In Search of the Underground Railroad

Tour curated by: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities

Sharing its southern border with two slave states, Ohio was a key player in the operations of the Underground Railroad in the years leading up to the Civil War. Many different routes runaway slaves followed crisscrossed the state with several ultimately passing through Cleveland, or "Station Hope" as it was codenamed, a city that teemed with abolitionists and Underground Railroad conductors. Once in Cleveland runaways were sometimes guided eastward to Buffalo and onward to Canada or west towards Sandusky and into Canada by that route but steamers docking in the city's harbor often ferried the fugitives across Lake Erie to freedom.

This tour presents some of the events, people, and places in Cleveland that connect with the abolitionist sentiment and Underground Railroad presence that existed in the city. From the abolitionist community that resided in what is now known as University Circle to harrowing reports of runaways hiding in St. John's Episcopal Church's bell tower through the dramatic sequence of events surrounding the arrest of Lucy Bagby, Cleveland played a prominent role in the drive toward national emancipation of its enslaved population.

Locations for Tour

Arriving in 1807, Cleveland pioneer Andrew Cozad settled in the area east of the city that is known today as University Circle, later establishing what proved to be a successful commercial brick-making business. He and his wife Sally had five…

Originally founded as Trinity Church in Old Brooklyn in 1816, Trinity remained a west side congregation until 1826, when church leaders decided to relocate to the east side of the Cuyahoga River near Public Square. At that time a number of families…

Sara Lucy Bagby was born in the early 1840s in Virginia. While visiting Richmond John Goshorn purchased Lucy on January 16, 1852 from a slave trader named Robert Alois for $600. After employing Lucy himself for five years, on November 8, 1857,…

Where a grocery store and parking lot now stand on the south side of Detroit Avenue just west of West 58th Street there once stood a mansion so large that neighbors called it "Castle Needham" after the man who built it. The castle was said…

In March 1850, just months months before passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, thirty members of Cleveland's Old Stone Church left their congregation to form what would later become Plymouth Church. The debate over slavery -- illegal in Ohio, but…

Although it is hard to imagine, Cleveland Heights was once covered in towering trees, large farms, quarries and vineyards. While people moved from the City of Cleveland into other adjacent areas in the 1830s and 1840s, Cleveland Heights remained…
comments powered by Disqus