Ohio History Journal

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One of the most noted stations of the old "Underground

Railway" in its time, was at "Uncle" John Finney's, in Spring-

field township, Richland county, four miles west of Mansfield,

(Ohio,) about a half mile north of the Mansfield-Crestline trolley

line. From the windows of the swiftly moving car, passengers

can see the place where many runaway slaves found rest and

succor while enroute to Canada in the ante-bellum days. But

few persons, however, who pass by that historic spot now, know

of the scenes that were enacted there fifty years ago.

It was during the administration of Martin Van Buren that

the doctrine of the abolition of slavery began to be propagated as

a political issue. At first there was a distinction drawn between

those who were opposed to the extension of slavery and those

who were in favor of its abolition; but as revolutions seldom go

backward, the latter in time absorbed the former.

John Finney, a Pennsylvanian, located in Springfield town-

ship in 1820. He was a large man, a man of strong convictions,

and organized the first temperance society in his township. He

was a member of the United Presbyterian church and endeavored

to live consistent with his profession. He was opposed to secret

societies and to slavery. He was one of the leading Abolitionists

in the county, and his place was for years the most noted station

on the "Underground Railway" in North-Central Ohio.

The fugitive slave law not only required people to assist

in returning slaves to their masters, but made it a penal offence

to refuse to do so, which made the law so unpopular in the

North that many people prided themselves more upon its breach

than upon its observance. Politics in those days was a matter

of sentiment and of principle. Politics to-day is largely a matter

of finance and of commerce.

During the many years that "Uncle" John Finney assisted