Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Blackwell lauds effort to save Lathrop House

Official discusses Underground Railroad

Ohio Secretary of State Ken Blackwell said the Underground Railroad, which many believe ran through Sylvania and Toledo leading African-American slaves to freedom, represented the best of the American spirit and heart.

Mr. Blackwell made his comments last night during a presentation sponsored by the Friends of the Lathrop House at Wildwood Metropark.

Mr. Blackwell said the Underground Railroad brought people of different races and faiths together to help slaves win their freedom.

"By definition, there was a gap between the ideals of America and what was practiced," Mr. Blackwell told an audience of about 100. "Abolitionists stood in the gap. They knew how things ought to be. They saw that America's practice was in conflict with the ideals."

The Underground Railroad was a secret network that helped escaped slaves from the southern United States make their way to free states and Canada.

The Lathrop House, which was in the 5300 block of Main Street in Sylvania, is believed to have been one of the stops along the route.

Mr. Blackwell said abolitionists and others involved with moving slaves along the railroad and its various depots, like the Lathrop House, showed courage and took great risk because what they were doing was illegal.

He said the house's preservation serves as a reminder of how people can overcome obstacles for an important cause.

"Preserving [the Lathrop House] shows the best in American character and what is best about America's future," Mr. Blackwell said.

After the speech, Mr. Blackwell said the story of the Underground Railroad should be an example for those who want to alter the course of history for the better.

"Changing the human condition is not a spectator sport," he said. "You have to engage, take charge, and stand up for what is right."

It was Mr. Blackwell's second time to address Friends of the Lathrop House. He addressed the group in 2002.

Friends of the Lathrop House is an organization that supported the restoration of the home.

The house, built in the mid-1800s and the former home of Lucian Lathrop in 1847, was part of a heated battle between its support organization and St. Joseph Catholic Church, which bought the property in 2001 with the intent of razing it for a school construction project.

The home was moved off its foundation last year to Harroun Community Park, where the Toledo Area Metroparks is overseeing its renovation.

Toledo Blade September 15, 2005

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Paving Over The Railroad: A Trip To The Lathrop House


The following is an adaptation of a previously unpublished article that a national publication bought and then shelved.

Left: The Reverend Lucien Lathrop, circa 1860

The Lathrop House is a nineteenth-century building in Sylvania, OH with purported connections to the Underground Railroad, and a considerable body of historical evidence links the site to the larger effort of transferring slaves from bondage to freedom. It was recently shorn from its foundation and moved to a new location in Sylvania’s Harroun Park.

The house was off-limits to the public during the controversy over its relocation, and my attempts to persuade decision-makers at St. Joseph’s Church (the building’s owner) to let me tour the building were not successful. While cordial, church contacts declined my requests to enter the building, tour the grounds, or to set one proverbial foot on the property. In the interest of historical research, I did, however, commit the act of trespassing, gathering photographs and impressions on two occasions.

There is substantial evidence that the site may indeed be worthy of its rumored status as a Railroad station. A wide variety of documents from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries make mention of the site and its oral history. In addition, one of the early owners, Reverend Lucian Lathrop, was a politically active, avowedly anti-slavery citizen; among other doings, he attended the Free Democratic Party convention in 1849, which adopted a platform stating “slavery to be a moral, social and political evil.”

The site’s physical proximity to the Ten Mile Creek ravine also lends credence to traditional claims; one can easily envision the ravine’s potential as a surreptitious conduit for human contraband. Finally, the hidden room in the basement and the tunnel leading to the ravine certainly suggest that the house served purposes that needed to be veiled.

Civil Disobedience

On April 22, 2004, I joined with a fellow subversive and photographer (actually, my fifteen-year old son, Ben) on a reconnaissance mission. My previous visit had been limited to longer-distance viewing, since it was in conjunction with a protest march. We pulled into the driveway and began our odyssey of misdeeds.

Knowing from press reports that church officials adopted a “zero tolerance” policy towards trespassers, we pulled into the driveway knowing that our time was limited. Ben began snapping photographs as I pointed out historically significant details. Nearby magnolia trees were in full bloom, and an agitated bumblebee kept me in constant surveillance.

Also watching our activities, it turns out, was the Sylvania Police Department, whose members approached us after we had taken a mere fifteen pictures. Two uniformed officers approached us as we came from behind the house.

“Hello there!” the sergeant called out. “The church requested that we ask you to leave the premises, as this is private property.”

We exchanged pleasantries; I sympathized with the officers for the awkward position that the church’s stance put them in.

“Did you know that the City of Sylvania will be moving the house to city property?” the second officer asked, motioning towards an asphalt lot. “We might turn it into a museum.”

As we returned to the car, I noticed a small group of people across the street at St. Joseph’s Parish. One of the onlookers wore a clerical collar; they did not return our proffered waves. Visions of Christ and the temple moneychangers ran through my head as we drove away from the site.

Bidding the officers adieu, we drove around to the other side of the ravine, which has been turned into a municipal green space known as Harroun Park. The ravine empties into Ten Mile Creek; most likely it is the remnants of a Black Swamp era waterway.

From Harroun Park, we hiked back through the woods until we reached the rear of the Lathrop House. Having been interrupted in our evidence-gathering mission, we finished taking photographs and examining the sight from the relative cover of the ravine.

A Parish of Privilege

The future status of the site is in doubt, with the aforementioned demolition deadline looming. St. Joseph’s refuses to consider any proposal that contains even a sliver of the building’s black walnut log foundation remaining on site, and preservationists prefer that the church leave the building intact.

As the largest and wealthiest parish in the Toledo Diocese, St. Joseph’s Church has the financial wherewithal to mount a costly legal battle. In addition, the newly appointed Bishop Blair demonstrated that he is unwilling to challenge the position of St. Joseph’s in this announcement on April 6, 2004:

I believe that this compromise solution, far from destroying the heritage of our African American brothers and sisters, can serve to foster that heritage for the sake of everyone, whatever our race.

The church’s original intent was to demolish the structure, as noted in the original demolition permit. Public outcry and eminent domain threats then forced the church to consider other alternatives, and the decision was finally made to relocate the structure.

A Path to Freedom?

Runaway slaves emerging from the ravine might have looked upon Reverend Lathrop’s house perched upon the hill. The hidden stairwells and tunnel were located in the rear of the house, but have since been razed.

The route to freedom most likely continued northeast from the house, following an unnamed creek that flows behind the house (we gave it the name “Lathrop” Creek).

Runaway slaves might have continued down the ravine along the waterway. This stream, which currently flows at a trickle, travels approximately ¼ mile until it empties into Ten Mile Creek.

Just past this juncture, Ten Mile Creek meets its northern branch, which forms the western boundary of Toledo Memorial Cemetery. The joined streams form the official beginning of the Ottawa River. With its access to downtown Toledo and Lake Erie, the Ottawa River likely served as an important corridor in the Underground Railroad.

Standing sentry at the rear of the site is a 100-foot canoe birch tree, perhaps the tallest birch I have ever seen. It dwarfs most of the other trees in the ravine, and it looks almost freakish with its albino countenance in the midst of darker hardwoods. Many of the other trees have begun the springtime frenzy of exploding into vivid hues of green, but this birch is still budding. Perhaps, like preservationists, it was holding its breath until mid-May 2004, when the house with which it has shared nearly two centuries may fall victim to the wrecking ball.

Left: Lathrop Family Reunion photograph (10-04-1896) at Lathrop House

The contributions of the Lathrop family to the abolition movement and to the Underground Railroad have a longstanding oral tradition, and numerous family documents attest to Reverend Lucian Lathrop’s role as a conductor. The destruction of the site of the historic Lathrop House was a tragic loss to the memory of this abolitionist, and an insult to any ex-slaves who sought shelter at the site on their journey to freedom.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Larissa Titus


Thursday, April 28, 2005

Anderson Harper



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Thursday, April 21, 2005

Legislative report on capital punishment

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Summerfield - Petersburg Branch Library

60 East Center St. (Map)
Petersburg, MI 49270-0567
Phone: (734) 279-1025 Fax: (734) 279-2328
Doris Sheldon, Community Librarian
This library
is part of the Monroe County library system.

Branch Hours:

Monday 11:00 - 7:00
Tuesday 9:00 - 7:00


11:00 - 7:00
Thursday Closed
Friday 9:00 - 5:00
Saturday 9:00 - 12:00

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Monroe county library system



Bedford Twp Library

The Bedford branch library is part of the Monroe County library system.

8575 Jackman Rd.
Temperance, MI 48182
Phone: (734) 847-6747
Fax: (734) 847-6591

Monday-Thursday: 9:00 - 9:00
Friday & Saturday: 9:00 - 5:00
Sunday (Sept - May): noon - 5:00


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Bentley Historical Library

on the University of Michigan campus
1150 Beal Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI 48109
(734) 764-3482

Monday-Friday, 9:00 a.m to 5:00 p.m. (EST)
Saturday, 9:00 a.m to 12:30 p.m., September 11, 2004 to April 23, 2005
Wednesday, 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m., March 9 to April 6, 2005


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Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Signal of Liberty

Antislavery newspaper from Ann Arbor Michigan. Published by N. Sullivan, edited by Theodore Foster and Guy Beckley and with contributions by the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society from 1841 to 1848. NorthWest Ohio activities may be included.

Available at the Bentley Historical Library.

Michigan Anti-Slavery Society

Active in the 1840's and 50's. NorthWest Ohio was included in the Society's activities. Harriet deGarmo Fuller, secretary, has left her papers regarding the society. The society broadcast its message via the Signal of Liberty newspaper.

Available at the Bentley Historical Library

Harriet deGarmo Fuller papers

Four volumes. Includes secretary's minutes and treasurer's records from the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, 1852-57

Available at the William L. Clements library

From the libraries website:
Background note:
During the 1830s through 1850s, antislavery activity in Michigan was organized roughly into two channels, each represented by organizations with similar names: the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society and the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society. The Michigan State Society was the predominant antislavery organization during the 1830s and 1840s, and under the leadership of James Gillespie Birney (q.v.) and others, its members urged active participation in the political sphere. Ultimately, supporters of the Society contributed to the formation of the abolitionist Liberty Party, which twice nominated Birney for the presidency (1840 and 1844), garnering over 60,000 votes in 1844, drawing on a substantial base of support in Michigan, New York, and northern Indiana. After the party was effectively dissolved following the rise of the Free Soil Party, however, the Michigan State Society declined in significance and had become moribund by the early 1850s.

At a convention held in Adrian in October, 1853, several veterans of the antislavery movement in Michigan, including Harriet deGarmo Fuller and her husband Edwin, organized a new society for the state. The Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, advocating the principles of William Lloyd Garrison, soon became a vigorous and strident instrument for reform. Committed to non-violent action, these abolitionists were -- in their own terms -- purists and radicals who disdained affiliation with any group, organization, or ideology that was tainted by association with slavery. They rejected the U.S. Constitution that accepted slavery and all laws that authorized the extension of the rights of slave holders into free states, while refusing rights to the enslaved. At their meetings, the members of the Society resolved that "between the radical abolitionist [sic] of the North and the Slave holders of the South, there is no middle ground; any more than between the worshippers of one living and true God, and those of idols...," (vol. 4: 13) and they insisted that Slavery could never be abolished "by a Governmental organization in which liberty and Slavery have a common ballot-box, a common judiciary, and a common executive" (4: 50-51), leaving as their only option for reform, collective action by the morally and spiritually committed. Nothing less than "the practical enforcement of the golden rule and the declaration of Independence, without regard to complexional differences among the people" could satisfy their political and social demands, or meet their goal of "claiming for those who are held in an iron bondage, only what the white inhabitants of this country assume to be theirs by a natural and heaven derived right" (4:13-14).

Members of the M.A.S.S. refused affiliation with churches that accepted slave holders into membership and many objected to any participation in the political process, arguing that it was hopelessly compromised by the slave power. Many members, like the Fullers, recognized a link between the oppression of the slave and the oppression of women in American society, and expanded their efforts to include the struggle for women's rights. Some members, like S. S. Foster (Abby Kelley Foster's husband) were willing, if necessary, to contemplate secession from the union. The disillusionment and suspicion that such moral purists felt rings throughout the minutes of their conventions, and, though always smaller than the Michigan State Society, their zeal and tight organization made the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society a vibrant and lively organization during the mid-1850s, when they were the only effective antislavery organization in the state.

Throughout this decade, Harriet deGarmo Fuller was a tireless worker for the abolition of slavery and the rights of women, standing with her husband, Edwin, and other members of her family at countless meetings and fairs. Edwin had been a member of the State Central Committee of the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society in October, 1852, but in October of the following year, he and Harriet joined avidly into the formation of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society. Harriet served as a vice president of the Society in 1853-54, and became its recording secretary in 1856. As members of the executive committee of the M.A.S.S., the Fullers traveled throughout southern Michigan and northern Indiana and Ohio, organizing antislavery meetings, fund raising events, and lectures.

Scope and contents:

The Fuller Papers consist of four bound volumes of records and eight miscellaneous receipts of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, kept between 1852 and 1856, when Harriet deGarmo Fuller was a member of the executive committee of the Society. Together, these books form an important and detailed picture of the formation and early activity of the Society, with a record of their official resolutions, activities and expenditures. The Fuller Papers provide a unique insight into the inner workings of one of the most important state-level Garrisonian antislavery societies.

Volume 1 (26 pp.) contains the resolutions of the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Convention at Adrian, held on October 16th, 1852 (recording the formation of the State Central Committee), along with minutes from the State Central Committee meetings through September 23, 1853. The volume appears to be entirely in the hand of recording secretary, Jacob Walton of Adrian. The Central Committee appears to have served as a springboard to membership in the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, as each of the members of the Central Committee assumed prominent roles in the M.A.S.S.

Volumes 2 and 3 are daybooks of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, 1853-1856. Volume 2 (115 pp., many blank) contains the general accounts of the Society during this period, while Vol. 3 (33 pp.) contains detailed, itemized records of donations, pledges, and expenditures at antislavery fairs held at Adrian, Fairfield, Battle Creek, Livonia and other cities, as well as pledges made to antislavery agents between these events. These volumes provide an intricate depiction of the fundraising activities of a state-level Garrisonian organization, its resources, contributors and participants.

Volume 4 is a ledger (77 pp.) including the Constitution and bye-laws of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, minutes of the monthly meetings of its executive committee, and the minutes and resolutions of its annual meetings from October 22, 1853-January 5, 1857. The ledger is a remarkable record of a radical antislavery group founded to act upon deeply-held moral beliefs, and includes records of the convention at which the Society was founded, as well as its first three annual meetings. These brief entries provides insight into the minds of self-professed social radicals and glimpse into the inner workings and debates of the Society.

The Recording Secretaries of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society included: Ann Hayball (1853 October-1854 October); Eliphalet Jones (1854 October-1855 October; Ann Hayball often acted as Secretary pro tem.); Jacob Walton (1855 October-1856 October); and Harriet deGarmo Fuller (1856 October-?). Each contributed to the records in this collection.

Related materials:

The James Gillespie Birney Papers include extensive documentation of the Michigan State Anti-Slavery Society and antislavery activity in Michigan in general, during the 1830s-50s.

The Bentley Library houses a manuscript "fragment" from the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, 1854, that contains a listing of members.

A microfilm has been prepared of similar material: Michigan Anti-Slavery Society. The Black books [microform] : constitution & bye laws, resolutions, treasurer-secretary reports and minutes of the Michigan Anti-Slavery Society, Oct. 16, 1852-1857. -- 1852-1857. ca. 100 items. Microfilm made from Historical collection of Blanche E. Coggan. Gift of Teatro International Incorporated. Microfilm of Mss. (handwritten). Lansing, Mich: Microfilming Corporation of America, 1960. 1 reel; 35 mm. (NYPG)

Separation report:

Several books and newspapers associated with the Fuller Papers have been transferred to the Book Division, including:
  • Thomas Clarkson. The history of the rise, progress and accomplishment of the abolition of the African slave-trade by the British Parliament (Philadelphia, 1808), vol. 2 only.
  • Frederick Douglass. Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, an American slave (Boston, 1849)
  • Benjamin Drew. A North-side view of slavery: the refugee, or, the narratives of fugitive slaves in Canada (Boston, 1856).
  • William C. Nell. The colored patriots of the American Revolution (Boston, 1855).
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe. A key to Uncle Tom's Cabin (Boston, 1853).
  • An unidentified book of antislavery songs
  • The Liberator, vol. 39, no. 53 (1864 December 30)
  • The Woman's Journal, vol. 1, no. 10 (1870 March 12)
  • The Boston Investigator, vol. 27, no. 28 (1857 November 4) and vol. 33, no. 44 (1864 March 9).

The Fuller Papers were donated to the Clements Library in January, 1996, through the generosity of Bob Travis, a descendant.

William L. Clements Library

The University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
Ann Arbor, Mich. 48109-1190

Hours: Monday-Friday, 9:00 am-11:45 am and 1:00 pm-4:45 pm. Closed on federal holidays and between Christmas and New Year

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Limit your search to the William Clements library by selecting advanced search in the yellow area. Then in the refine further area select William L Clements library from the location list.