Tuesday, August 5, 2003

DeWine to see slaves' trail

Senator visiting where abolitionists plotted

By Marie McCain
The Cincinnati Enquirer

NEW RICHMOND - Clermont County hopes that its own major historical role in the Underground Railroad will boost tourism. And today, the area will get a visit from a well-known tourist and his family: U.S. Sen. Mike DeWine.

The Ohio Republican will make a noontime stop in New Richmond as part of his annual family bus trip to various parts of the state.

Clermont County leaders credit DeWine, as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, for his efforts to help preserve sites along the Underground Railroad.

He sponsored the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center Act, which authorized $16 million over four years to assist in the development of the museum in Cincinnati. It is being built along the downtown riverfront and is scheduled to open in summer 2004.

The bill also provides $2.5 million for Underground Railroad sites nationwide.

DeWine, along with members of his family, is expected to tour New Richmond's riverfront along Front and Main streets, as well as Cranston Memorial Presbyterian Church, both prominent stops along the Underground Railroad.

The church was the site of numerous anti-slavery meetings and also for the organizing meeting of the New Richmond Anti-Slavery Society in 1836.

It hosted numerous anti-slavery speakers, including James G. Birney, publisher of The Philanthropist, an abolitionist newspaper based in New Richmond; Calvin Stowe, George Beecher, and John and Alexander T. Rankin.

And, in the 19th century, the New Richmond waterfront was an active port in the transportation of agricultural goods and the place where many escaped slaves passed through in their quests for freedom.

June Creager, executive director of the Clermont County Tourism and Visitors Bureau, said the bureau has also been named a "freedom station," a distinction that previously had been given only to museums, libraries and universities, where extensive research is done into the Underground Railroad.

"Clermont County has more Underground Railroad sites in the National Park Service's Network to Freedom program than anywhere else," she said.

Hoping to attract more visitors to Clermont County, officials revamped, renamed and relaunched the county's tourism Web site. The site, www.visitclermontohio.com, went up Aug. 1. It prominently features the county's history as part of the Underground Railroad.

Clermont has about 20 sites. It includes both Underground Railroad stops, where slaves were hidden or helped, and also places where abolitionists me.

"This is an honor and a privilege and it's recognition for all the research we've done - in the last four years - and will continue to do," Creager said.

DeWine agreed.

"We should honor and preserve Ohio's significant role in the history of the Underground Railroad," he said. "The very spot where slaves were helped to freedom serves as a reminder of the goodness in humans."


E-mail mmccain@enquirer.com

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