Exploring the Underground Railroad

Written by guest blogger – Stephanie M.

Warren County may be known as Ohio’s Largest Playground, but it also contains some of Ohio’s richest history, dating back centuries ago. And since my husband and I are both history buffs, discovering a piece of Warren County’s history was the perfect recipe for a fun-filled afternoon!

Springboro may look like the typical suburb of Cincinnati and Dayton but its history shows that the town played a significant role during the slave era. The city of Springboro, located between Cincinnati and Dayton, was an important contributor to the Underground Railroad. It hosted many hiding places for runaway slaves in route to Canada which are known and confirmed today.

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A family visits one of the many historical locations included on the tour.

Our journey consisted of a self-guided walking tour that explores the history of Springboro’s founding as well as providing a “Walk into History” by visiting each stop on the Underground Railroad. However, before beginning the tour, it’s a great idea to stop by the Springboro Chamber of Commerce. You’ll be greeted by Carol who will make sure that you get all the information you need!  For information on the self-guided tour, download the attached brochure map here.

Tours with a professional and knowledgeable guide are also available for a small fee and can be requested in advance. The tour contains more than 50 stops consisting of businesses open to the public as well as residential homes that can be observed from the sidewalk. Our tour appropriately began at the house of the man who founded the town of Springboro, Mr. Jonathan Wright.

First Stop – Jonathan Wright House

Walking up to the first stop on the tour, we were speechless as we marveled at the architectural brilliance of the Jonathan Wright home.  It was pretty cool to see how the house had changed over time. As we observed the white-washed brick on one side of the western chimney, we couldn’t help but imagine what it would have felt like to discover a safe house as a runaway slave. The Wright House was just one of many stops on their way to freedom.

Exploring South Main Street

After discovering where the history of Springboro began, our next several stops along the tour included many residential homes that served as other hideout locations for runaway slaves. Most of the stops included on the tour are located on South Main Street which runs directly through the town of Springboro. The Isaac Mullin House, The Mary Carey House and the Clark Williams House were all part of the tour. We made sure to study up on each location’s history as well as important figures who all contributed to the success of Springboro’s Underground Railroad.

A Historical Lunch

As we continued along the tour, we arrived at another important residence that had been converted into a cafe and coffee shop. Heather’s Coffee & Café is a charming dark green and burgundy Victorian style home built in the early 1900’s. In fact, guests of the café are still able to see one of the hiding places located in the basement of the building where slaves tunneled across the street via an escape route. Today, Heather’s is a cozy spot for a delicious meal and a refreshing beverage. After our quick pit stop, we were back on the tour with still much to see and learn.

Front Porch of Heather's Cafe located on S Main St.

Front Porch of Heather’s Cafe located on S Main St.

Last Stop – Friends Cemetery

As our tour was drawing to a close, we decided it would only be appropriate to end at the Friends Cemetery. We learned interesting facts about war veterans as well as early settlers from the area. The cemetery has a unique placement of the tombstones, which you’ll have to discover for yourself to find out. Eight Underground Railroad conductors, who played significant roles in the town’s history, are also buried there.

Final Thoughts

Exploring the secrets and history of the Underground Railroad in Springboro, OH was a fun and memorable experience for both my husband and I. We never knew that so much history took place right here in Warren County. The walking tour allowed us to take a step back in time and to experience what it would have been like for runaway slaves making their journey to freedom in Canada. There’s so much information to take in, a lot more than what I’ve been able to share with you in this blog. To get the full experience of the Springboro Underground Railroad, you’ll have to go and experience it for yourself!

 

For more information on the walking tour, visit the Springboro Chamber of Commerce website here.

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