Passed by Greenupsburg, KY, a handsome little village on a bottom of the Ohio River. The beautiful new steamboat Virginia came sailing majestically down the Ohio River. My brother, [Charles Fenelon Campbell] took passage on her for Ripley, Ohio. We left the Ohio River, crossed Little Sandy at a forge. Crossed the Tiger [Tygert] Mountains, went up Tiger [Tygert] Creek and its branch White Oak. 18 miles to Pettits.*
Charles Fenelon Campbell is never mentioned as part of the 55 travelers in this caravan. William Campbell has for some reason chosen to not mention his own brother when describing the group of people accompanying him. His older brother had just celebrated his 26th birthday a week before while they waited for their wagons back in Charleston. Charles is headed to Ripley, Ohio, where many abolitionist families have settled.
Ripley, Ohio was a popular stop the Underground Railroad, known for anti-slavery stance, it was a destination for freedom for thousands of African-Americans. Just seven years before Charles arrival, Presbyterian minister Reverend John Rankin, had settled there. His writings have been said to influence Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Another one of its famous residents was perhaps a cousin, Alexander Campbell (1779-1857) a member of the Ohio House of Representatives (1807-09, 1819, 1832-33);speaker of the Ohio State House of Representatives (1808-09); U.S. Senator from Ohio, (1809-13); member of the Ohio state senate (1822-24); and a candidate for Governor of Ohio in 1826.
This would have been Archer ‘s opportunity at “freedom”. He and those twenty-four other enslaved in this caravan from Lexington (Virginia) must have laid awake “considerin” the possibilities that night. The caravan would move on quickly… and come upon a horrible scene on September 12th…
One of the most celebrated stops in Underground Railroad history, Ripley in Brown County is synonymous with the exploits of the Rankin family, whose house still sits atop that high hill overlooking the Ohio River, and whose 30-foot, candle topped pole outside their home was a beacon of liberty for slaves in northern Kentucky. The Underground Railroad in Ripley involved many more individuals than the Rankins. Hundreds of locals participated and even before Rankin family patriarch, Rev. John Rankin, moved to Ripley in 1822, it is believed that more than 1,000 fugitive slaves had been aided there.The Underground Railroad in the Ripley area had three interlocking components. The first were Presbyterian ministers, most of whom were Southerners, who had begun around the year 1800 to come north to escape the horrific climate of slavery. Later, united through an administrative body known as the Chillicothe Presbytery, they formed an established web of relationships that linked Ripley to Red Oak, Sardinia, Russellville, and other towns in southern Ohio. [http://undergroundrailroadconductor.com/Ripley.htm]
The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center tells the story in nearby Cincinnati. See freedomcenter.org . You can also visit Ripley, Ohio and tour several historic homes, see the website http://undergroundrailroadconductor.com/Ripley.htm for more information.
*This is the journal of William Campbell (1805-1849) leading four families from Lexington, in Rockbridge County, Virginia to St. Charles County Missouri, written in 1829. There are 55 people in this caravan, 25 of which are enslaved. Among the enslaved is Archer born in 1806. In 1863, Archer would make a bid for freedom, and using the Underground Railroad, reach the home of William Greenleaf Eliot, and his wife Abigail Adams Eliot. This journal is located in the collections of the Leyburn Library, Special Collections and Archives, located at the Washington and Lee University, in Lexington, Virginia, and for which we are deeply indebted to Lisa McCown. Editor and author is Dorris Keeven-Franke.
The next entry in William Campbell’s journal is September 12th. https://archeralexander.wordpress.com/2020/09/12/12-september-1829/