Washington Township Historical Society

Meeting Minutes September 26, 2006

The Washington Twp. Historical Society of Stark Co., Inc. held its monthly meeting on September 26, 2006, at the township fire hall. President Marleen Grant welcomed the 33 members and guests and led them with the pledge to the flag.

Dan MacIntyre advised the group that a book on the Stark County Trolley Line has been ordered in memory of Luther Dutrow.

Jane Dickinson reported that she and Carolyn Caskey have been copying the inscriptions on the tombstones in the Freeburg Cemetery. They are almost through with Freeburg and then will move onto another cemetery. This project will enable the group to get standards for the graves of all the veterans

Marleen showed clothing that was worn in the Wash. Twp. Ruritan’s Minstrel Shows and reminded the group that vintage clothing and accessories are always welcome to the groups archives.

Other recent acquisitions were: postcards of Maximo, a picture of Lewis Smith and a 1940 Beechwood School picture were given by Bob Rhome; 1931 and 1939 Beechwood and 1933 and 1934 Fairmount School pictures from Peg Long. Donna Becker donated a storybook, old health tips brochures and a 1931 4-H camp picture. Many historical newspaper clippings were given by Virgil and Wanda Stoudt.

Marleen advised the next meeting will be Oct. 24th and noted that there are 5 Tuesdays in October but the meeting is the 4th Tuesday not the last. She then turned the meeting over to Dan MacIntyre to introduce the speaker for the evening.

In introducing her Dan told the group that Harriet Clem, a resident of Freeburg, was the recently retired head librarian at the Butler Rodman Library in Alliance and would be speaking on the underground railroad. She started out by telling the group she would be speaking specficially about Ohio and focusing on Alliance.

She said that when she thinks about slavery and the underground railroad she thinks of 1- desperation, 2-danger and 3 – desire. She stated that in 1793, long before the Civil War, Congress passed the first fugitive slave law. In 1850 they passed the Fugitive Slave Law which also carried penalties to the people helping the slaves to escape.

Ripley, Oh. and other cities along the Ohio river were sites of the underground railroad. Of the 326 "stations" on the underground railroad, half of them were in Ohio. Of the 50,000 slaves that escaped, 80% of the traveled through Ohio. There were no printed maps of the railroad at that time however, there were different ways the slaves could find their way.

She showed an article from the Akron Beacon Journal which featured the Haines House in Alliance that told of its being used as a station on the underground railroad. The slaves were hidden in a small room the attic. A Marlboro Twp. farm home was also the site of a station.

As the slaves couldn’t read nor write they would use quilts as a "map". The quilt would have symbols on them that would tell the slaves of where to go. Quilts could be hung out to air everyday and would not arouse suspicion. She also told of a song that would give directions. "Follow the drinking gourd" meant follow the north star. If they sang the song it would give them directions.

At the conclusion of her talk others told of information they knew or heard of that pertained to Washington Twp. Barb Palmer stated that she always heard that the Reese house on Georgetown Rd. was a station. Jim McCallum told of his great, great grandparents who lived on a farm on St. Rt. 183 just south of the Fairmount Children’s

Home also helped slaves. He told of a picture of the grandparents with a young black girl and said he was told that a slave couple was at their house when she gave birth to a baby girl. As the couple were going to be put on a wagon underneath hay they were afraid that the baby would cry and alert people so they left the baby with the Harris’. Jim said that the girl grew up and ended living in Salem and when she was 92 her picture was in the Alliance Review. It was determined that this was sometime in the 1950’s.

The evening concluded with attendees looking at the material that Harriet had brought.

Coffee and cookies were enjoyed as was much visiting.