The Underground Railroad
Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society
Simultaneously bordering Lake Erie and the slaveholding states of Kentucky and Virginia (West Virginia did not exist until
secession in 1861), Ohio held a prominent role in slave escapes. Towns such as Ashtabula, Ohio, located on the southern shore of the lake
and often populated by free blacks and Quakers, were hubs of antislavery activism and often the "last stop" on a runaway slave's
journey to Canada. Perhaps the most famous escape in American literature—that of Uncle Tom's Cabin protagonist Eliza
Harris—involved the free state of Ohio. After a perilous crossing of the Ohio River from Kentucky, Eliza travels across Ohio to arrive
in Ontario. In the above photo of Ashtabula Harbor, the wooden shack served as a hideout for slaves awaiting passage across the lake.