Underground Railroad at the Cozad Bates House

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.

Map of Underground Railroad

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.

Cozad-Bates House in Cleveland

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

Cozad Bates House Historical marker

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.

Finding Hope - Entrance sign at Cozad Bates House

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

Kathryn Puckett

Kathryn Puckett explained who the Cozads were and told of the risks after the Fugitive Slave Act in 1850.

Justus and Ortentia Cozad

Justus and Ortentia Cozad

Fugitive Slaves sign at Cozad Bates House

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.

Map of Cleveland

She points out the locations on a huge map on the wall. Watch the video below.

Kathryn also told about two specific, famous cases:

Sara Lucy Bagby, the last person returned to slavery

and the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858

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 Underground Railroad display

Map of Ohio Underground Railroad trails

Ohio's Black Laws

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

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.

David Cole and Linda Harris

David Cole and Linda Harris

The stories and songs about Harriet Tubman

Restore Cleveland Hope has done a great job restoring this historic location and offering free tours and other events for the community.

Lincoln Room display

Abraham Lincoln Room display

Negro for sale sign

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