Friday, October 19, 2001

Clermont's role in 'Railroad' highlighted

By Lew Moores
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        BATAVIA — Seven sites and two programs in Clermont County were among 39 sites and programs in the country named to the National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom.

        Three of the seven sites were residences that actually helped fugitive slaves flee the South before the Civil War brought emancipation. Another site is a church, six of whose members were involved in the Railroad, and three are cemeteries where “conductors” on the Underground Railroad are buried.

        “It's all of our story; it's our shared national heritage,” said James Hill, the Midwest regional coordinator for the park service's Network to Freedom. “Ohio was on the cutting edge in the Midwest (in forging the Underground Railroad).”

        The Clermont County sites were announced at a presentation Thursday at the county administration building.

        Ohio and New York led the country in having the most sites and programs named to the Network, with 10 each. But of the 10 sites in Ohio, nine were in Clermont County. The other is a program in Cleveland.

        Gary Knepp, a Batavia attorney and historical office director for the Clermont County Convention & Visitors Bureau, was given much of the credit for researching the history of the Railroad in the county. He, in turn, credited the help of local libraries and historical societies in documenting the history.

        “Clermont County is the only county in the country that has been involved to this extent,” said Mr. Knepp. “This was research-driven. It relied on sound documentation.”

        Oloye Adeyemon, director of the African American Heritage Project, helped with research.

        “This is America's story, and it is as much about freedom as it is about slavery,” said Mr. Adeyemon.

        The National Park Service created the Network to Freedom as a national system of sites, facilities and programs related to the history of the Underground Railroad in the country.

        The sites will be marked with the logo of the Network to Freedom.

        The sites identified Thursday are the homesites of Charles B. Huber and Dr. L.T. Pease in Williamsburg; the homesite of Dr. William E. Thompson in Bethel; Felicity Wesleyan Church; and the Lindale Baptist Church and Cemetery, Tate Township Cemetery and Williamsburg Cemetery.


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