Spread Eagle Tavern above, north of Cincinnati, near Sharonville, where the notorious slave rescuer, John Fairfield, often stayed
According to Wilbur Siebert, as many as 8,000 runaways passed through Cincinnati, more than double the number, that escaped through Ripley. The city has an exceedingly rich abolitionist history, in part because it was a commercial gateway between the North and South. From the Lane Rebels and the Stowe family, the years of the Philanthropist and James Birney and Gamaliel Bailey, the work of Salmon Chase and other abolitionist lawyers, and finally the latter years when the Underground Railroad was given greater organization by Levi Coffin, few cities can boast such an epic chronicle.
Jonathan Wright House in Springboro
Springboro, a small community settled by Quakers, is about 35 miles north of Cincinnati and was one of the many destinations for runaways on their way north. Among the stories pointing to it being a stop was that involving John Van Zandt, the Cincinnati conductor who was immortalized by Harriet Beecher Stowe in Uncle Tom’s Cabin as Van Trompe. Van Zandt was convicted of violating the first Fugitive Slave Law while transporting seven runaways to Springboro in a notable 1843 case. In 1815, Jonathan Wright, a Quaker who is considered the founder of Springboro, built the house pictured above, which was used in the Underground Railroad.
Hiding place in the Wright home
A notable case in 1839 involved the Springboro community in their efforts that freed four slaves who were accompanied by their master from Virginia when they were camping outside the village. The slaveowner agreed to free his slaves, but later prosecuted a case against the community, claiming they had used force to steal his “property.” The result was that a number of residents were required to pay small fines but the slaves remained free, having long since been sent to Canada.
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