Hardin County and the Underground Railroad

Hardin County and the Underground Railroad

When we think about the Underground Railroad, a couple things come to
mind. We think about slaves escaping their masters and heading north to
freedom and we think of people such as Harriet Tubman who helped those
slaves come north. We've heard stories about secret codes that were used
to let conductors and slaves alike know if it was safe to come to a
certain homestead. Such codes included leaving a candle burning on a
window or hanging a certain quilt on a clothes line. But did you know that
Hardin County was a stop? In doing some research, I've found that Hardin
County and its citizens had an active role in helping escaped slaves reach
freedom.

One of the stops on the railroad was the home of Obadiah and Sarah
Williams. The Williams family lived about 1 ½ miles south of Mt. Victory.
It was felt that  this area was closer to the Old Sandusky Trail, a busy
route on the railroad. When he was a teenager, Obadiah saw first hand the
cruelty of slavery is a trip to Cincinnati. He saw families ripped apart
and sold to different owners. He vowed to do what he could to help slaves
become free. His wife Sarah also felt it was important to do what she
could to help, her parents having been conductors on the Underground
Railroad when she was a child. To ensure their safety, and the safety of
their children, the Williams' referred to anyone traveling on the railroad
as “guests”. This allowed them to protect runaway slaves from federal
authorities and bounty hunters without lying. A guest room was located
within the Williams' home and this is where escaping slaves would stay.

Another stop on the Underground Railroad was Wheeler Tavern located near
Pfieffer Station. The tavern was built by Portius Wheeler who was an early
pioneer of Hardin County. Built in 1835, historical tradition says that it
was the first brick residence built in Hardin County. It is also a long
standing belief that this building was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

Because the Underground Railroad was a secret network, we will never know
how many people were involved. Historical records to tell us that Kenton
was a stop of the network and as well as the two places mentioned above.
If you have a home or know of one that was part of the network, we would
love to hear about it at the museum. By sharing information, we can
preserve our history.

Historically yours,
Sheena Striker
Assistant Director
Hardin County Historical Museums
223 N Main Street, Kenton, OH 43326
419-673-7147
sheena@hardinmuseums.org