The demographic analysis in this section of the citizens of Ripley provides an overall picture of population changes, gender division, occupations, wealth distribution, nationality, birthplace location and racial composition during a thirty year period. Census reports from 1820, 1830, 1840, and 1850 were utilized to obtain the vital statistical data. However, there were several gaps in data; for example the 1830 census did not quantify birthplace. Additionally, as the years progressed, additional individual characteristic data was required so by the 1850 census, more information was available then the 1820 census. Where gaps exist, they will be indicated in either the text or the correlating graphs.
As seen in Table 1, the total population of Ripley increased exponentially as families or individuals moved
westward from the eastern sections of the United States.This growth correlated to the methods of transportation. Settlers initially migrated to the Ohio River Valley by the overland route via Zane’s Trace or on flatboats on the Ohio River. By 1850, the National Road was built as well as the expansion of railroads, thus is equated to more expedient travel and greater distances for those migrating to Ripley.
The black residential population of Ripley was stagnant until 1850. Both the 1820 and 1830 censuses reported no more than eight black residents in Ripley. By 1840, the ammount grew to thirty-three; by 1850, there were one hundred and fifty-three individuals listed as black or mulatto in that census. That is not to say that individuals or families did not migrate through the town over the various decades; rather, they did not set up permanent residency until 1850 in Ripley. It is difficult to conclusively argue the reasons for Ripley not having a larger black population other than to speculate that prior to 1850 the close proximity of slave states acted as a deterrent
Of interest is the proportion of black residents of Ripley who claimed that their birthplace was in a slave-owning State. This would mean that over 76% of the black population of Ripley migrated or fled north to Ohio.See Table 2. Does this figure infer that three-quarters of the black population were fugitive slaves? Possibly. Historian Eugene D. Genovese argued that by 1850, “about a thousand slaves a year ran away” from the South to the northern border States, Canada or Mexico. Additionally, Genovese argued “at least 80 percent were men between the ages of sixteen and thirty-five.” Furthermore, he stated that women were less like to runaway due to emotional ties to their children. Conversely, the census data from Ripley shows a flaw in Genovese’s argument. More women claimed Southern states as their birthplace than men, and these women had children.
Obviously, it is very difficult to quantify who were fugitives and who were free, however historian Michael Wayne did use an algebraic formula in his study, "The Black Population of Canada West on the Eve of the American Civil War: A Reassessment Based on the Manuscript Census of 1861," to assess the number of fugitive slaves in Canada West. Wayne found that “slightly under 20 percent of all blacks in the province were fugitives.” Unfortunately, it is not feasible to use Wayne’s specific algebraic formula to calculate the percentage of fugitive slaves living in Ripley. Nevertheless, based on the abolitionist activity, the adamancy against the slavery laws by a majority of the white citizens, and the availability of employment in Ripley, one could state that at least 20 percent or more of the black
population were protected fugitive slaves.
Borderlander of Light
By: Donna B. Jacobson, University of Connecticut
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