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

Kent and the Underground Railroad


— Historic Underground Railroad Site —

Kent and the Underground Railroad Marker, side one image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, June 7, 2020
1. Kent and the Underground Railroad Marker, side one
The town of Franklin Mills, now Kent, was active in the Underground Railroad. Many residents aided fugitive slaves in their flight north toward Canada. In 1825 at their tavern on Mantua Street, Joshua and Rebecca Woodard gave shelter to a group of six fugitive slaves, including a woman named Mrs. Hurst and her infant. The fugitives left her baby with the Woodards while the Woodards’ son, James, took the other runaways to Cleveland by wagon. The Woodards ended up adopting the child. John Brown, who raided Harpers Ferry in 1859, was a resident of Franklin Mills from 1854 to 1839.

In 1836, Brown staged anti-slavery protests at the Franklin Congregational Church at the intersection of Lake Street, North Water Street, and Crain Avenue. Two active Underground Railroad agents in town were Jonathan and Eliza James who ran the Cuyahoga House on Mantua Street. In the 1850’s, bounty hunters searched the tavern unsuccessfully, not finding the secret hideaway in the barn wall where fugitive slaves hid Others active in the Underground Railroad in Franklin Mills included Dr. Thomas Earl, Dr. Haymaker, Almund and Isaac Russell, and John Perkins.
Erected by Kent County Historical Society
Kent and the Underground Railroad Marker, side two image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, June 7, 2020
2. Kent and the Underground Railroad Marker, side two
Click or scan to see
this page online
in loving memory of James F. Caccamo and Ann Cheges Redmond.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Abolition & Underground RRAfrican Americans. A significant historical year for this entry is 1825.
Location. 41° 9.195′ N, 81° 21.545′ W. Marker is in Kent, Ohio, in Portage County. Marker is on Franklin Avenue south of West Main Street, on the right when traveling south. It is at the former Atlantic and Great Western train depot, now a restaurant. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 152 Franklin Ave, Kent OH 44240, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 6 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. James A. Garfield (approx. 0.2 miles away); Kent State University (approx. 0.8 miles away); The Pennsylvania and Ohio Canal (approx. 4.2 miles away); Silver Lake / Silver Lake Amusement Park (approx. 5.2 miles away); First Congregational Church (approx. 5.6 miles away); Tallmadge Church (approx. 5.6 miles away); Tallmadge Veterans Memorial (approx. 5.6 miles away); Tallmadge Circle (Public Square) (approx. 5.6 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Kent.
Also see . . .  Kent and the Underground Railroad: Former tavern was a friendly stop on the journey towards freedom. 2005 article by Becky Adams in the Kent Starter. Excerpt:
Now at Woodard’s Tavern, they couldn’t afford many more risks. They agreed to the proposal of James Woodard, Joshua’s son, who would be escorting the fugitive slaves to Cleveland in his wagon.

The small child, belonging to Mrs. Hurst, would have
Kent and the Underground Railroad Marker image. Click for full size.
Photographed By J. J. Prats, June 7, 2020
3. Kent and the Underground Railroad Marker
to stay behind. Secrecy would be crucial; the runaways would be concealed under hay for the entirety of the trip, somewhat obscured by bags of grain. If the small boy cried out, their cover would be blown with harsh consequences for both parties. The Woodards agreed to care for the child until his mother could return at a safer time to retrieve him.

The decision proved wise. Along the road, their wagon encountered two bounty hunters. James hushed his nervous travel companions and ordered them to lie still. He whistled nonchalantly as the hunters approached, one on each side of the wagon.

When questioned about his load, James answered he was simply carrying produce to the Cleveland market. They believed the story, possibly somewhat distracted by their appetite. The bounty hunters rode off in the direction of Woodard's Tavern, the closest place to find a bite to eat.

[Jacqueline F.] Rowser said it was a vicious period of time; quite a few people were imprisoned for assisting escaped slaves. They could also be fined, required to compensate the slave owner for lost earnings or lose property.

“Ohio had a very, very active set of abolitionists,” she said. “The abolitionists were not afraid. I mean, sure, they feared for their lives, but they were so committed to their work that they still, in spite of it all, assisted in the process of freeing people.”
(Submitted on June 10, 2020.) 
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Credits. This page was last revised on July 15, 2022. It was originally submitted on June 10, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 447 times since then and 274 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3. submitted on June 10, 2020, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio.

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Dec. 1, 2022