince a widow to help him purchase his freedom with the agreement he would pay her back with interest. Click here for more info. (John P. Parker House Museum courtesy of John P. Parker Historical Society)
4. Dr. John Rogers Home Site
307 Front St., New Richmond
About this location: Dr. John Rogers was one of the most vocal abolitionists of his time. He became the Clermont County Anti-Slavery Society’s first president in 1836 and helped blacks fleeing slavery in Kentucky. In 1843, he and Rev. Amos Dresser of Lane Seminary wrote a strongly worded anti-slavery statement for the New Richmond Presbyterian Church and submitted it to the Cincinnati Presbytery. Rogers also delivered Ulysses S. Grant in 1822. His house is one of the Clermont County Freedom Trail’s 33 abolitionist or Underground Railroad sites. Nineteen of the sites have been approved by the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom. Click her for more information about the Clermont County, Ohio Freedom Trail. (Photo: Ken-Yon Hardy)
5. Rankin House
6152 Rankin Road, Ripley
About this location: More than 2,000 are thought to have stayed at the home John and Jean Rankin shared with their 13 children in Ripley. John Rankin, a Tennessee-born Presbyterian minister, was an outspoken abolitionist and important conductor on the Underground Railroad. From his house high on a hill, Rankin would use a lantern to signal slaves in Kentucky that it was safe to cross the Ohio River. His sons transported runaway slaves to other stops on the Underground Rail Road. Click here for more info. (Photo: Ken-Yon Hardy)
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