John Rankin explained his anti-slavery work in a singular way, “The Lord gave me a sympathetic nature, so that I could not help sympathizing with innocent sufferers. Hence, early in life I set myself against slave holding. Some of the keenest sensation of mental anguish I ever felt were occasioned by contemplating the cruelties inflicted upon slaves.” Consequently, throughout Rankin’s adult life, there is a documented trail of his extraordinary efforts to abolish slavery in the United States. Rankin opposed slavery from a religious, as well as biological perspective; he also empathized with the plight of the enslaved thereby, validated his participation in the anti-slavery movement through moral suasion. One of the best primary sources for Rankin's views on slavery are seen in his book, Letters on American Slavery.
The Underground Railroad was not a physical train; rather it was a series of secret paths, roadways, and waterways leading from the South toward Free states. Fugitive slaves who ran from their masters used the “railroad” and its “conductor” to go as far as Canada. The language of the “railroad” was a coded as the routes themselves. As seen in the map below, there were a variety of routes that have been documented. Notice that one of the main lines leading to Canada goes directly through Ripley. It is here, crossing the Ohio River that the initial feeling of freedom embraced the running fugitives.
Folklore attributes the naming of the Underground Railroad to Ripley, Ohio. According to a story
first published by Firelands Historical Society in 1888. Judge Sloane tells the story as such:
Borderlander of Light
By: Donna B. Jacobson, University of Connecticut
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