by Tamera Lynn Kraft
Before the Civil War, Ohio had the largest Underground Railroad of any state in the Union. It is believed that every county in Ohio had a route. Many slaves would escape over the Ohio River and through Ohio on their way to Canada. This was a dangerous undertaking because, even though Ohio was a free state, the Fugitive Slave Law made it so anyone helping escaped slaves could be fined and jailed, and the slaves would be returned to their masters.
|Parker's Foundry in Ripley, Ohio|
Ripley, a small town in Ohio, helped more slaves escape than any where else. Ripley is located on the banks of the Ohio River across from Mason County, Kentucky.
One man who helped slaves escape was a freed black man named John Parker. Parker. He was educated by his master in Virginia and eventually bought his freedom. He traveled to Ohio and opened a foundry on Front Street facing the Ohio River. He was the first black man to earn a patent for one of the inventions he used in his foundry. At night, he would search the Ohio River looking for escaped slaves and helping them find their way to an Underground Railroad Station. In my novel, Red Sky Over America, Parker has a minor role.
Reverend John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, owned a house on top of a hill in Ripley and also had a large role in the Underground Railroad. He built one hundred steps to the house that could be seen on the other side of the river. At night, he would light a lantern and hang it from the porch to signal slaves that it was safe to cross. It is estimated over 2,000 slaves escaped through the Rankin House. None of them were ever recaptured.
Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her famous novel, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, about the escape of the slave, Eliza, after hearing the story from Reverend Rankin. I also added John Rankin's house in my new novel, Red Sky Over America. The story takes place on the Ohio River where all these exciting events happened.
Tamera Lynn Kraft has always loved adventures and writes Christian historical fiction set in America because there are so many adventures in American history. She has received 2nd place in the NOCW contest, 3rd place TARA writer’s contest, and was a finalist in the Frasier Writing Contest. Her Novels, Red Sky Over America and Alice’s Notions and her novellas Resurrection of Hope and A Christmas Promise are available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and at other online stores.