Review of the Research
Introduction to the Review of the Research
The review of the research will introduce you to the Underground Railroad and where
Washington County fits in. It will then give background information on four stations
in the Underground Railroad in Washington County. This section will also tell about
the conductors of these stations.
Brief History of the Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad originated as an organized effort to fight slavery. Abolitionists
had made many proposals for the peaceful abolition of slavery, but no compromise
could be made. Antislavery groups then decided they could fight back by hurting the
slave owners economically. The groups could accomplish this by helping slaves escape
from their plantations. The effort was very fragmented at first, but before long
the people helping slaves escape became more aware of each other and began forming
a secret organization (Cosner, pg.26). This activity was happening as early as 1803, but
it wasn't until after 1830 when the first railroads were in use that the Underground
Railroad terminology originated. The Quakers were the first religious group to make
an organized effort to help slaves escape. Then it spread to virtually all free blacks,
Quakers and churches in the North (Hamilton, pg.17).
Where Washington County Fit In
During the 1800's slavery was abolished in the Northern states. Above the Ohio River,
slavery was not allowed. Below the river was a whole different story. One could have
as many slaves as he or she could afford. The Ohio River acted as a border between
freedom and slavery. This made the counties, like Washington County, which bordered
the river very important in the success of the Underground Railroad. Washington County
received many slaves into their care from across the river. They sent these slaves
further North and to Canada.
In Washington County four important conductors in the Underground Railroad were Josephus,
David Putnam Jr., Thomas Ridgeway and Jewett Palmer.
Josephus was a slave in Virginia. He lived on the Box's Plantation in Williamstown.
Josephus worked for over 20 years helping runaways cross the Ohio River (Burke, 18
Nov. 96). He delivered about 3-5 slaves a month from Parkersburg, Virginia, to the
mouth of Duck Creek in Ohio. Using his canoe, he rowed slaves to the island obstructing
the path, dragged the canoe across, and delivered his crew to the other side. Since
Josephus was a slave, very little is known of his past and many questions surround
his involvement in freeing slaves (Burke, pg.26).
On May 17, 1808, David Putnam Jr. was born to Elizabeth (Perkins) Putnam and David
Putnam Sr. He grew up and spent his life in Marietta Ohio. His marriage to Hannah
Munson in 1833 provided him with seven children. These children were raised "amidst
his not so secret, activity with the Underground Railroad" (Burke, 18 Nov. 96). Along with
his activity in the Underground Railroad, Mr. Putnam was also a merchant in Marietta.
Before his death in 1892, Mr. Putnam was able to witness the collapse of slavocracy
in the South following the end of the Civil War (Burke, 18 Nov. 96).
Jewett Palmer's life began in New Hampshire on May 18, 1797. He was raised on his
father's farm where he received a basic education, but little formal education. Mr.
Palmer left his home to fight in the War of 1812 but returned soon after his service
was complete. The whole family began a move to Ohio in 1817 and after a winter delay arrived
in Washington County, Ohio, the following year. It was here in 1823, that he met
and married Rachel Cambell and began his activities in the Underground Railroad.
Jewett Palmer also lived to see the emancipation of slaves before dying in 1873 (Burke,
Nova Scotia was the original home of Thomas Ridgeway, who was born January 22, 1796.
He was of English ancestry and received his education by attending night school after
his full-time day job in the trade of copper (Burke, 22 Oct. 96). Thomas Ridgeway
was a soldier in the British side in the War of 1812. In 1821, Ridgeway decided to
try his luck in the sugar refineries and moved to New Orleans. Unfortunately, due
to poor health, he was forced to return to his home in Halifax the same year. The
following year, 1822, he returned to the states again. This time he headed into Washington County,
Ohio, to work with Joseph Dyar, a distant relative who lived on the Muskingum River.
About three years later he ended his partnership with Dyar and soon after married
Joseph's sister, Esther Ann Dyar. They had five children before she died. He married
two more times, losing both of these wives as well and ended up with ten children.
Thomas Ridgeway lived to the age of 87 dying in 1883 (Burke, 18 Nov. 96).
Most Used Routes
During the 1800's the trail that a slave would take to freedom was as unpredictable
as the weather. Varying the trail was a necessity to keep bounty hunters off their
trail. Upon reaching Marietta there were numerous places to send slaves for the night.
Two of these choices were the Rainbow and Palmer Stations. From there the slaves went
to the Stafford Station in southwest Monroe County, Ohio. The passengers were able
to cover about 15 miles a day on the terrain in Southeast Ohio so they didn't typically
stay at more than one station in a county.
There were numerous stops for the Underground Railroad in Washington County. They
were spread all over to increase the odds of a fugitive making it to freedom. One
site where fugitives could be received was at the mouth of Duck Creek by the Ohio
River. Three popular stops in Washington County were the Marietta Station, Rainbow Station,
and Palmer Station.
At the opening of Duck Creek into the Ohio River, fugitives were dropped off by Josephus.
They had just crossed the Ohio River by canoe and were now on free soil, but this
didn't mean they were safe. They had to continue to Canada where they could no longer be captured.
The Marietta Station was operated by David Putnam. It occupied the area above the
Harmar Cemetery on the west side of the Muskingum River in Marietta, Ohio. This was
also the home of Mr. Putnam and his family. According to letters written from the
time, slaves only stayed at this station in extreme emergencies (Burke, 22 Oct. 96).
The home of Thomas Ridgeway was referred to the Rainbow Station. It was located across
from Fern Cliff in Devola along the Muskingum River. Slaves were housed at this station
and given a place to rest. This station lay between Marietta, Ohio and Waterford, Ohio (Burke, 22 Oct. 96).
Northeast of Marietta in Fearing Township the Palmer Station could be found. Mr. Jewett
Palmer was the conductor of this station and his fugitives took shelter in a secluded
cave not to far from his house. The cave can still be seen today (Burke, 22 Oct.
Publications From the Time
The escape of a plantation owner's field help led to some not-to-happy slave owners.
Depending on the sex, size and ability of the slave, a sizable reward would be posted
for the return of their field help. In Washington County there were new cases daily
for the bounty hunters. A few examples can be found in the addenda.