Hall of Free Discussion by Caroline Williams U.S.Park's “Network to Freedom” Three Recognized Sites on Hamilton Avenue Zebulon Strong House-Six Acres Bed and Breakfast Free Meeting House Farmers' College The Wilson House by Caroline Williams Cable and Coffin

Hall of Free Discussion by Caroline Williams

The Hall of Free Discussion was built at Ludlow’s Grove by James C. Ludlow in Northside near the Mill Creek outside of the city limits. It was scene of many debates about controversial topics such as abolition where speakers such as Rev. Lyman Beecher and William Cary were popular. Some students from the Lane Seminary used the Hall as a classroom to teach blacks, a very provocative move.

U.S.Park's “Network to Freedom” Three Recognized Sites on Hamilton Avenue

Wesleyan Cemetery (Northside) recognizes the burial site of abolitionist John Van Zandt as well as Wesleyan Cemetery's role in the funeral decoy of the Escape of the 28. The Escape of the 28 Corridor along Kirby, Glenview and Belmont Avenues (Northside, College Hill) recognizes the route of 28 Freedom Seekers who find refuge in College Hill on their way to Canada. The Charles Cheney site (Mt Healthy) recognizes Cheney as part of the anti-slavery Liberty Party and as someone who, with the help of free man of color Jim Dunlap, transported Freedom Seekers to the next station.

Zebulon Strong House-Six Acres Bed and Breakfast

Zebulon Strong built two houses, one brick at 5434 Hamilton Avenue and the one that is now Six Acres Bed & Breakfast at 5340 Hamilton Avenue. The brick house was surrounded by a large orchard and was used as a safe house. Six Acres, The wooden house, contains several hiding places that can be seen today. The escaping slaves would come up the ravine, from where the old railroad line was later located and hide in the piles of brush in the gulley under some old burlap sacks. The Strong children would play in this area, casually leaving behind food.

Free Meeting House

The Mt. Healthy Free Meeting House was built in 1825 as a community meeting house, initially for church congregations that lacked a dedicated building. Later, it served as a venue for civic and political meetings and was the site of anti-slavery and Liberty Party conventions in the early 1840s. Salmon P. Chase and James G. Birney and other leading abolitionists gave rousing speeches here.

Farmers' College

Farmers’ College was founded by Freeman Grant Cary, eldest son of William Cary. Freeman graduated from Miami University when Dr. Robert H. Bishop was the president. Due to differences over the abolition question, Dr. Bishop and Rev. Dr. John W. Scott left the faculty of Miami University and came to Farmers’ College at the invitation of Cary. Dr. Bishop, other faculty and some students regularly hid slaves in the bell tower.

The Wilson House by Caroline Williams

Samuel and Sally Wilson purchased a log cabin, land and outbuildings at 1502 Aster Place in 1849 from Freeman G. Cary. It has been owned by only three families in more than 160 years. The Wilsons were Presbyterians and strong abolitionists and their house was a station on the route to freedom. Three of the children were involved in the Underground Railroad as described in the Harriet Wilson's Letter to Dr Siebert. A fourth, Theo Wilson, was the Executor of Levi Coffin's Estate.

Cable and Coffin

Jonathan Cable (back far right and Levi Coffin (back with top hat) are here with an unidentified group, many holding books. While many abolitionists worked to end slavery, all did not work for racial equality and full citizen rights. Jonathan Cable, Laura Haviland and John Fairfield are examples of radical abolitionists who dedicated their lives to racial equality and worked to make Hamilton Avenue a road to freedom. (picture used with permission from Cable descendant Sylvia Rummel)


Watch this video produced for the College Hill Bicentennial Living History Event.

  • Watch the video produced for the College Hill Bicentennial Living History Event, September 21st, 2013 by Sam Hahn.  Learn about the rich history of this important route to freedom from Northside to Mt. Healthy.

Escape of the 28 and Other Publications

Escape of the 28

In 1853, twenty-eight freedom seekers walked away from Petersburg, Kentucky and crossed the Ohio River. Click here to read this and other related stories.


Map of Road to Freedom

  • There are many sites along Hamilton Avenue that are a piece of the history of the work to end slavery and the Underground Railroad. Click here to see map and the  short descriptions or go to Places on the menu bar above for more information on specific sites.


Rare photograph sold at recent auction

A rare photograph of Levi Coffin which we feature in our Escape of the 28 booklet was just sold at auction.  The story of this photo was published in the Fulton Sun on June 26, 2019.  This picture is believed to be taken by prominent nineteenth century African-American photographer, abolitionist and businessman, James Presley Ball here in
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“Must read” book

Fergus M. Bordewich’s 2005 book, Bound for Canaan: the War for the Soul of America is being mentioned now as one of the “must reads” on the Underground Railroad. I found an intreging review from the May 30th, 2005 New Yorker magazine: In the first years of the nineteenth century, most runaway slaves didn’t get
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Bizarre Foods and the Escape of the 28

The story of  the Escape of the 28 is featured in an episode of Bizarre Foods currently airing on the Travel Channel.  Check the Travel Channel website  for showings of “Underground Railroad” episode or watch it on You Tube.  Many local and regional historians and food experts appear in the show–the Wainscotts, Kristin Kitchen, Carl
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All Or Nothin’, film about the Escape of the 28, to screen at CAM March 18th

The film by Charles Campbell, All Or Nothin’, which is a dramatization of the Escape of the 28 from Boone County Ky, through College Hill, en route to Canada, was inspired by our research on the Escape of the 28.  Local actors from the Cincinnati Black Theater Company and others were cast in the film that was
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Wesleyan Cemetery and Kathy Dahl, historian, featured

Local historian and colleague in Hamilton Avenue Road to Freedom committee talks with Cincinnati People about Wesleyan Cemetery.

For the Forgotten African-American Dead

Jim Crow’s legacy has many faces. In this case, as the article For the Forgotten African-American Dead (Brian Palmer, 7 Jan 2017, NY Times) illustrates, it’s in the obliteration of Black history –  the history of heroic participation by black soldiers in the Civil War, the history of esteemed forebears – by the neglect of
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Ta Nahisi Coates at Xavier University

Ta Nahisi Coates at Xavier University

In the era of the Underground Railroad, enslaved people of color took charge of emancipating themselves, and white abolitionists figured out ways to assist. It took later historians like Larry Gara and Keith Griffler to deconstruct the myth that set white people up as the conductors and even originators of the northward movement of freedom
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Georgetown sold enslaved people to save their University–Now What?

Recently, documents have been found in the Georgetown University archives that show the 1838 transaction of 272 enslaved people from the Jesuits’ Maryland plantation to former Louisiana governor (later U.S. Congressman) Henry Johnson and his associate Jesse Beatty. While these families were promised that they would  stay together and to be able to practice their religion, all these promises
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Henry Ward Beecher

I had the pleasure of visiting Plymouth Church in Brooklyn New York.   Through their displays, signage and art, I learned about its most famous minister–Henry Ward Beecher. Plymouth Church is doing a great job of keeping its abolitionist history alive. Henry Ward Beecher was born on June 24, 1813 in Litchfield, Connecticut, the son of
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Ravine To Freedom, Cincinnati Parks program, Feb. 20th

Ravine To Freedom, Cincinnati Parks program, Feb. 20th

Two free events for Black History Month, one through Cincinnati City Parks and the other through Cincinnati Public Library. See details below.  Ravine to Freedom (Free Public Program) Cincinnati Parks’ LaBoiteaux Woods Nature Preserve,  5400 Lanius Lane,         Cincinnati, OH  45224 Saturday, February 20, 2016, 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.   All Aboard!  Step back in time
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