The Underground Railroad / The Marion County Trial of Bill Anderson
—The Second of Two Identical Markers —
The Underground Railroad
The Underground Railroad was neither underground nor a railroad, but a system of loosely connected safe havens where those escaping the brutal conditions of slavery were sheltered, fed, clothed, nursed, concealed, disguised, and instructed during their journey to freedom. Although this movement was one of America’s greatest social. moral, and humanitarian endeavors, the details about it were often cloaked in secrecy to protect those involved from retribution of civil law and slave catchers. Ohio’s history has been permanently shaped by the thousands of runaway slaves passing through or finding permanent residence in this state.
The Marion County Trail of Bill Anderson
Runaways sheltered by friendly abolitionist communities often believed that slave-catchers could not touch them in the heart of Ohio, but they were wrong.
Such was the case in 1838 in Marion County. A black man by the name of “Bill Anderson” or “Bill Mitchell” fled bondage in a Virginia salt works and settled near Marion but he was soon recognized there. A mail dispatch sent
Forty days after his capture, six strangers appeared in Marion claiming ownership of Bill and brandishing bowie knives, pistols, and clubs. During the trial, the men, one identified as “Smith” produced notes of sale showing that three of them had purchased “Bill” at different times with “John Smith” the most recent buyer. After lengthy preamble, local UGRR stationmaster Judge Ozies Bowen rocked the courtroom by announcing, “Mr. Smith and John Smith might be two different persons, therefore I shall decide in favor of the prisoner.”
Pandemonium erupted in the courtroom after the ruling was announced
and the Virginians refused to accept the verdict. They drew weapoms;
Bill was jerked back and forth in a vicious tug-of-war, while
clubs and pistols pummeled bodies. Several Quakers gave as good
as they got. A local black man helped Bill escape, and Quakers
escorted them both to the Ruebem Benedict home near Marngo,
Morrow County. After a long and anxious night, Bill was on his
way north to Oberlin, a noted Lorain abolitionist stronghold, and
then to freedom in Canada.
Erected 2004 by ODOT Friends of Freedom Society.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Marion County Courthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Norman Mattoon Thomas (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line); Old Marion Cemetery (approx. 0.2 miles away); Cummins Home (approx. 0.4 miles away); Home of Warren G. Harding (was approx. 0.4 miles away but has been reported missing. ); Jacob's Well (approx. half a mile away); Marion Steam Shovel (approx. 0.7 miles away); Harding Memorial (approx. 1.1 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Marion.
More about this marker. An identical marker is at the US 23 rest area, south east of Marion. It is described in a previous HMDB page
Additional keywords. Underground Railroad
Categories. • Abolition & Underground RR • African Americans •
Credits. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016. This page originally submitted on May 27, 2016, by Rev. Ronald Irick of West Liberty, Ohio. This page has been viewed 351 times since then and 24 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on May 27, 2016, by Rev. Ronald Irick of West Liberty, Ohio. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.