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Graves may yield data on Underground Railroad stop

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Carole
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« on: February 29, 2008, 02:44:49 am »

Graves may yield data on Underground Railroad stop
Now-forested sites examined in Southeast Ohio for clues to two long-lost communities

By Bob Downing
Beacon Journal



Headstones in Payne Cemetery near New Straitsville are the only physical evidence of Paynes Crossing, likely linked to the Underground Railroad


Published on Monday, Feb 25, 2008

NEW STRAITSVILLE: Twenty-nine weathered gravestones top a ridge along state Route 595 north of Athens in Southeast Ohio.

A stone marker identifies the site as the Payne Cemetery.

It is a remnant of long-forgotten Paynes Crossing, a predominantly African-American community that existed from the 1820s to the 1860s.

The community was likely tied to the Underground Railroad, though little is known about it today.

Ann Cramer has long been intrigued by Paynes Crossing. As an archaeologist with the Wayne National Forest, she's involved with a project to learn more about that community and another Underground Railroad stop, Pokepatch, in Lawrence and Gallia counties.

Both communities were on what are now heavily wooded tracts in the sprawling national forest in southern Ohio and were similar to settlements that have been uncovered in national forests in southern Indiana and Illinois.

''We believe that people in both of these areas came here to work the Underground Railroad because once the
Civil War was over, a lot of them moved away. They had accomplished their mission,'' she said.

Funded since 1999 by more than $172,000 in federal grants, Cramer and other researchers from Ohio University's Department of African American Studies and the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill have been combing through census data; land records; birth, death and marriage certificates; cemetery inscriptions and genealogical records to piece together a history of the sites.

Today the project has expanded to include oral histories of the families who once lived in and around the two communities. More than 70 interviews have been videotaped many of them at family reunions in southern Ohio and surrounding states.

Thousands of individual records have been recorded on the Paynes Crossing Web site http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/wayne/history/history_page.html which is maintained by the Forest Service.

Connect with past

Ada Woodson Adams, 68, is the director of the Multicultural Genealogical Center and a great-great-great-great-granddaughter of President Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings.

The research is ''very important . . . and helps connects our families with the past,'' she said.

She describes the work as ''putting together a big jigsaw puzzle piece by piece.''

Between 1830 and 1865, an estimated 70,000 slaves escaped from the South and headed north often through Ohio toward Canada. They were pursued by bounty hunters, and cash rewards were posted for their capture. They were dependent on the good will of individuals and groups along the route for food, shelter and safety.

Ohio was home to a number of small, scattered African-American communities, including Pee Pee in Pike and Ross counties, Berlin Crossroads in Jackson County, Stillguest in Ross County, Cherry Fork in Adams County, Huston Hollow in Scioto County, Haiti in Belmont County, Rainbow Ridge in Washington County, Burlington Crossroads in Lawrence County, Lambert Lands in Gallia County and Gist in Highland County.

Most of these communities, which probably assisted runaway slaves, have been long forgotten.

But thanks to the work of Cramer and other researchers, that fate is not befalling Paynes Crossing.


Setting up a stop

The research has shown that the earliest families to settle in Paynes Crossing came from Virginia in the 1820s and 1830s. Some of the settlers came from Belmont County in eastern Ohio, where they had been involved in the Underground Railroad.

It is believed that they came to Paynes Crossing specifically to set up a stop on the Underground Railroad because ''there appears to be no clear economic reason for the settlement,'' the Forest Service says.

Cramer said records show that the families had the money to purchase tracts of land at Paynes Crossing, although the source of their funds remains a mystery.

The settlers worked as farmers, coal miners and coopers, or barrel-makers.

Most were reported to have been very light-skinned and they might have been the children of plantation owners.

Only one family the Betts family has been traced back to a specific location: a plantation in Sussex County, Va., owned by Drewry Betts, from whom they took their name. Drewry Betts freed his slaves after the death of his wife in 1821.

Cramer said Paynes Crossing and Pokepatch apparently were not towns per se, but rather were loose-knit systems of farmsteads.

It's not clear how big of an area Paynes Crossing covered, she said, and it never showed up on old maps.

Few records have been found to provide any evidence of schools or churches that served the Paynes Crossing residents.

Cramer said the Forest Service would like to conduct an archaeological excavation of Paynes Crossing, but it has pinpointed few sites from the community and much of the topography has been changed by later coal mining.


Only physical evidence

Today that cemetery on the ridge south of New Straitsville is the only physical evidence of the community's existence.

In fact, the cemetery, which was used for burials between 1852 and 1927, is what first attracted Cramer's attention in the early 1990s because it includes markers for five or six Civil War veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops.

She found that surprising because few African-Americans now live in the area and there was little historical evidence of a large black community there.

 

In 1993, Cramer mentioned the cemetery in a program she gave. The Lancaster Genealogical Society heard about it and the 14 club members all white agreed to adopt the cemetery and research its past.

In 1999, the Wayne National Forest received a five-year research grant from the Forest Service's Civil Rights Office and partnered with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a national coalition of predominantly black schools.


Stop documented

African-American students from Lincoln University in Missouri and Tennessee State University began spending summers in nearby Nelsonville to dig into the history of Paynes Crossing.

Cramer, who extended her research to Pokepatch in 1997, said though it's highly likely Paynes Crossing was an Underground Railroad stop, that may be difficult to conclusively prove. But that's not the case with Pokepatch.

That community was documented as an Underground Railroad stop by Ohio State University professor Wilbur Siebert who in the 1890s studied such sites.

Like Paynes Crossing, Pokepatch was settled in the 1820s by a racially diverse group of people, including whites, free blacks, mulattos and Indians.

The only signs of the community today are the Union Baptist Church and a small cemetery on private land.

Union Baptist was organized in 1819. The first two structures were log churches, built in 1819 and 1879. The present church was built in 1919 and belongs to the Providence Missionary Baptist Association, formerly called the Providence Anti-Slavery Missionary Baptist Association.

Deanda Johnson, a doctoral student, is coordinating the work being done at Ohio University, which got involved with the National Forest research in 2004.

More records are available on Pokepatch than on Paynes Crossing, she said.

Pokepatch residents who acted as conductors on the Underground Railroad included the Stewart, Coker, Chavis, Holly, James, Ellison, Hutchinson, Dicher and Johnson families.

After the Civil War, most Pokepatch residents moved out of the area, some to Blackfork, a nearby African-American company town founded by the Washington Iron Furnace Co.

''It's not easy research,'' Johnson said. ''It's a project that's not going to be done in my lifetime.''

Studying the forgotten Ohio communities has been fascinating, Cramer said.

The research ''has mushroomed out of control . . . and grown into a long-term project,'' she said. ''It is a project that has no ending. The work will continue indefinitely into the future. . . . It is an important project about our past.''

NOTE:

Ohio has more stops, or stations, on the Underground Railroad than any other state.

More than 800 sites have been documented, including 100 in Summit, Stark, Portage, Wayne, Ashland and Carroll counties, according to the Ohio Underground Railroad Association (http://www.ohioundergroundrailroad.org)

Akron, Alliance, Hudson, Kent, Ravenna, Randolph Township, Medina, Clinton, Hinckley Township, Massillon, Wooster and Magnolia were among the communities that sheltered runaway slaves.

The national Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati opened in 2004 to tell the story of escaped slaves. The $110 million facility's address in 50 E. Freedom St., Cincinnati, Oh 45202; the phone number is 513-333-7739 and the Web Site is http://www.freedomcenter.org

The Ohio Historical Society also offers online information on the Underground Railroad at http://www.ohiohistory.org/undergroundrr



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.
 

NEW STRAITSVILLE: Twenty-nine weathered gravestones top a ridge along state Route 595 north of Athens in Southeast Ohio.

A stone marker identifies the site as the Payne Cemetery.

It is a remnant of long-forgotten Paynes Crossing, a predominantly African-American community that existed from the 1820s to the 1860s.

The community was likely tied to the Underground Railroad, though little is known about it today.

Ann Cramer has long been intrigued by Paynes Crossing. As an archaeologist with the Wayne National Forest, she's involved with a project to learn more about that community and another Underground Railroad stop, Pokepatch, in Lawrence and Gallia counties.

Both communities were on what are now heavily wooded tracts in the sprawling national forest in southern Ohio and were similar to settlements that have been uncovered in national forests in southern Indiana and Illinois.

''We believe that people in both of these areas came here to work the Underground Railroad because once the
Civil War was over, a lot of them moved away. They had accomplished their mission,'' she said.

Funded since 1999 by more than $172,000 in federal grants, Cramer and other researchers from Ohio University's Department of African American Studies and the Multicultural Genealogical Center in Chesterhill have been combing through census data; land records; birth, death and marriage certificates; cemetery inscriptions and genealogical records to piece together a history of the sites.

Today the project has expanded to include oral histories of the families who once lived in and around the two communities. More than 70 interviews have been videotaped many of them at family reunions in southern Ohio and surrounding states.

Thousands of individual records have been recorded on the Paynes Crossing Web site http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/wayne/history/history_page.html which is maintained by the Forest Service.

Connect with past

Ada Woodson Adams, 68, is the director of the Multicultural Genealogical Center and a great-great-great-great-granddaughter of President Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings.

The research is ''very important . . . and helps connects our families with the past,'' she said.

She describes the work as ''putting together a big jigsaw puzzle piece by piece.''

Between 1830 and 1865, an estimated 70,000 slaves escaped from the South and headed north often through Ohio toward Canada. They were pursued by bounty hunters, and cash rewards were posted for their capture. They were dependent on the good will of individuals and groups along the route for food, shelter and safety..

http://www.ohio.com/news/top_stories/15931572.html
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Carole
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« Reply #1 on: February 29, 2008, 02:45:39 am »

Ohio was home to a number of small, scattered African-American communities, including Pee Pee in Pike and Ross counties, Berlin Crossroads in Jackson County, Stillguest in Ross County, Cherry Fork in Adams County, Huston Hollow in Scioto County, Haiti in Belmont County, Rainbow Ridge in Washington County, Burlington Crossroads in Lawrence County, Lambert Lands in Gallia County and Gist in Highland County.

Most of these communities, which probably assisted runaway slaves, have been long forgotten.

But thanks to the work of Cramer and other researchers, that fate is not befalling Paynes Crossing.


Setting up a stop

The research has shown that the earliest families to settle in Paynes Crossing came from Virginia in the 1820s and 1830s. Some of the settlers came from Belmont County in eastern Ohio, where they had been involved in the Underground Railroad.

It is believed that they came to Paynes Crossing specifically to set up a stop on the Underground Railroad because ''there appears to be no clear economic reason for the settlement,'' the Forest Service says.

Cramer said records show that the families had the money to purchase tracts of land at Paynes Crossing, although the source of their funds remains a mystery.

The settlers worked as farmers, coal miners and coopers, or barrel-makers.

Most were reported to have been very light-skinned and they might have been the children of plantation owners.

Only one family the Betts family has been traced back to a specific location: a plantation in Sussex County, Va., owned by Drewry Betts, from whom they took their name. Drewry Betts freed his slaves after the death of his wife in 1821.

Cramer said Paynes Crossing and Pokepatch apparently were not towns per se, but rather were loose-knit systems of farmsteads.

It's not clear how big of an area Paynes Crossing covered, she said, and it never showed up on old maps.

Few records have been found to provide any evidence of schools or churches that served the Paynes Crossing residents.

Cramer said the Forest Service would like to conduct an archaeological excavation of Paynes Crossing, but it has pinpointed few sites from the community and much of the topography has been changed by later coal mining.


Only physical evidence

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Carole
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Posts: 2232



« Reply #2 on: February 29, 2008, 02:46:27 am »

Today that cemetery on the ridge south of New Straitsville is the only physical evidence of the community's existence.

In fact, the cemetery, which was used for burials between 1852 and 1927, is what first attracted Cramer's attention in the early 1990s because it includes markers for five or six Civil War veterans of the U.S. Colored Troops.

She found that surprising because few African-Americans now live in the area and there was little historical evidence of a large black community there.

 

In 1993, Cramer mentioned the cemetery in a program she gave. The Lancaster Genealogical Society heard about it and the 14 club members all white agreed to adopt the cemetery and research its past.

In 1999, the Wayne National Forest received a five-year research grant from the Forest Service's Civil Rights Office and partnered with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, a national coalition of predominantly black schools.


Stop documented

African-American students from Lincoln University in Missouri and Tennessee State University began spending summers in nearby Nelsonville to dig into the history of Paynes Crossing.

Cramer, who extended her research to Pokepatch in 1997, said though it's highly likely Paynes Crossing was an Underground Railroad stop, that may be difficult to conclusively prove. But that's not the case with Pokepatch.

That community was documented as an Underground Railroad stop by Ohio State University professor Wilbur Siebert who in the 1890s studied such sites.

Like Paynes Crossing, Pokepatch was settled in the 1820s by a racially diverse group of people, including whites, free blacks, mulattos and Indians.

The only signs of the community today are the Union Baptist Church and a small cemetery on private land.

Union Baptist was organized in 1819. The first two structures were log churches, built in 1819 and 1879. The present church was built in 1919 and belongs to the Providence Missionary Baptist Association, formerly called the Providence Anti-Slavery Missionary Baptist Association.

Deanda Johnson, a doctoral student, is coordinating the work being done at Ohio University, which got involved with the National Forest research in 2004.

More records are available on Pokepatch than on Paynes Crossing, she said.

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Carole
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Posts: 2232



« Reply #3 on: February 29, 2008, 02:47:11 am »

Pokepatch residents who acted as conductors on the Underground Railroad included the Stewart, Coker, Chavis, Holly, James, Ellison, Hutchinson, Dicher and Johnson families.

After the Civil War, most Pokepatch residents moved out of the area, some to Blackfork, a nearby African-American company town founded by the Washington Iron Furnace Co.

''It's not easy research,'' Johnson said. ''It's a project that's not going to be done in my lifetime.''

Studying the forgotten Ohio communities has been fascinating, Cramer said.

The research ''has mushroomed out of control . . . and grown into a long-term project,'' she said. ''It is a project that has no ending. The work will continue indefinitely into the future. . . . It is an important project about our past.''

NOTE:

Ohio has more stops, or stations, on the Underground Railroad than any other state.

More than 800 sites have been documented, including 100 in Summit, Stark, Portage, Wayne, Ashland and Carroll counties, according to the Ohio Underground Railroad Association (http://www.ohioundergroundrailroad.org)

Akron, Alliance, Hudson, Kent, Ravenna, Randolph Township, Medina, Clinton, Hinckley Township, Massillon, Wooster and Magnolia were among the communities that sheltered runaway slaves.

The national Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati opened in 2004 to tell the story of escaped slaves. The $110 million facility's address in 50 E. Freedom St., Cincinnati, Oh 45202; the phone number is 513-333-7739 and the Web Site is http://www.freedomcenter.org

The Ohio Historical Society also offers online information on the Underground Railroad at http://www.ohiohistory.org/undergroundrr




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Bob Downing can be reached at 330-996-3745 or bdowning@thebeaconjournal.com.
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