Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue

Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858
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.

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 stops 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.

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.

In this video, Kathryn Puckett, Restore Cleveland Hope Board Chair, told the story of the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue of 1858.

Oberlin is about 30 miles SW of Cleveland. John Price was an escaped slave who was arrested in Oberlin, Ohio under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850.

The local community was full of abolitionists so the U.S. marshal took him to the first train stop out of Oberlin heading south, Wellington ,which is about 45 miles from Cleveland. A group of men, both white and black and many from Oberlin, swarmed the hotel to rescue runaway slave John Price.

The group returned Price to Oberlin where they hid him in the home of James Harris Fairchild, a future president of Oberlin College.

A short time later, they took Price to Canada. Thirty-seven men were indicted, but only two, Simeon M. Bushnell and Charles Henry Langston, were tried in federal court for interfering with the marshal in carrying out the Fugitive Slave Law.

After Langston's eloquent speech about slavery and discrimination, the judge gave them light sentences. The events and trial received national attention, and kept the issue of slavery at the forefront of debate.

The Cozad-Bates house has an informative display telling about this famous case.

Oberlin Wellington Slave Rescuers

Oberlin Wellington Slave Rescuers sign

Oberlin Wellington Slave Rescuers on trial in Cleveland

The rescuers were tried in Federal Court on Cleveland Public Square

Oberlin rescuers

Photo of the Oberlin rescuers


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