Historic Underground Railroad
Delaware County: Anti-Slavery Stronghold
A unique combintation of strong-principled religous communities, free black settlements, and tightly knit extended families fostered a wide-spread attitude of willful defiance that made Delaware one of Ohio's strongest anti-slavery counties in the early nineteenth century.
Among the Delaware County congregations participating in the Underground Railroad were Berlin United Presbyterian, Wesleyan Methodist, Alum Creek, Friends and Otterbein's United Brethren.
Manumitted slaves who settled the hamlet of Africa, at the intersection of present day Polaris parkway and Africa Road in southeastern Delaware County, and those who came to the area with early white settlers, John McClure and Benjamin Bartholomew, had a fierce hatred of bondage, they helped escaping slaves whenever possible. Bartholomew and his son, Major Bartholomew, operated a station near the Olentangy River in southern Liberty Township.
Sometimes more than one member of a family participated in the Underground Railroad. Northern Delaware County resident, William Cratty, epitomized local attitudes by publicly denouncing the unjust Fugitive Slave Law of 1850. He vowed to continue to "run slaves" and he did not care who knew it "In congress or out!" Aided by his brother, John and sister, Peggy, Cratty claimed to have assisted three-thousand fugitives to Canada. The bounty on Cratty's head was $3,000, dead or alive.
Other local Delaware stations were Halfway House, George Gooding's tavern on State Route 23, and Seven Oaks on William Street.
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad, but a system of loosely connected safe havens where those escaping the brutal conditions of slavery were sheltered, fed, clothed, nursed, concealed, disguised, and instructed during their journey to freedom. Although this movement was one of America's greatest social, moral, and humanitarian endeavors, the details about it were often cloaked in secrecy to protect those involved from the retribution of civil law and slave-catchers.
Ohio's history has been permanently shaped by the thousands of runaway slaves passing through or finding permanent residence in this state.