“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Oberlin in Lorain County, Ohio — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

Oberlin College and Community / Abolitionism in Oberlin


Oberlin College and Community side of marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, August 24, 2019
1. Oberlin College and Community side of marker
Oberlin College and Community. Founded in 1833. Reverend John Jay Shipherd and Philo Penfield Stewart envisioned an educational institution and colony dedicated to the glory of God and named in honor of John Frederick Oberlin, a pastor in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. Early colonists signed a covenant pledging themselves to the plainest living and highest thinking. Oberlin (known as the Oberlin Collegiate Institute until 1850 when it was renamed Oberlin College) was the first coeducational institution to grant bachelor’s degrees to women and historically has been a leader in the education of African Americans. In fact, African American and white children studied together in the town’s one-room schoolhouse, in defiance of Ohio’s “Black laws” forbidding this practice. The schoolhouse, built 1836 -1837, is part of the Oberlin Heritage Center.

Abolitionism in Oberlin. Oberlin became an abolitionist hotbed and a major stopover on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Abolitionists here held a range of opinions; some believed prayer could end slavery: others pursued political measures; and a few embraced violence. Oberlin also was active in reform movements, including women’s rights, suffrage, temperance, and village improvement. Behind this marker is the home of Giles Shurtleff,
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an abolitionist, professor, and army general who led the first African American regiment from Ohio to serve in the Civil War. The home’s second owner was James Monroe, Oberlin’s best-known political abolitionist. Monroe was a professor, a U.S. Congressman, and the U.S. consul in Brazil during the Civil War. He lived here with his wife, Julia, a daughter of Oberlin’s great religious leader, Charles Grandison Finney.
Erected 2003 by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, the Longaberger Company, Oberlin Heritage Center / O.H.I.O., and The Ohio Historical Society. (Marker Number 13-47.)
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Abolition & Underground RRAfrican AmericansEducationSettlements & Settlers. In addition, it is included in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the Ohio Historical Society / The Ohio History Connection series lists. A significant historical year for this entry is 1850.
Location. 41° 17.372′ N, 82° 13.145′ W. Marker is in Oberlin, Ohio, in Lorain County. Marker can be reached from South Professor Street south of Elm St, on the right when traveling south. It is behind the Oberlin Heritage Center. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 73 S Professor St, Oberlin OH 44074, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Welcome to Oberlin Heritage Center (within shouting distance of this marker); Charles M. Hall and Frank M. Jewett (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Downtown Oberlin Historic District
Abolitionism in Oberlin side of marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, August 24, 2019
2. Abolitionism in Oberlin side of marker
(approx. 0.2 miles away); Willard Van Orman Quine (approx. 0.2 miles away); Oberlin and the Underground Railroad (approx. 0.3 miles away); Antoinette Brown Blackwell and First Church in Oberlin (approx. 0.4 miles away); The Burrell-King House (approx. 0.7 miles away); Westwood Cemetery (approx. ¾ mile away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Oberlin.
Also see . . .  Oberlin Anti-Slavery Collection. Excerpt:
One of the most compelling artifacts in Special Collections is a gravestone of a four year old escaped slave. In March of 1853, a slave woman named Miriam arrived in Oberlin from Kentucky, with her entire family—her children and grandchildren and a sickly four-year-old foster child named Lee Howard Dobbins. Miriam had fled her master in a desperate attempt to save her daughters, whom she had learned were going to be sold.

By the time they arrived in Oberlin, little Lee Howard was extremely ill. Miriam and the rest of her family couldn’t afford to wait for his convalescence—since she and her family were the only slaves their master owned, he was no doubt in hot and angry pursuit. A family in Oberlin promised to care for the child, and Miriam and her children were safely delivered to Canada, where her brother was awaiting them.

Lee Howard Dobbins died of consumption a week later. The whole town mourned his death—a thousand
Oberlin College and Community / Abolitionism in Oberlin Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, August 24, 2019
3. Oberlin College and Community / Abolitionism in Oberlin Marker
people were reportedly crammed into First Church for his funeral, where all grieved not only the loss of this child, but the horrors of slavery. A collection at the funeral was used to buy this gravestone for him.

The stone has weathered badly, and so it was put in the Oberlin College Library Special Collections for safekeeping in 1938. The Inscription reads:
Let slavery perish!
a fugitive Slave orphan.
Brought here by an adopted mother in her flight for liberty
Mar. 17, 1853
Left here wasted with consumption, found a refuge in death
Mar. 26, 1853
Aged 4 Years
(Submitted on January 9, 2020.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on October 6, 2022. It was originally submitted on January 9, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 371 times since then and 23 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on January 9, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. Photo of Giles Shurtleff and James Monroe’s home • Photo of the schoolhouse • Can you help?

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Apr. 21, 2024