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Ripley, Ohio

Uncle Tom's Cabin and my family

mid 1800's

This is the story of my family and how they were involved with the Underground Railroad and the story that became Uncle Tom's Cabin. Hope you enjoy it!
Submitted by Barbara Kelly


Just for a little background on how I am related to the family...My 6th great grandfather is Reverend Samuel Doak. His granddaughter (my 2nd cousin 4 times removed) is Jean Gillfillen Lowry, Rev. John Rankin's wife. This is the story I have according to the Mitchell-Doak Group: History, Biography, Geneology, by Harry E. Mitchell, Capt. U.S.A. Ret'd. copyright, 1966.

"Jean Gillfillen Lowry , granddaughter of Rev. Sauel Doak, and Jean's husband, Rev. John Rankin, had thirteen children, nine of the sons (of whom six were ministers) and four daughters. All were enthusiastic anti-slavery advocates.

John Rankin and family had moved to Ripley, Ohio on the Ohio River. They occupied a residence in 1822. But in 1828, they moved to a brick residence on the bluff above Ripley. William McNish, a carpenter, had married Lucinda Lowry, sister of Jean. They took up residence in the first home of John Rankin. The two places became known as "stations" in the Underground Railway that had as its object the forwarding of run-away slaves on into Canada. An incident occurred that surely made history. One cold night during Christmas week, the Rankins were awakened by a negro woman and a negro man. They were escaped slaves. They were husband and wife. The man was numb from cold. He had fallen into the icy waters while crossing the Ohio in a boat. The woman, Eliza by name, left her husband in the care of the Rankins to be sent on to Canada while she crossed the river that same night after making arrangements to return later.<br>

In February, she did return with her youngest child strapped in a shawl and fastened to her back. The river was in a very dangerous condition for crossing. It was full of ice-floes. Eliza carried a board with a rope attached by which to cross from one floe to another. She went to the Rankin home and from there on into Canada to join her husband. She promised to return in June. She did return and, disguised as a man, crossed the Ohio River and arrived at the home of her former owner. She hid in the bushes until her oldest daughter discovered and aided her. Eliza remained hidden until the following Sunday. While her former owner and his wife were away on a visit at a friend's house, Eliza assembled her remaining five children. She had them carry blankets and various household articles. They started for the river. She was supposed to make the 11 mile walk to a point on the river at two o'clock Monday morning. Eliza had been told not to bring anything but the children. But she so overloaded them with the packages that the smaller ones gave out and she was obliged to carry one child a little way with a bundle and then go back after another child and another bundle until she was so delayed that the river was not reached until six o'clock in the morning. The boat that was to carry her had gone. It was a very foggy morning. However by walking about a mile and a quarter in the shallow water on the Kentucky side of the river, she threw off the scent of the bloodhounds seeking her. She reached an anti-slavery man's home where she and her children remained all day.

"That morning" said Reverend Rankin, "when we expected to have Eliza and her children safe in Ohio, after the fog lifted, we saw 31 men on horseback with dogs and guns, across the river hunting Eliza and her children, seeking the reward of $1,300. Communication was opened with Eliza during the day, and she was told what to do." Reverend Rankin, disguised as a woman, with a party of young men, made a feint on the Kentucky side of the river a few miles upstream and drew the hunters who supposed that they had track of Eliza. The hunters were evaded for at the same time, a trusted boatman had ferried Eliza and her children across the river. The escapees went to Reverend Rankin's home where they remained in hiding for two weeks being finally taken to the "Quaker Settlement" in a load of flour and bran. Eliza and children escaped to Canada and lived there with her husband and six children.

After President Lincoln had issued his proclamation of Emancipation, the "Underground Railway" ceased to exist, after fifty years of operation. Rev. Rankin turned his activities to the Cause of Temperance. One of Rev. Rankin's friends and ardent sympathizers in the Abolition Cause was the family of Lyman Beecher of Cincinnati. His daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, hearing the Eliza story, visited the Rev. Rankin family. She remained in Ripley for three months collecting data for a story. The story was "Uncle Tom's Cabin". The Rankin house has been restored and administered by the Ohio Historical Society. (From "The House on Liberty Hill" and also from an account published in the Boston Transcript, Boston, Mass. in 1895, by Rev. S. G. W. Rankin, son of Rev. John Rankin and wife, Jean Lowry Rankin.)

Key to the City is not responsible for the accuracy of the information submitted. It is the responsibility of the submitter to be sure that the information is correct and in good taste. Key to the City reserves the right to refuse publication of any item it considers improper.

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This page was created 16 July 2004 & was updated on 29 June 2012 at 5:36 pm

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