Monday, May 17, 2010

John Parker

Into Ripley Ohio John Parker came
Not on a white horse
But in a john boat

His namesake slicing through
That salvation water
To bring souls to the
Almost free side of the river.

Almost free.
100 souls
300 souls
500 and more
almost free souls

500 miles from freedom
John Parker
In his john boat
Opened wide
That freedom gate

Although this is a bit of a romantic view, John Parker was a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad & really did rescue hundreds of slaves by ferrying them across the Ohio River. The fugitive slave act meant that, while Ohio was a "free" state the runaway slaves couldn't stay there. Canada was their only hope for freedom. 

John Parker was more than just a freer of people - he was a former slave who had purchased his own freedom. He owned a foundry and held three patents. Five of his children graduated from college (his daughter Hortense was the first African American graduate of Mount Holyoke College).

Parker wasn't the only conductor in Ripley - there were four (I think our docent said) on his street alone! And that didn't include Reverend Rankin who lived on "Liberty Hill" at the top of the 100 steps to freedom. Here is what he said about his work: "My house has been the door of freedom to many human beings, but while there was a hazard of life and property, there was much happiness in giving safety to the trembling fugitives. They were all children of God by creation and some of them I believe were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb."


  1. Wonderful and evocative photographs. The peace and serenity of the countryside must have been a serious counterpoint to the tension involved in being part of the underground railway.

  2. There were so many amazing, courageous people in that era. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Life was very different back then. I hope I would have had the same courage.

  4. I like that phrase, the door of freedom. Glad to know a little bit more about that history through your very complete tour! Loved the pictures. Aren't steps that disappear out of sight intriguing?

  5. Wonderful bit of Ohio history, Bug. I must visit this place!

  6. Dear The Bug,
    Yes, how wonderful! Freedom and the courage of convictions.

    Ann T.

  7. I loved the poem, Dana. I loved how huge truths were contained in such simple words.

    It's always tempting to try and categorize people in groups, isn't it? "There are two types of people; cat people and dog people, never the two shall meet." that sort of thing. People aren't that simplistic, but every now and then, we remember something, or learn something that proves to us that sometimes people are simply good. Simply doing the right thing. Simply deciding to right a wrong.

    I don't know if I would have been brave enough to do that simple thing, had I lived then, but I have such gratitude to those who were, and did.

    I guess we all hope that if tested, we would prove to be brave. What brave souls they were.

  8. This is a wonderful poem Bug. Thank you so much for sharing telling this story. Its amazing what everyday people can do.

  9. We take our freedom so much for granted, don't we? Thank goodness for people like John Parker.

  10. A delightful mix of fine poetry and fascinating information.

  11. Those people were so brave, it blows my mind. How did they have the nerve to do it?

    Love the daily puppy!

  12. Pictures and prose to go along with them. Thanks for the informative tour.

  13. Thanks for the history lesson, Bug. Man's inhumanity toward his fellow man only ends when a few brave sould say, "Enough!"

  14. Great pictures and good story. I am so glad about every brave person. What would have happened if he got caught, do you know?

  15. I am a sucker (read: geek) for educational day trips. Loved this!

  16. Wonderful photos and words, Bug.

    I lived in Maryland, not too far from where Harriet Tubman helped many slaves escape to freedom. We're lucky to know as much as we do about their contributions. Their stories were often not recorded.

  17. Outstanding history lesson. Thanks for sharing it.



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