Ohio History Journal

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The Underground Railroad was not under the ground, nor

was it a railway; but there was a fitness in the name which caused

its general use to express one of the most remarkable phases of

the long struggle against slavery and the Slave Power. The

term was a popular mode of referring to the various ways in

which fugitive slaves from the South were assisted in escaping to

the North, and especially to Canada. It was often humorously

abbreviated to "U. G. R. R."

The boundary between the slave and the free states began

at the mouth of the Delaware river; ran up that stream to Mason

& Dixon's line - the boundary between Pennsylvania and Mary-

land; thence westward to the end of Maryland; then north, be-

tween Pennsylvania and what was then Virginia, but is now West

Virginia, to the Ohio river; down the Ohio to its mouth; up the

Mississippi to the northern boundary of Missouri; along the

northern and western sides of that state, and thence westward

along the line of 36 degrees 30 minutes north latitude--the

noted Missouri Compromise line.

Take a map of the United States, follow this line, and it

will be seen that the shortest route to British soil in Canada and,

hence to complete freedom, was across Ohio. Only a little more

than 200 miles, as the crow flies, lay between the slave and liberty

after he crossed the Ohio river. Hence this state was the fav-

orite route. Probably more fugitives found safety by the trails

of the Underground Railroad crossing Ohio than by those through

any other state. Along the Ohio which fronted slave territory

for about 375 miles, there were initial stations at some 22 or 23

river towns; and some of these, such as Cincinnati, had several

different routes leading toward the North Star and freedom.

This was necessary, for the slave-hunters were often close on the

trail of the fugitive, and it was necessary to have more than one