Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hebron Crossroads 9-26-04
By Jeff Gill

The National Freedom Center is one of America’s newest museums, just down the road in Cincinnati (take a virtual tour at
Three buildings, signifying courage, pride, and perseverance, make up just a part of their plan to tell the story of the Underground Railroad. On-line resources, an affiliation of historic sites throughout the country, and archives in many existing institutions are all being woven together into the Freedom Center.
The Underground Railroad was a vast network of abolitionists and safe houses all across the eastern half of the United States that guided more than 100,000 slaves to freedom. From the early 1820’s to 1850, that freedom might be in southwest Michigan, northern Ohio, western New York or New England; after the Fugitive Slave Law was passed, the “railroad” extended fully to Canada beyond the reach of federal law.
Major “spurs” in this invisible line of traffic went through Columbus and Zanesville, where houses with hidden rooms and secret cellars can still be seen. But from 1836 through 1860, when the slavecatchers were out in force, a side route skirting our Hebron Crossroads up through Granville was used.
William Utter, whose “Granville: The Story of an Ohio Village is one of the best local histories of the last century, wrote of the challenges even 50 years ago in sorting fact from well-meaning fiction about the days of the Underground Railroad. The label alone kept (and keeps) the idea of tunnels and buried passageways alive, with Utter noting ruefully the still-told tale of a tunnel from Monomoy House, now the home of Denison’s presidents, to the Avery-Downer House next to the library. On the other hand. . .
“The record shows that no fugitive was ever captured in this community, and no arrest of agents of the Underground,” says Utter, while it is very clear many escaped slaves passed through Licking County. Recorded accounts point to the canal path up from the Ohio River marking a line which then turned to Reynoldsburg, from which “agents” would escort their charges, usually by night, away from the Lancaster or Newark Roads with all their traffic to places like the Gilmore farm surrounding Fairmount Presbyterian Church. On calmer occasions they might chance some daylight travel along Refugee Road to Canyon, winding north then to Centerville Street, now Newark-Granville Road. Along that artery, many agents stood ready to take over for the trip through the Welsh Hills to Utica or Homer and on to Mansfield and then Oberlin.
The village of Union Station, where Canyon Road crosses the railroad tracks, is often mentioned as a station on the Underground Railroad as well.
Do you know stories of pre-1860 homes that tie them to this proud story? I’ve got a few I’ll share on through the fall, but send in any you may have heard and we’ll put them all in.
Cub Scout Pack 33 will have their first pack meeting of the new school year at Jackson Elementary, Monday Sept. 27 at 7:00 pm. All first through fifth grade boys are welcome to come and be registered.
Ed Fuentes, veteran Cubmaster of Pack 33, is looking forward to a great year of activity; themes are chosen for each month to June, with the September meeting inviting all youth and adults to come dressed as cowboys. October, as you may have guessed, will be costumes generally. If you have questions, call Ed at 323-3936.
Tiger Cubs in first grade, second grade a Wolf Den, third grade Bears, and Webelos Scouts in fourth and fifth grades make up all the “dens” of a Cub pack. Come find your place and howl with ‘em!
Speaking of howling, I’m sure you’re ready to howl at your TV if you have to watch one more political ad. Relief is coming with the general election on Tues., Nov. 2, and if you want to register to vote, you’d better do it this week! Libraries, license bureaus, and municipal offices can show you how. October 4 is the deadline.
Absentee voting is available through Mon., Nov. 1, but with demand high, you might want to get your application in to the Board of Elections on Second Street in the County Admin. Bldg. soon. Or, visit for more info: click to “Board of Elections.” There you can get a downloadable form to apply for an absentee ballot.
One way or another, make sure you can serve your country in the most basic way possible, and vote. We can’t all volunteer for national service, the Underground Railroad doesn’t need conductors and agents nowadays, and not everyone gets called for jury duty; yet each of us can be a well-informed participant in democracy by casting our ballot.
But you’ve got to register first!

Jeff Gill is pastor of Hebron Christian Church and an amateur historian; if you have historic announcements or news of local interest, call 928-4066 or e-mail

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