Nurturing Pathways to Freedom in Trumbull County
An exhibit for the Community by the Warren Library Association
Nurturing Pathways to Freedom in Trumbull County was established in 2003 to give the community a glimpse into the historical realities concerning local anti-slavery sentiments from the 1820s to the 1850s. The exhibit is located outside of the Sutliff Museum on the second floor of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library.
Trumbull County Historian Wendell Lauth researched and selected the informational content of the exhibit.
The display features four sections:
Anti-slavery sentiments in the 1820s and 1830s
Organized efforts and leadership in support of the Abolition Movement in the 1840s
Travel along the Underground Railroad in the 1850s
Artifacts depicting the evils of slavery
On display are photographs, maps, and reproductions of newspapers, articles and original historic documents including:
A slave auction broadside
Correspondence from the Sutliff Family Collection
An exhibit chronology called 70 Years on the Roads to Freedom underscores local anti-slavery history in the context of national happenings on a timeline for the period 1793-1863, from the first Fugitive Slave Act to the Emancipation Proclamation.
A wealth of original source material has been uncovered to support the fact that Trumbull County was a key player in the "forwarding business." The use of the "underground railroad" vocabulary first appears locally about 1850. Ohio State University Professor Wilbur H. Siebert's landmark 1895 study of The Underground Railroad in Ohio notes that Trumbull County was one of the most active counties in the system with 153 miles of lines to freedom. Cross-lines also made lateral connections with western Pennsylvania.
The Underground Railroad
Myth and reality have merged about the operation of the Underground Railroad. Its secret activity was neither underground nor was it a railroad. Escape tunnels, often associated with the movement of fugitive slaves northward toward Canada, are rarely found at the safe havens of eastern and northern Ohio. Hiding places in homes, workshops, barns and country stores were more common. Existing highways were popular travel routes. The network of persons who assisted the escapees became known as conductors, or agents on the Underground Railroad.
Disapproval over slavery was especially strong in northern Ohio, including the counties to the south, west and north of Trumbull County. Anti-slavery activists helped with the "forwarding business" and spoke out in the political arenas of the Liberty, Whig and Free-Soil parties during the 1840s and '50s. Abolitionists often put themselves and their families at risk to aid fugitive slaves.
"...we believe it is the duty of all men, but especially of abolitionists, to give meat to the hungry, drink to the thirsty, protection or lodging to the stranger, clothes to the naked, and point out the North Star to him who enquires..."
---The Liberty Herald
January 11, 1844
"...Trumbull County is not the place for slave catchers, as they will be convinced if they but once come among us."
---Western Reserve Chronicle
December 4, 1850
Most slaves did not run away but some dared to follow "the drinking gourd" (the North Star) on a hard and dangerous trek north.
It was not until the 13th amendment to the Constitution was passed in 1865 that the practice of slavery was officially abolished in the United States.
Visiting the Exhibit
The exhibit is open during regular library hours. If you would like more information, call the Sutliff Museum at (330) 399-8807, ext. 121 or (330) 394-9989.