"Liberty Lines"

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"Freedom Stairs" leading to Reverend John Rankin's house on the hill in Ripley, Ohio.

Kentucky Routes

Twelve established crossing points existed along the Ohio River approximately fifty miles apart. Indubitably other crossing points existed as slaves crossed unassisted.  The known twelve points were where fugitives received assistance.  Three points received highest amount of traffic due to their high black populations.   Henderson and Daviess Counties crossed into Evansville, Indiana.  Louisville located in Jefferson County crossed into New Albany.  Mason County crossed into Ripley, Ohio.[1] 



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Ohio "Liberty Line" map.

Ohio Routes

Few communities offered complete refuge for fugitive slaves. Prioro to the Fugitive Slave Act many runaways settled in the numerous black settlments in Southern Ohio.  Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Xenia, Hillsboro, Ripley, and Springfield all  contained free blacks.  Located in north central Ohio, Oberlin became one of the major focal points for escaping slaves. Further south, a number of communities provided assistance including Columbus and Zanesville to the east, Mechanicsburg and Urbana to the west.

The main entry point into Ohio from the Ohio River was located in Ripley.  Situated across from Maysville, Kentucky operatives in Ripley assisted thousands of fugitives.

Slave continuing on to Michigan or Canada used the exit points of Toledo, Sandusky, Cleveland, Fairport Harbor, or Ashtablua Harbor.[2]

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Indiana "Liberty Line" routes.

Indiana Routes

New Albany, Evansville, and Madison were popular entry points into Indiana.  All three had a large African American populace.  Blacks in New Albany collaborated with slaves and free blacks in Louisville.  From New Albany, they would continue on towards Indianapolis, South Bend, and into Michigan.  The Evansville route followed the western border of Indiana and exited at South Bend as well.  The Madison route either led fugitives into Cincinnati or along the eastern border of Indiana into Kalamazoo, Michigan. 

[1]  Darrel Bingham, On Jordan's Banks, (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2006), 15 & 18.

[2] http://www.touring-ohio.com/history/ohio-underground-railroad.html

"Liberty Lines"