Stark Contrast: A History of Stark County
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Spring Hill Historic Home
The Underground Railroad

In 2002, Spring Hill Historic Home was designated as part of the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

Spring Hill in Massillon, Ohio, was settled by Thomas and Charity Rotch. As Quakers, they were people of peace who fought slavery in this risky, nonviolent way

The Underground Railroad was a secret network of people and places that helped runaway slaves from the south escape to the free northern states and to Canada prior to the Civil War. We know that this was not really a railroad, but rather a series of stops where slaves could rest and get provisions before moving to the next stop on their journey north.

Thomas and Charity Rotch were sheltering escaped slaves as early as 1820. Before the present house was built, they sheltered the slaves in the upper story of a spring house they lived in. In later years it is believed they stayed in the house itself. According to the story, they were brought up a winding rear staircase to a small closet on the second floor. This closet contained only a large barrel of maple sugar, but when the barrel was shoved aside, it revealed a small opening in the wall through which the fugitives could crawl into a hiding place under the eaves.

The winding staircase that went from the basement to the top of the house. It led to a room with a very small door that led under the eaves.

   

This very small door is only about 4 feet high.  Behind it is the attic.  The ceiling was slanted and only a few feet tall in places. There was little ventilation so it got very warm.

This is where it is believed that the slaves went if someone came looking for them.

 

Fact or Myth? 

The staff of Spring Hill Historic Home is looking further into the location of where slaves were housed. They have found that there are many small doors leading to attics in different parts of the building. Research is being done to find the exact location. What do you think?

The Underground Railroad stories at Spring Hill are based largely upon actual letters written.  Many of these letters are available at the Massillon Public Library and online at www.massillonmemory.org.

Anna Hazard (Charity’s sister) wrote in a letter to Charity Rotch:

“I observe from they account of the poor negroes that your situation does not allude you from sharing the anxiety with which their adventures are attended. They are indeed much to be pitied many of them who make their escape, are in a helpless situation and call for protection of the humane.”

From www.massillonmemory.org

 

George Duncan, a traveler on the Underground Railroad wrote to Thomas Rotch on August 14, 1820:

“Sir I arrived Safe…in Bainbridge county where I put up at a Mr Kents where I reside now and I am treated extremely well by the people and I have just met with Thronton Taylor and we shall starte for Canada in about two weeks. I want if you would be so kind to assist Edy in getting here as soon as she can and not let  S Spriggs know the roade she takes. I wish you to direct her Mr. Martin Kents in Suffield Portage Co and for him to direct her to Elihu L. Kents in Bainbridge Geauga County... I think if Sprigg was here he would not get me for I am with the yankey people and they are avowed enimies to Slavery but it is best to use every proper caution to prevent any kind of bustle… I am Sir with the Greatest respect.”

From Ohio Historical Society at www.ohiomemory.org

 

Charity wrote in a letter to her sister Anna Hazard:

“Night before last we had a consignment of two negro men and a little boy fleeing for their liberty to Canada; poor things, they excited so much sympathy and so prey upon my feelings that I should be glad to have but little of their company. We procured a man to go with them last night to put them on their way, the day having been mostly spent in providing food for them. About half an hour after they went a person knock’d at the door & who should it be but another negro of the same description; he was anxious, tho’ very much fatigued, to overtake the others, and after provisioning another decoy we posted them away and were try glad to be released so soon.”

From Conrad, Ethel  Invaluable Friends:  Thomas and Charity Rotch.  Massillon, OH: 1991

 

So what do you think? Did it take much courage for African-Americans to decide to make the journey north? Did it take much courage for northern families to be a part of the Underground Railroad? 

 

 

 

Funding for Stark Contrast: A History of Stark County has been provided by:

The Hoover Foundation Stark Community Foundation Stark Industrial, Inc. Schauer Insurance The Albert W. and Edith V. Flowers Charitable Foundation Diebold Inc.
 
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