Underground Railroad in Cleveland Cozad Bates House 11508 Mayfield Road, Cleveland November 19, 2022
The Underground Railroad was a network of secret routes and safe houses established in the United States during the early 1800s to help slaves escape into free states and Canada. It was run by abolitionists and others sympathetic to the cause of the escapees.
Routes of the Underground Railroad
Ohio had many stops on the Underground Railroad. Canada was an ultimate destination since they had abolished slavery in 1793. The short distance across Lake Erie from Cleveland to Canada made the city a popular destination. Cleveland was codenamed Hope on the Underground Railroad.
One of the historic places was at what is called the Cozad-Bates House at the corner of Mayfield and East 115th Street, between Euclid and Little Italy. The address is 11508 Mayfield Road, Cleveland, OH 44106.
Cozad Bates House Historical marker
The house has been restored by Restore Cleveland Hope founded by Joan Southgate, Ginger Mook, Nishani Frazier, Binnie Eiger, Binne' Douglas, Nicki Gudbranson, and Fran Stewart in 2003. Their mission is "to celebrate Cleveland's historic anti-slavery past." The non-profit operates the Underground Railroad Interpretive Center in the Cozad-Bates House, the only surviving pre-Civil War building in University Circle.
Their website says, "While researchers are still looking for evidence that the Cozad-Bates house was used to hide runaways, the involvement of the Cozad family itself is not in question. Samuel Cozad, Jr., and two of his sons, Samuel III and Andrew, have all been documented as helping escapees at their various farms along Euclid Avenue, well before the Cozad-Bates House was built in 1853."
Restore Cleveland Hope offers free tours at the Cozad-Bates House on Saturdays from noon - 4PM. I was fortunate that Kathryn Puckett, Restore Cleveland Hope Board Chair, was there for my tour.
Kathryn Puckett explained who the Cozads were and told of the risks after the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850.
Justus and Ortentia Cozad
She also told the story of a Black barber named John Brown whose shop was near Public Square and he "heard things" and passed on the news of Slave Catchers arriving and so on.
She points out the locations on a huge map on the wall. Watch the video below.
Kathryn also told about two specific, famous cases:
Click on the links above to see photos and videos of these historic cases.
Ms. Puckett said that Ohio was the first state to pass Black Laws. These were a series of laws in 1807 to discourage African American migration to the state.
Ohio Underground Railroad display
Ohio's Black Laws
She pointed out other nearby locations such as in Hudson, Richfield and Ashtabula. St John's Church on Cleveland's near west side was an Underground Railroad station that still exists today.
St John's Church in Cleveland
Each May there is an event called Station Hope commemorating the Underground Railroad activities there. Watch the video below.
We were fortunate that on the day we visited, Linda Harris and David Cole visited from the Harriet Tubman Museum and Education Center in Cambridge, Maryland. In Maryland Linda Harris leads tours following Harriet Tubman's known routes when she led freedom seekers to safety.
Linda (voice) and David (banjo) performed songs relating to the Underground Railroad.
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