Thursday, February 27, 2014

John Rankin, born Febuary 5, 1793

“It must be admitted that the Africans and the rest of mankind have all sprung from one common father; and consequently all, originally, were alike free.
The right to freedom belongs to the Africans.

"It seems to me astonishing that any government, much more that of the United States, should sanction such a source of monstrous crime as slavery evidently is! ...My soul abhors the crime." 

~ John Rankin
John Rankin was born in Jefferson County, Tennessee , the fourth son of Richard and Jane Steele Rankin. Following the birth of their first son, Richard and Jane Rankin had moved to eastern Tennessee from Virginia, where Richard purchased “one thousand acres of land [that] cost him but little”. Upon the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, families took advantage of the inexpensive land in Tennessee and migrated from the East coast, where land was costly and limited. 

Richard and Jane Rankin would raise eleven sons and one daughter.  Religion and reading played key roles in their childhoods. John’s parents were literate, which was uncommon for migrants who moved to eastern Tennessee.  They impressed upon their children the importance of literacy. They were staunch Presbyterians; Jane “earnestly opposed the use of whiskey and tobacco, and zealously spoke against Free Masonry”. She also strongly opposed dance and frolicking in any form. The most important and lasting impression Jane made on John was her unyielding opposition to slavery. 
My mother was a woman of strong mental capacity, well able to give a reason for the hope that was within her, a woman of remarkable intellectual culture for one brought up on the frontier . . .
Dilworth's Spelling Book
When I was quite a small boy, my mother taught me to spell in Dilworth's Spelling Book, before I attended any school.  The first school I attended was two miles and a half distant . . . The school house was build of round logs . . . Our books were Dilworth's spelling book, the New and Old Testaments.  . . . After these, any history might be read.
Our  arithmetic was in the Master's head and sometimes there was none there.
As a child, his view of the world and his religious faith were deeply affected by two things — the revivals of the Second Great Awakening that were sweeping through the Appalachian region, and the incipient slave rebellion led by an enslaved man named Gabriel in 1800.  Gabriel was a young, literate, enslaved blacksmith who planned a large slave rebellion in the Richmond, Virginia area in the summer of 1800. Information regarding the revolt was leaked prior to its execution, and he and twenty-five followers were taken captive and hanged.  In reaction, Virginia and other state legislatures passed restrictions on free blacks, as well as prohibiting the education, assembly, and hiring out of slaves, to restrict their chances to learn and to plan similar rebellions.

Born into slavery at Brookfield, a tobacco plantation in Henrico County, Gabriel was held in slavery by Thomas Prosser, the plantation owner. In Virginia in 1800, 40 percent of the total population was enslaved; they were concentrated on plantations in the Tidewater area and west of Richmond.  Virginia slaveholders were nervous about the sharp increase in the number of free blacks in the slave state; they were uneasy as well about the uprising of slaves in the 1790s in Saint Domingue.  

The purpose of the rebels was expressed in a banner under which they planned to march, which stated "DEATH OR LIBERTY." The assault planned for August 30, 1800, however, never came together; a traitor from within the group warned white authorities of the impending attack. One member of  the group explained during the trial that would sentence him to death, 
"I have nothing more to offer than what General Washington would have had to offer, had he been taken by the British and put to trial by them. I have adventured my life in endeavoring to obtain the liberty of my countrymen, and am a willing sacrifice in their cause."
John took the family's religion very seriously from an early age:
Young as I was, my mind was much exercised on the subject of religion. . . . My father took me with the rest of his family to a large camp meeting at Dandridge . . . It was a time of much earnest preaching, exhortation and prayer. . . . The doctrine of election and foreordination filled me with anguish of spirit. . . . I felt as if I had been passed by and was not one of God's elect.  . . . I loved to read the Bible . . . I loved Christian character and attended to Christian duties . . . While riding home from church, solemn and silent as the grave, under a sense of the awful truths I had heard, the other young people in the company were laughing and talking as merrily as if they had no belief in the awful realities of eternity.  I wondered how they could hear of death, judgment and eternity and not feel as I felt. . . . From my earliest recollection I had a strong desire to preach the Gospel, but I felt I could not do this without being truly pious.  
Jonesboro, Tennessee
Four of John's brothers - Thomas, Samuel, David and William - enlisted in the army for the War of 1812 with Britain. In the fall of that year , John began his post-secondary education at Washington College in Jonesborough, Tennessee, under the direction of Reverend Samuel Doak. An avowed abolitionist, Doak encouraged his students to follow his anti-slavery ideologies. Doak founded the earliest schools and many of the Presbyterian churches of East Tennessee. The son of Irish immigrants, Doak established an academy which grew into Washington College, of which he was president from 1790 to 1818. He freed his own slaves in 1818.

Samuel Doak
John boarded at the home of Adam Lowry and his wife, who was the daughter of Samuel Doak.  Adam Lowry was an outspoken abolitionist who did not own slaves.

John studied Greek, Latin, theology, history, and composition. On March 29, 1814, during his second year of college, his brother David, who was 23, was shot in the chest at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama, and died.  The government death allowance to the family went to John's college tuition.  

John  Rankin was 68 years old when the Civil War began.

John Rankin married Jean Lowry, the daughter of Adam Lowry on January 2, 1816 after a brief courtship.  Three of the Lowry daughters would marry three of the Rankin brothers. Rankin later wrote:
There was a young lady, Jean Lowry . . . who had a high reputation for industry and good nature, and she was not uncomely, and was a member of the church.  I determined to pay my addresses to her, and in case there should be sufficient mutual affection I would make her the companion of my life. . . . I was successful and the marriage was consummated January 2nd, 1816, some weeks before I graduated.  She was a tailoress and made my wedding coat and I made my own wedding shoes. . . .  
My marriage was a matter of duty and interest as well as affection. It was a matter of surprise to my friends and acquaintances because I was unaccustomed to associating with young ladies. It did not in the least interfere with my progress in college. Some perhaps thought it unwise in me to marry before I had studied my profession; but time fully justified my wisdom. It enabled me to study, and helped sustain me in the practice of it when completed. A more affectionate and industrious wife could not be found in any place.
Adam Lowry bought the couple a small house and furnished it. Their first son, Adam Lowry Rankin, was born November 4, 1816.  He would the first of what would become a family of nine sons and four daughters.

The Abington Presbytery of Virginia licensed John to preach after his college graduation as a minister, although there was a note in his file that he was accepted 
with suspicion and distrust because of his frequent expression of opposition to slavery.
In the summer of 1817, at Jefferson County Presbyterian Church, John Rankin spoke against "all forms of oppression" and specifically, slavery.  He was shocked when the elders of his church told him that his expressions were "incendiary", and told him that he should never preach on the subject of slavery again.  When he gave another sermon on the same subject a few weeks later, the elders said that he should consider leaving Tennessee if he intended to oppose slavery from the pulpit.  Rankin and his wife decided to move with their infant son to the free state of Ohio. On the way north, Rankin stopped to preach at churches along the way to earn money.  He learned about the need for a minister at Concord Presbyterian Church in Carlisle. The congregation had been involved in anti-slavery activities as far back as 1807 when they and twelve other churches formed the Kentucky Abolition Society. The elders invited him to stay as their permanent pastor.  

He started a school for slaves; by not using books or written lessons, they were able to educate slaves without breaking the Kentucky law that prohibited teaching slaves to read.  Within a year, club-carrying mobs drove them first out of a log schoolhouse, then from a vacant house, and then from a member's kitchen.  The enslaved students, harassed by the mob, finally stopped coming.
My salary at Concord was five hundred and fifty dollars a year.  This if well paid would have met the wants of my family, but there was a want of regular payment.  We had sometimes an abundance and sometimes we had to borrow bread and meat for a week at a time. . . During nearly one year we occupied the half of a log house, and a family lived in the other half, the owner of the building and farm on which it stood.  Every time we passed out on in we went through the room in which that family slept.  This was the birthplace of our eldest daughter. . . . This was one of the happiest times of our lives.
The Panic of 1819 caused great hardships to farmers in the area; many people moved north, including a majority of his congregation.  The church was no longer able to pay Rankin's $550 annual salary.  Even worse, the number and activities of abolitionists in Kentucky were diminishing.  Rankin decided to accept a call  from the Presbyterian church in Ripley, Ohio. On the night of December 31, 1821, he and his wife, three sons and one daughter  crossed the Ohio River in two small boats.  

Ripley was a town of frequent street fights and shootouts where the most common type of business was a saloon. During the Rankins' first months there, hecklers and protesters often followed the new preacher through town and gathered outside his cabin while their first home was being built just yards from the river at 220 Front Street. According to Rankin, Ripley was 
infected with infidelity, Universalism, and whiskey retailers. It was exceedingly immoral. Drinking, profane swearing, frolicking, and dancing were commonalities.   
In it were but a few Presbyterian families. . . . It was a day of small things.
. . . I visited all the families, infidel and Christian and conversed with them on the awful realities of eternity and prayed with and for them.  . . . There were no temperance societies, and intemperance in some instances pervaded the churches.  . . . In despite of all I could say or do, the young men of the place would persist in drinking, frolicking and dancing.  . . . Rude young men came to church and misbehaved so that I had difficulty in keeping order in the house of worship.  I had to reprove them severely from the pulpit . . . 
 For the next two years, Rankin worked to discourage bad behavior through his sermons, profession of faith, and living what he considered a pious life. Adam Lowry Rankin, who was a small child at the time and was known as "Lowry"to his family and friends, described Ripley during the early 1820s:
The majority of the inhabitants were openly immoral. Infidelity, atheism, and drunkenness had the ascendance. Presbyterianism, Christianity, and the new pastor [his father John Rankin] were openly cursed in the streets. The coffee houses, as the liquor saloons were then called, quadrupled in number the other places of business, and dominated the public sentiment. Fighting and shooting in the streets was not an unusual occurrence. Theft was a common cause of complaint and men were accused of selling their wives’ clothes for whiskey.
In 1822, inspired by the revolutionary spirit and actions of slaves during the 1791 Haitian Revolution, an African American man named Denmark Vesey planned a slave rebellion. His insurrection, which was to take place on Bastille Day, July 14, 1822, became known to thousands of blacks throughout Charleston and along the Carolina coast. The plot called for Vesey and his group of slaves and free blacks to execute their enslavers and temporarily liberate the city of Charleston. Vesey and his followers planned to sail to Haiti to escape the United States.  Two slaves opposed to Vesey's scheme leaked the plot. Charleston authorities charged 131 men with conspiracy. In total, 67 men were convicted and 35 hanged, including Denmark Vesey.

Hysteria and fear reigned in the minority white population; the South Carolina Association was formed to provide more effective control of the black population. The African Church building was ordered destroyed by city authorities.  Among the limits imposed on South Carolinians in the wake of the failed conspiracy were the restricting of owner’s right of manumission of slaves, restrictions on the movement of free persons of color in and out of the state and requiring them to secure a white guardian who could vouch for their character. An act also compelled the forced imprisonment of black sailors visiting Charleston. This later act was ruled unconstitutional in Federal Court and played a small part in the confrontation between South Carolina and the Federal Government over State Rights.

Letters on Slavery
In early 1824, Rankin learned that his brother Thomas, a prosperous merchant in Augusta County, Virginia, had purchased slaves. He was provoked to write a series of anti-slavery letters to his brother that, beginning in August 1824, were published by the editor of the local Ripley newspaper, The Castigator. When a Cincinnati published printed the letters in book form in 1826 as Letters on Slavery, they provided one of the first clearly articulated anti-slavery views printed west of the Appalachians. 
I received yours of the 2d December, with mingled sensations of pleasure and pain; it gave me pleasure to hear of your health, and pain to hear of your purchasing slaves. I consider involuntary slavery a never-failing fountain of the grossest immorality, and one of the deepest sources of human misery; it hangs like the mantle of night over our republic, and shrouds its rising glories.
I sincerely pity the man who tinges his hand in the unhallowed thing that is fraught with the tears, and sweat, and groans, and blood of hapless millions of innocent, unoffending people.
A mistaken brother, who has manifested to me a kind and generous heart, claims my strongest sympathies. When I see him involved in what is both sinful and dangerous, shall I not strive to liberate him? Does he wander from the paths of rectitude, and shall not fraternal affection pursue, and call him from the verge of ruin and the unperceived precipice of woe, to the fair and pleasant walks of piety and peace? Shall I suffer sin upon my brother? No—his kindness to me forbids it, fraternal love forbids it, and what is still more to be regarded, the law of God forbids it. Though he has wandered for the moment, may I not hope to show him his error, and restrain his wanderings?
Under such views and feelings, I have resolved to address you, in a series of letters, on the injustice of enslaving the Africans. This I hope you will receive as an expression of fraternal affection, as well as of gratitude to you for former favors. I entreat you to give me that candid attention which the fondness of a brother solicits, and the importance of the subject demands. In the commencement I think it proper to apprise you that several things, connected with the present condition of the Africans, tend to bias the mind against them, and consequently incapacitate it for an impartial decision with respect to their rights.
. . . A black skin is no peculiar mark of Heaven's displeasure, nor any evidence that he who wears it is doomed by the Creator to endless servitude. The Africans are the children of our common mother [Eve]: let us not be angry with them because the sun hath looked upon them; the change of complexion ought never to break the ties of humanity.
God "hath made of one blood all nations of men." [Acts 17:26]. Whenever we find a man, let us treat him as a brother without regard to his color; let our kindness sooth his sorrows and cheer his heart.
. . . The hand of oppression has pressed them down from the rank of men to that of beasts; they are bought and sold, and driven from place to place like mere animal herds;--this fetters the mind, and prevents that expansion of soul which dignifies man and ornaments civilized life.  They seldom have any opportunities of improvement, any encouragement for the efforts of genius, or any inducements to enter the field of science. Hence, in many instances, the strongest powers of mind remain unfolded; over them oppression draws her sable mantle, on them she lays her cruel hand, and forbids them ever to rise.
Under such circumstances they sink into the grossest ignorance, and appear to be very destitute of energetic powers of mind. This leads many to conclude that they are naturally inferior to the rest of mankind in respect to strength of mind, and that the Creator has thus marked them out for servitude.
But how false, how ungenerous, how unreasonable is such a conclusion! What people, in similar circumstances, have ever given stronger marks of genius than are exhibited by the enslaved Africans in the United States? A better exhibition of mental capacity than they give ought not to be expected from a people long enslaved and sorely-oppressed.  Under such oppression, powers of mind, merely ordinary, cannot unfold; the gloomy prospect of perpetual bondage hovers continually around, and cuts off every enterprise which might elicit the native energies of the soul, or give occasion for the vigorous efforts of genius. Hence talents that, under other circumstances, would appear to very good advantage, are totally obscured.
And, even after a people that have long been enslaved are emancipated, it will require them to pass through several generations in order to regain their original strength of mind, and give the world a fair exhibition of the powers they really possess.
. . . The love of gain [coveting] is the polluted fountain whence issue all the dreadful evils that pervade our world; it gives energy to the tyrant's sword, it drenches the earth with blood, and binds whole nations in chains; from it every argument is drawn in favor of cruel injustice; it is the nauseous source of every hateful crime.
The love of gain first introduced slavery into the world, and has been its constant support in every age. It was the [covetous] love of gain that first enslaved the African race, and it now invents every possible argument against their emancipation. This is equally manifested in the social circle, and on the legislative floor; individuals and States will argue in favor of slavery in proportion as they view their interest at stake. 
 And no doubt they often argue according to what they suppose to be right; though naturally honest as other men, they are pressed to the side of injustice by the weight of [covetous] interest.  
And thus we often see the love of gain weighing down the finest feelings of the soul, blunting the most acute power of perception, crushing the strongest faculty of judgment, breaking the most powerful ties of humanity, falling upon the unhappy African and binding him in chains of perpetual bondage!
When once it [covetousness] takes full possession of the heart, the strongest faculties yield to its influence; it triumphs alike over the polished statesman, the courageous general, the accomplished gentleman, and the humble peasant.
Its principal power lies in concealment; it operates under a thousand different masks; unperceived it obtrudes itself upon every order, it pervades the bar, finds its way to the hearts of judge and and jury; it even enters the sanctuary and limbs the altar.
 . . . And you, my dear brother, have considerable at stake; you must wade through much loss, if you would come to a right conclusion, and obey the imperious voice of justice; but remember that loss will be temporal, and from it may spring eternal gain.
Therefore it is better to lose for the sake of doing justice, than to gain by oppression.
Hence I entreat you, let temporal interest have no influence upon your mind; divest yourself of every prejudice; throw open all the faculties of the soul for a fair and full investigation of the subject under consideration, and let an ardent desire to know the very truth be the governing principle; and you shall not wander long in the maze of error, nor stray far from the path of truth.
. . . Let not their color, their degradation, nor the predominating principle of self-interest, bias your mind against them. Let their miseries excite your pity, and incline you to justice.

In the preceding letters I believe it is clearly shown, that involuntary slavery is opposed to the strongest principles and feelings of human nature, and if so, it forms a relation for which the God of nature, in the organization of the human system, has made no provision; and it appears to me self-evident that a relation so unnatural must be a constant source of misery to the several parties it unites. I invited your attention to its dreadful effects upon the party enslaved, while I was pointing out the extent of the slaveholder's power; and I shall now proceed to notice its tendency in respect to the enslaving party.
I. It is opposed to domestic peace.
Slaves, as we have before shown, are generally raised without moral instruction, and consequently possess a low degree of moral feeling, and therefore they are not very conscientious in regard to the preservation of domestic peace. . . . Again, slaves generally consider that they are laboring for others and not for themselves, and therefore they will avoid performing the labor assigned them as much as they can with safety to their backs, and even what they do is seldom done in a suitable manner. . .  
II. Idleness is generally one result of slavery.
Necessity is the parent of industry—few are willing to labor when necessity does not impel them; and slaveholding families seldom feel the influence of this impelling principle. . . . Children, in slaveholding countries, early imbibe the sentiment that work is the business of slaves, and that for free people to labor is of course disgraceful. This pernicious sentiment soon finds its way through the whole slaveholding community. . . . These gentry despise and treat with contempt the laboring class of the community. They consider them to be no better than slaves, and therefore will not admit them to the privileges of equals; and in consequence of this many become ashamed to labor. . .  
III. Slavery promotes vice among the free inhabitants of slaveholding States.
By producing idleness it affords the opportunity of practicing immorality. Those who are closely engaged in useful occupations have little time for the practice of vice, but those who are idle have ample time for obeying the calls of every vicious appetite and passion, and consequently soon become a prey to their corrupt inclinations. Hence we may always expect to find the most confirmed habits of vice where idleness prevails. . . Hence it appears to me that if a State were to design the propagation of immorality, it could scarcely devise a better plan for the accomplishment of such design than is that of our present system of slavery. . . 
IV. Slavery debilitates the constitution [health] of slave-holding people. . . . 
V. Slavery must eventually tend to poverty. 
Slaveholders will engross large quantities of land, and this, in a great measure, will prevent the poorer class of people from acquiring real estates, or even a comfortable subsistence. Hence, extreme poverty in many instances must be inevitable.
And even the richest slaveholders are not beyond the danger of poverty. Although great profit is often derived from the labor of slaves, yet that very profit frequently becomes the means of confirming such habits of gaming, intemperance and extravagance as eventually reduce the most wealthy to the most extreme indigence.
To this we may add, that the children of the most wealthy slaveholders are generally raised to such idleness and extravagance as completely prepare them for squandering the estates left them by their parents; and consequently it often happens, that in a short time after they become masters of great estates, they are involved in the deepest poverty; and finally become the most worthless vagabonds the world can produce.
We may further observe that in proportion as slaves increase, slaveholders will engross larger bodies of land, and of course there will be less room for free inhabitants; therefore a diminution of the free population must be the certain result of the increase of slaves.
And persons who are enslaved have not the same motives to industry which influence those who are free when they labor for themselves, and consequently they are not equal, in the performance of labor, to an equal number of free men.
Hence, not only the poverty of individuals, but also that of the state must be the certain result of slavery. . . .  
VI. Ignorance is another result of slavery.
It is seldom that persons who are brought up in idleness and ease, will endure the labor necessary to a liberal education. They often drone out many long years at college, and return home mere quacks in learning. 
. . . They have generally a much stronger propensity for pleasure and amusement, than for the acquirement of useful knowledge. And in addition to this, they have too high an opinion of their own dignity to submit to the government of well-regulated seminaries. They often take offence at the very best regulations, and consequently desert the means of a good education. . . 
Thus a propensity for idleness, the love of pleasure, vicious habits and untractable dispositions all conspire to prevent the slaveholding community from making progress in the paths of science. . . . 
VII. Slavery weakens every State in which it exists. 
Slaveholders, as we before stated, will engross large bodies of land, and this of course leaves less room for free citizens, who, having to labor for the sustenance of themselves and their families, are despised and shoved down to a rank little above that of slaves; this becomes to them a strong inducement to move into free States, where they can be admitted to an equal rank with their fellow-citizens.
. . . Slaves know they ought to be free, and therefore may be expected to embrace the first opportunity of breaking the yoke of bondage. This is fully established by the many insurrections that take place in various slaveholding countries; hence almost every slave is to be considered an eternal enemy. . . 
VIII. Slavery cultivates a spirit of cruelty.
. . . The children of slaveholders from infancy have the opportunity of becoming familiar with scenes of cruelty. This has a tendency to blunt the tender sensibilities of their nature, to make them think lightly of human misery, and fully prepare them for cruel indulgence when they arrive at mature age. Therefore it is obvious that a disposition to cruelty must in some measure pervade every slaveholding community.
IX. Slavery tends to tyranny.
It is directly opposed to those fundamental principles of republicanism maintained in that part of the Declaration of Independence, which declares, 'That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.'
These principles are absolutely denied by the slaveholding States. They practically declare
  • that all men are not created equal,
  • that liberty is not an inalienable right,
  • and that a certain class of people have not a right to pursue their own happiness.
They do in their constitutions create distinctions among men; some they forever consign to the service of others.
. . . I know the laws of your State permit you to enslave a certain class of your fellow-creatures; but the permission of a State cannot change moral principle. 
Should this State permit you to enslave my children, would it be honest in you to take advantage by such permission to make them slaves? Certainly you must admit, that to take such advantage would be both unjust and cruel. 
And is it not equally unjust and cruel to enslave the poor Africans, merely because the State gives permission for such oppression? The man who will be just no farther than the State compels him, is a rogue in heart. 
And the man who will take away the liberty of another whenever the State permits him, would also take the property of another if similar permission was granted him.
I do not say that all slaveholders are rogues in heart. I hope many of them have acted more from mistake than from real dishonesty. But I do not hesitate in saying that they all unjustly take away the liberty of their fellow creatures, who, according to the principles admitted by our nation "were born equally free and independent."
Thomas Rankin, convinced by his brother's words, moved to Ohio in 1827 and freed his slaves.  When the local newspaper published his letters to his brother on the topic of slavery, Rankin's reputation grew among both supporters and opponents of the anti-slavery movement. Slave owners and hunters often viewed him as their prime suspect and appeared at his door at all hours demanding information about fugitives. 

In 1826, the number runaway slaves was such a concern that Southern legislators lobby the federal government for an extradition treaty with Canada and England for the return of escapees.  In 1827, the British envoy said that "it was utterly impossible for [the Canadians] to agree to a stipulation for the surrender of fugitive slaves." 
On Monday morning as I was coming home. . . a lady called me as I was about to pass her house and invited me to stop and see a fugitive slave. . . . She was a fine looking woman, not entirely black, and quite intelligent.  She gave me a brief history of her master.  He told her it was no use for her to run away, as he was known everywhere as a minister, he could find her anywhere she could go.  Even if she were to go to hell, he could find her.
I said to her, "You had better avoid that place, for you will be more likely to meet him there than anywhere else." 
. . . The Reverend gentleman went in pursuit of his slave.  . . . It was difficult for the man engaged in slave hunting to pray.  How could he ask God's blessing on such business?  
Alexander Campbell
Ulysses Grant
To meet the scholarly needs of Ripley’s young men, the College of Ripley was founded in 1828. The organizers included John Rankin, Alexander Campbell, and Archibald Liggett. 
One year following the College of Ripley’s incorporation, the first black student began his course of study. Benjamin Franklin Templeton was born into slavery in 1809. His owners, Thomas and Ann Williamson owned a cotton plantation in South Carolina. Upon Thomas’s death, he freed all twenty-seven of his slaves, including Templeton and his parents. Ann Williamson along with her freed slaves moved to Adams County, Ohio to be closer to her son, the Reverend William Williamson. Rev. Williamson, a Presbyterian minister advocated for Templeton to further his education at the College of Ripley. Eventually, racial tensions caused Templeton to transfer to Hanover College in southern Indiana.  Ulysses Grant, from Georgetown, Ohio, attended the college in 1838-1839, before transferring to West Point.

The Rankin House
In 1829, Rankin moved his wife and nine children (of an eventual total of thirteen), along with adopted family members,  to a house at the top of a 540-foot-high hill that provided a wide view of the village, the Ohio River and the Kentucky shoreline, as well as farmland and fruit groves that could provide sources of income. From there the family would raise a lantern on a flagpole to signal fleeing slaves in Kentucky when it was safe for them to cross the Ohio River. According to Arnold Gragston in his slave narrative,
He [Rankin] had a big lighthouse in his yard, about thirty feet high and he kept it burnin’ all night. It always meant freedom for [a] slave if he could get to this light. 
Steps to Rankin House
Rankin also constructed a staircase leading up the hill to the house for slaves to climb up to safety on their way further north. For over forty years leading up to the Civil War, many of the enslaved people who escaped to freedom through Ripley stayed at the family's home, and none was ever recaptured there. 

The origins of the Underground Railroad go back before the 18th century, but the terminology dates to around 1831. One version states that an enslaved man, Tice Davids, crossed the Ohio River in the vicinity of Ripley, Ohio, to escape from his owner in Kentucky. As Tice Davids swam the river, his owner kept him in sight as he pursued him in a small rowboat. He could see Tice's head bobbling in the river, but once Tice reached the Ohio side, he was lost from view. His owner searched diligently around Ripley, but was unable to find his human property. Bewildered and tuckered out, the slave owner could only conclude that Tice Davids "must have gone on an underground road."  It was subsequent to this incident people began to use such terms as conductors, firemen, brakemen, stationmasters, depots/stations, and such phrases as "catching the next train" to describe their clandestine efforts in assisting refugees to escape the slave-owning South. 

Among Ripley's most important Underground Railroad agents were Dr. Alexander Campbell, one of the community's first abolitionists; Nathaniel Collins and his sons, Thomas and Theodore, who often collaborated with John Rankin's sons; and Tom and Kitty McCague, owners of the largest pork packing factory and flour mill on the Ohio River.  Many of the slaves who first stopped at the Rankin home were then passed onto Levi Coffin, who then helped them to travel north to Canada. 
Levi Coffin

In 1830, a Quaker from New Jersey asked if he could issue another reprint of the letters, and Rankin agreed. Published by the New Jersey Society of Friends as Rankin on Slavery, the letters were picked up by the newly formed American Anti-Slavery Society and reprinted in five different editions.   William Lloyd Garrison in turn serialized the letters in The Liberator in 1832. Printers reproduced Rankin on Slavery during the next eighteen years.

Nat Turner's Rebellion took place in Southhampton County, Virginia, during August 1831. Led by Nat Turner, an enslaved man, rebel slaves killed anywhere from 55 to 65 people, the highest number of fatalities caused by any slave uprising in the South. The rebellion was put down within a few days, but Turner survived in hiding for more than two months afterwards. In the aftermath, there was widespread fear, and white militias organized in retaliation against slaves. The state executed 56 slaves accused of being part of the rebellion. In the frenzy, many innocent enslaved people were punished. At least 100 blacks, and possibly up to 200, were murdered by militias and mobs. The editor of the Richmond Whig, writing "with pain," described the scene as "the slaughter of many blacks without trial and under circumstances of great barbarity." Two weeks after the rebellion had been suppressed, the violence against the blacks continued. General Eppes ordered troops and white citizens to stop the killing:
He [the General] will not specify all the instances that he is bound to believe have occurred, but pass in silence what has happened, with the expression of his deepest sorrow, that any necessity should be supposed to have existed, to justify a single act of atrocity. But he feels himself bound to declare, and hereby announces to the troops and citizens, that no excuse will be allowed for any similar acts of violence, after the promulgation of this order.
In a letter to the New York Evening Post,  Reverend G. W. Powell wrote that "many negroes are killed every day. The exact number will never be known."  A company of militia from Hertford County, North Carolina, reportedly killed 40 blacks in one day and took $23 and a gold watch from the dead.  Captain Solon Borland, who led a contingent from  Murfreesboro, condemned the acts "because it was tantamount to theft from the white owners of the slaves." 

Blacks suspected of participating in the rebellion were beheaded by the militia. Their severed heads were mounted on poles at crossroads as a grisly form of intimidation.  Across the South, state legislatures passed new laws prohibiting education of slaves and free blacks, restricting rights of assembly and other civil rights for free blacks, and requiring white ministers to be present at black worship services.  The following spring in Richmond, the Virginia General Assembly debated the future of slavery in the state. While some urged gradual emancipation, the proslavery side won. The legislature passed new legislation making it unlawful to teach slaves, free blacks, or mulattoes to read or write.

Slave hunting increased in the 1830s, as did conflicts between abolitionists and slave holders.  The reward for capturing and returning a runaway in the state of Kentucky was around $100; it was twice that if the slave was captured in a free state.

Cholera swept through Ripley in October 1832 ; the president of Ripley College was the first to die.  According to Lowry Ripley:
My father and mother were constantly in attendance on the sick.  The people were greatly alarmed and it was difficult to get for the sick the attention they needed.  For a time, there averaged four deaths a day for two weeks, one hundred and fifty cases at one time.  I shall never forget the dismay it produced.  Every business was closed and the stillness of death seemed to pervade the whole town.
By the end of the year, Rankin had taken on the post of college president, along with the rest of his duties and responsibilities.

John Rankin was invited to Philadelphia on December 4, 1832 to inaugurate the National
Theodore Weld
Anti-slavery Society. This exposure catapulted him into national prominence and led to Rankin’s work with Theodore Weld.  
Rankin came to know Weld through their involvement with the creation of the American Anti-Slavery Society.  Weld had come to Ohio from Connecticut to attend Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati. In November 1834 at Rankin's Ripley church, Weld began a year-long series of speeches throughout Ohio that raised the profile of the abolitionist movement in the state and inspired Rankin to also expand his work beyond the pulpit and beyond Ripley, speaking from town to town on behalf of the national Society and founding many new local societies. 

Harriet Beecher Stowe
Lane Theological Seminary had been established in Cincinnati in 1829 to educate Presbyterian ministers.  It was named in honor of Ebenezer and William Lane, who pledged $4,000 for the new school. In 1832, The Reverend Lyman Beecher moved his family (including his daughter Harriet) from Boston to Cincinnati to become the first president of the Seminary. Rankin knew the family.  The Beechers stayed with the Rankins during the meeting of the Cincinnati Synod of the Presbyterian Church in Ripley.  Harriet described Rankin as a "handsome, modest, amiable-looking young man." Rankin was acquainted with Cincinnati’s antislavery leaders, including Lane seminary trustee Asa Mahan. 

Asa Mahan 
Theodore Weld enrolled in the seminary and became the student body president.  He was instrumental in forming the “Lane Rebels.”  In a series of 18 public debates in 1834, attended by Rankin and other Ripley abolitionists, a group of Lane students debated the question: “Ought the people of the slaveholding states abolish slavery immediately?”  Rankin even spoke at the 1834 Lane debates, urging immediate abolitionism. At the end of the debates, their answer was a unanimous YES. But the surrounding community wasn’t happy with this, or with the other anti-slavery/civil rights work the students were involved in. Eventually a mob even threatened to tear the school down. As a result, the trustees of the school prohibited any further anti-slavery activity or discussion, saying that the students' words and behavior did "violence to public sentiment reckless of consequences."  Rankin supported the students:
Was it in accordance with the Gospel?  The history of the world shows that public sentiment has been oftener wrong than right.  Many of the greatest enormities ever witnessed on earth have been sanctioned by public sentiment.  In the judgment of many of the wisest and best men of the nation, public sentiment is wrong, egregiously wrong.
The object of the students in their society was to cooperate with similar institutions to change what they deemed wrong in public sentiment.  This they and all others had a right to do.  Without such right there could be no public reform.
To attack public sentiment when wrong, with arguments and example is no violence, else the Savior and his Apostles did violence to public sentiment. . . . It is no violence to do what is our duty.  Public sentiment assumes the chair of the Pope when it places itself above investigation, and meets opposing arguments with clubs and stones.
Dozens of the students quit the school in protest. Many went to Oberlin College  the following year and became the seed of the abolitionist movement here.

Rankin's oldest son, Lowry, intended to become a carpenter.  His father wanted him to join the ministry, but he resisted attending college.  In 1834 he began an apprenticeship with a carpenter in Ripley.  In December of that year, what he saw on a steamboat in Ripley would change his life.
Sale of a "Fancy" Slave Woman as witnessed by Adam Lowry Rankin, Son of Rev. Rankin:
Everyone was anxious to see the big steamboat which was named Uncle Sam. . . [In December 1834] the steamer referred to lay at our town wharf, and I went with the others to visit her and examine her construction. As I enjoyed working on the cabin of a new steamer, I visited that part of the vessel first, then, after a careful inspection, visited the lower deck, and on going aft of the engine room an unexpected scene came to view. Two groups of slaves, about twenty-five in each, were chained to the sides of the deck, the men on my left and the women on my right.
No seat or bed was provided; they were compelled to use the deck floor. When I came on the scene, some were sitting as best they could on the floor, others were lying down, and some were standing. It was an unpleasant picture. The men were of sullen countenance, and the women appeared to be stricken with a hopeless grief. 
Farther from me at my right at the extreme end of the long chain was a woman, young, not more than twenty. She had a pretty face; it might with propriety be called beautiful. She had long, fine, wavy shiny black hair put up with care and taste, and she was as white as any woman of my acquaintance, requiring the closest scrutiny to detect the least touch of African blood. I said to myself, 'Can it be possible that she is a slave, bound for a Southern slave mart to stand on the auction block and be knocked down by some brutal auctioneer to the highest bidder?
Yes, that handcuff and chain proclaim that she is a slave, a young woman, beautiful in feature and form that has no more rights of person and soul than the beasts of the field.
As I leaned against a stanchion for support, I asked myself why let all my sympathies be expended upon that one woman. Were the women, her companions in slavery, though they be of a darker hue than she, any less the daughters of the Lord Almighty?
. . . I caught a fragment of a conversation between two men who were approaching. The words I heard were, "Ain't she a beauty!"  The men passed by me, scarcely noting my presence, and stopped in front of the woman I have just described. One of the men was coarse and hard featured. He carried in his hand a small rawhide cane which could be used in the place of the common 'rawhide.' He was the owner of the slave and had the usual characteristics of the 'negro trader,' fond of whiskey, rough, profane and unchaste in conversation, brutal, and passionate in disposition. They were a class of men that were a product of slavery, dreaded by the slaves and despised by the slaveholders. He wore heavy woolen clothes, the trousers loosely pushed into the tops of cowhide boots with heavy soles. His hair was worn long in regulation style and was topped by the broad-brimmed hat . . . 
The other was a tall, well-dressed young man, not bad in feature, passably good looking, with a little outcropping of the sensual. Under proper influence he might be an honorable, moral man who would command the respect of the good. I gathered from the conversation that he was a single man, engaged in some business in New Orleans, and the son of a Southern planter. His conversation was free of profanity and obscenity. As far as the circumstances would admit, I inferred from the first part of the conversation that he had some conscience about the propriety of the business in hand, the purchase of the woman.
I decided not to leave my post but to watch the transaction. The trader used the vilest language, proposing the woman as a mistress for the young man and insisting she was worth more than he asked, $2500, and swearing he could get $3000 for her in New Orleans. He knew young men, he said, who would jump to get such a well-made and good looking woman as she was.
All the time she had her face covered with her hands and was crying as if her heart would break. The other women were crying also, and more than one man muttered curses, and I saw clenched fists and angry eyes, all showing how helpless they felt to protect the woman.  As the trader, with an oath, said, 'No more of that, you black sons of ---,' he struck the woman on the shoulder and ordered her to take her hands from her face and stop her crying or he would half kill her.  She obeyed, and after a little more talk the young man offered $2000. This was rejected at this stage of the proceedings, and the trader played what might be called the last card in his game of debauchery. He asked the young man if he was the only occupant of his stateroom, receiving an affirmative reply. He then said, 'How fortunate. You have to go to your room by the door that opens on the deck, and no one will be the wiser, and you can have a splendid time. It will cost you nothing. I have paid her passage and bond.' The young man was evidently tempted but shook his head. 
The trader then ordered the woman to unfasten the front of her dress. She declined, but a stroke on the shoulder brought a reluctant obedience; a second expedited the work. When done, her hands lingered, but pushing them away he exposed her bosom to view and induced the young man to feel of her breast, then of her thighs. By this time the young man was carried to the point of yielding, and, the money paid, the woman relieved of her chain, followed her new master to his room.
As I left the boat my indignation reached the boiling point over the wicked transaction and, lifting my right hand toward the heavens, I said aloud, "My God helping me, there shall be a perpetual war between me and human slavery in this nation of which I am a member and I pray God I may never be persuaded to give up the fight until slavery is dead or the Lord calls me home."
 Charles Finney
Abolitionists established the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in Zanesville at a meeting held in April 1835. Among the organization's founders were Asa Mahan, John Rankin, Theodore Dwight Weld, James Birney, Henry Stanton and Charles Finney. Many of these men were affiliated with Oberlin College. Other organizers of the society were Quakers from the area near Mount Pleasant, Ohio. The people at this meeting based their organization on the American Anti-Slavery Society, which had been founded in 1833. The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society's members pledged to fight for the abolition of slavery and the establishment of laws that would protect African Americans after they were free.  Their resolutions included the following:
This Convention believes that orderly and industrious conduct — the intellectual, moral and religious improvement of the free people of color in this State and elsewhere, will greatly promote the cause of freedom. Our aim therefore will be to aid them in their attempt at meritorious elevation.
. . . The Christian Church is eminently criminal in the indulgence she has shown to the acknowledged sin of slave holding — and her ministers and rulers preeminently so, in admitting to her sacred offices and privileges those who live in the open and continued perpetration of this sin. . . 
We believe Slavery to be a sin — always, every where, and only sin.
. . . The influences of slavery upon slave-holders and the slave' states are an abiding sense of insecurity and dread — the press cowering under a censorship, freedom of speech struck dumb by proscription, a standing army of patrols to awe down insurrection, the mechanic arts and all vigorous enterprise crushed under an incubus, a thriftless agriculture smiting the land with barrenness and decay, industry held up to scorn, idleness a badge of dignity, profligacy no barrier to favour, lust emboldened by impunity, concubinage encouraged by premium, the high price of the mixed race operating as a bounty upon amalgamation, prodigality in lavishing upon the rich the plundered earnings of the poor accounted high souled generosity, revenge regarded as the refinement of honor, aristocracy entitled republicanism, and despotism chivalry, sympathy, — deadened by scenes of cruelty rendered familiar, female amiableness transformed into fury by habits of despotic sway; conscience smothered by its own unheeded monitions, manhood effeminated by loose reigned indulgence, and a pervading degeneracy of morals and manners, resulting from a state of society, where power has no restraint, and the weak have none to succour.
. . . Slavery being sin we maintain that it is the duty of all who perpetrate it immediately to cease; in other words that immediate emancipation is the sacred right of the slaves and the imperative duty of their masters. 
By immediate emancipation we do not mean that the slaves shall be deprived of employment and turned loose to roam as vagabonds.
We do not mean that they shall be immediately put in possession of all political privileges any more than foreigners before naturalization or native citizens not qualified to vote, nor that they shall be expelled from their native country as the price and condition of their freedom. 
But we do mean that instead of being under the unlimited control of a few irresponsible masters, they shall receive the protection of law, that they shall be employed as free labourers, fairly compensated and protected in their earnings, that they shall have secured to them the right to obtain secular and religious knowledge, and to worship God according to his word. 
We maintain that the slaves belong to themselves, that they have a right to their own bodies and minds, and to their own earnings ; that husbands have a right to their wives, and wives to their husbands; that parents have a right to their children and children to their parents, and that he who plunders them of these rights, commits high handed robbery and is sacredly bound at once and utterly to cease. . . 
We shall seek to effect the destruction of slavery, not by exciting discontent in the minds of the slaves, not by instigating outrage, not by the physical force of the free states, not by the interference of Congress with State rights, but we shall seek to effect its overthrow by ceaseless proclamation of the truth upon the whole subject, 
 by urging upon slave holders, and the entire community, the flagrant enormity of slavery as a sin against God and man, by demonstrating the safety of immediate emancipation to the persons and property of the masters, to the interests of the slave and the -welfare of community, from the laws of mind, the history of emancipations, and the indissoluble connection between duty and safety, 
— by presenting facts, arguments, and the results of experiment, establishing the superiority of free over slave labor, and the pecuniary advantages of emancipation to the master, 
— by correcting the public sentiment of the free States, which now sustains and sanctions the system, and by concentrating its rectified power upon the conscience of the slave holder, 
— by promoting the observance of the monthly concert of prayer for the abolition of slavery throughout the world, that by a union of faith and works we may bring our tithes into the store-house, and prove therewith the " God of the oppressed."
On his trip home from Zanesville, Rankin stopped to preach to black congregations in Chillocothe; mobs threw stones through the windows, which injured people in the church.
My first acquaintance with obs was at Putnam, Ohio.  I attended a state convention at that place in order to form a state Antislavery Society.  . . . We were surrounded by a large mob which threw stones at the building. . . . Most of the convention were peace men, of course no resistance was made.  We could easily have disperse them and I was will to do it . . . A mob of about two hundred surrounded us. . .  We had gone but a little way, with the mob around us, when he was hit on the back with a rotten goose egg . . . Another hit me on the shoulder . . . The small gravel of the street fell around us like hail.  We turned in to a house and the mob passed on and had a fight among themselves.. 
. . . On my way home I stayed over Sabbath at Chillicothe and preached morning and night for the colored people.  At night a few "fellows of the baser sort" threw stones into the church and hurt some of the people who were in attendance.  On my way from church I had to cross the canal bridge, several fellows were on it, as I believe with the design of putting me into the canal, but Mr. Young, at whose house I lodged, was with me.  He was a large, strong man, consequently they thought it best not to attempt any violence. . .  After we reached his home a messenger came to inform him that a mob was collecting to attack me.  Mr. Young's wife was in a delicate condition and I judged it was not best to have a mob there so I left and went to the house of a Presbyterian Elder.  
The American Anti-Slavery Society launched a pamphlet campaign which sent more than a million copies of anti-slavery publications from New York to Alabama, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia via mail and messenger. The campaign to “overthrow slavery by revolutionizing public sentiment” provoked mobs in Charleston in July of 1835 to seize mailbags and burn them at the post office. 

Amos Dresser
In the summer of 1835, Amos Dresser, one of the Lane Rebels who had transferred to Oberlin, decided to visit an uncle in Mississippi.  He sold Bibles along the way to finance his trip and future education. But he only made it as far as Nashville, Tennessee, where he was arrested by a committee of prominent town citizens for being a member of an Ohio anti-slavery society and possessing and disseminating anti-slavery materials.  On the evening of August 8, Constable John Braughton brought Dresser into custody where an impromptu Committee of Vigilance convened at the courthouse to try Dresser for violating the non-existent law of possessing anti-slavery material. During the convention, the committee searched Dresser's trunk, including his personal letters and journal, to find evidence of antislavery activity.  Dresser stated "They labored much to prove I was sent out by some society, and that I was, under the guise of a religious mission, performing the odious office of an insurrectionary agent."

The committee found Dresser guilty of being a member of an anti-slavery society and of possessing periodicals published by the American Anti-Slavery Society. He was sentenced to twenty public lashes and ordered to leave Nashville within twenty-four hours. The punishment was carried out in front of a large crowd and Dresser was escorted out of town that night.
The August 25 issue of the Cincinnati Gazette carried Dresser's account of his arrest and punishment:
Mr. Braugton feared that it would go hard with me - that, while some of the committee were in favor of thirty-nine, others were for inflicting one hundred lashes, while others still thought me worthy of death. 

. . . I was condemned to receive twenty lashes on my bare back, and ordered to leave the place in 24 hours . . . The sentence was received with great applause, accompanied by stamping of feet and clapping of hands.  The chairman then called for the sentiments of the spectators . . . There was no dissenting voice. . . The crowd was now ordered to proceed to the public square, and form a ring. . . . I knelt to receive the punishment . . . The death-like silence that prevailed for a moment, was suddenly broken with loud exclamation, "G-d d--n him, stop his praying."
. . .  On the ensuing morning, owing to the great excitement that was still prevailing, I found it necessary to leave the place in disguise, with only what clothing I had about my person; leaving unsold property to the amount of nearly three hundred dollars, and sacrificing at least two hundred on my barouche, horse &c. which I was obliged to sell.  Of my effects at Nashville, I have heard nothing . . . 
The New York newspaper The Anti-Slavery Record wrote:
 What sort of an institution is that which cannot bear to be spoken of in the language of truth?  Which drives the most respectable members of a community into a disgraceful and unlawful outrage upon the rights of an American citizen, to save the perpetration of a crime in its defence still more diabolical?  Is there any longer a doubt that such an institution is dangerous to the country - nay, to the weal of the whole human race?
In the autumn, a grand jury in Virginia called for the extradition of the American Anti-Slavery Society's executive committee to stand trial, and in December President Andrew Jackson called for the passage of a bill that would outlaw distribution of “incendiary publications intended to instigate the slaves to insurrection,” and asked the northern states to pass laws outlawing abolitionist organization. 

In response, anti-slavery organizations proliferated in the north. In Ohio, the number of such associations increased from twenty-five in 1835 to 120 in 1836. 20 After a call in Congress to reject all anti-slavery petitions, a flood of them descended on Capitol Hill: 34,000 petitions were received in the 1834-35 session, 110,000 in 1835-36, and 300,000 in 1837-38.

In November 1835, the Ripley Anti-Slavery Society held it first meeting at Reverend
Red Oak Presbyterian Church
James Gilliland's church in Red Oak. The 337 charter members incorporated a constitution that expressed their ideas of anti-slavery. While their constitution mirrored the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society’s, the Ripley constitution opened the door of their membership to anyone, regardless of race, class, or gender. They did specifically exclude slaveholders from membership.

James Birney
The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society employed lecturers to travel across the state to convince Ohioans to join the abolitionist movement. The group also used James Birney's newspaper, The Philanthropist, to advance their cause. The Ohio Anti-Slavery Society did experience some initial success. In 1836, the organization grew from twenty chapters to one hundred and twenty in every part of the state. Its membership numbered approximately ten thousand people by the end of the year.

The goals of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society were opposed by many Ohioans. Some people believed that African Americans would flee the South, come to the North and take jobs away from other Ohioans. Pro-slavery advocates often attacked the abolitionists. On January 22, 1836, a group of white Cincinnatians urged the city government to prohibit James Birney from publishing The Philanthropist. To prevent Birney from printing, a mob destroyed the newspaper's printing press on July 12, 1836. Undeterred, Birney remained in Cincinnati and continued to publish his newspaper. The mob returned on July 30, 1836, and destroyed the printing press again.

In April 1836, the Ohio Anti-Slavery Convention held its annual meeting in Granville, Ohio.
Granville, Ohio
The community refused to allow the meeting to take place within the town's boundaries.  At the Methodist church, 26 leaders of the community wrote:

We consider discussions [that] from their nature tend to inflame the public mind - to introduce discord and contention into neighborhoods, churches, and literary institutions, and put in jeopardy the lives and property of our fellow citizens - to be at variance with all rules of moral duty and every suggestion of humanity.
They applauded the efforts of the American Colonization Society to transport blacks from the United States to Africa, saying that 
the unwillingness of the blacks of this country to emigrate to Africa is one of the strongest evidences of that degradation and imbecility which naturally results from their condition while resident among the whites. 
The abolitionists met outside of the town in a member's barn that they dubbed "Hall of Freedom." After the convention, a mob waited to attack the abolitionists. 

In July, a race riot began in Cincinnati. On July 12, about forty men broke into the building housing Birney's press, and destroyed it.  The men were described as "respectable and wealthy gentlemen". They shredded newspapers, broke the press in pieces and dragged the damaged parts through the streets. The printer, Achilles Pugh, lost an estimated $1,500 in damage, and only agreed to continue producing the paper when his property was guaranteed to the value of $2,000 by the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.  Following the press smashing, placards appeared saying 
The Citizens of Cincinnati ... satisfied that the business of the place is receiving a vital stab from the wicked and misguided operations of the abolitionists, are resolved to arrest their course. The destruction of their Press on the night of the 12th instant, may be taken as a warning.
At a public meeting on July 23 chaired by the city mayor, resolutions were passed that included promises to use all legal means to suppress abolitionist publications.  On July 30, a mob again attacked and destroyed Birney's press, scattering its type. The rioters threatened to burn down Birney's house, but were dissuaded by his son.  The angry whites marched to a black neighborhood where they burned down several houses. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote:
The mayor was a silent spectator of these proceedings, and was heard to say, 'Well, lads, you have done well, so far; go home now before you disgrace yourselves;' but the 'lads' spent the rest of the night and a greater part of the next day (Sunday) in pulling down the houses of inoffensive and respectable blacks. The 'Gazette' office was threatened, the 'Journal' office was to go next; Lane Seminary and the water-works also were mentioned as probable points to be attacked by the mob. By Tuesday morning the city was pretty well alarmed. A regular corps of volunteers was organized, who for three nights patrolled the streets with firearms and with legal warrant from the mayor, who by this time was glad to give it, to put down the mob even by bloodshed.
The authorities made no arrests.  The abolitionists were blamed for inciting the violence by their presence and activities in the city.  The Ripley Anti-Slavery Society met in August to
take into consideration the alarming state of things occasioned by the spirit of mobocracy that is abroad in the land and especially the late proceedings of the mob in Cincinnati. . . . We view the origin of his disgraceful affair to have had its rise in the nature and system of slavery.  As slavery was first established by violence and continued by force, mobocracy is only one of the ways in which it exhibits its legitimate results and develops its true character.
In 1836, Weld invited Rankin to join a group called "the Seventy" who were selected by the American Anti-Slavery Society to travel to churches throughout the Northern states preaching in support of immediate emancipation and forming local anti-slavery societies. Released by his congregation in August for one year to participate in the effort, Rankin was paid $500 for the year plus travel expenses.  Rankin was sometimes attacked by slavery supporters, but managed to collect money for the cause and help start new anti-slavery societies.  In a September issue of antislavery newspaper, The Advocate of Freedom, he reported
When the people come to hear for themselves, they readily embrace the truth . . . I first discuss the question "What business have the people of the free states to interfere with slavery?"  and answer the common objections of opposers.  I next present the Bible view of the subject and bring divine truth to bear upon the conscience.   
John C. Calhoun
Whereas other Southern politicians had excused slavery as a necessary evil, in a famous speech in the United States Congress on February 6, 1837, Senator John C. Calhoun asserted that slavery was a "positive good." He rooted this claim on two grounds: white supremacy and paternalism. All societies, Calhoun claimed, are ruled by an elite group which enjoys the fruits of the labor of a less-privileged group.  He supported the gag rule of May 1836 which had suppressed antislavery petitions to Congress. 
If we concede an inch, concession would follow concession–compromise would follow compromise, until our ranks would be so broken that effectual resistance would be impossible. . . . Consent to receive these insulting petitions, and the next demand will be that they be referred to a committee in order that they may be deliberated and acted upon.

. . . We are now told that the most effectual mode of arresting the progress of abolition is, to reason it down; and with this view it is urged that the petitions ought to be referred to a committee. . . . Instead of arresting its progress it has since advanced more rapidly than ever. . . . The subject is beyond the jurisdiction of Congress – they have no right to touch it in any shape or form, or to make it the subject of deliberation or discussion. . . .

As widely as this incendiary spirit has spread, it has not yet infected this body, or the great mass of the intelligent and business portion of the North; but unless it be speedily stopped, it will spread and work upwards till it brings the two great sections of the Union into deadly conflict. . . . I then predicted that it would commence as it has with this fanatical portion of society, and that they would begin their operations on the ignorant, the weak, the young, and the thoughtless –and gradually extend upwards till they would become strong enough to obtain political control . . . They who imagine that the spirit now abroad in the North, will die away of itself without a shock or convulsion, have formed a very inadequate conception of its real character; it will continue to rise and spread, unless prompt and efficient measures to stay its progress be adopted. Already it has taken possession of the pulpit, of the schools, and, to a considerable extent, of the press; those great instruments by which the mind of the rising generation will be formed.

. . . It is impossible under the deadly hatred which must spring up between the two great nations, if the present causes are permitted to operate unchecked, that we should continue under the same political system. The conflicting elements would burst the Union asunder, powerful as are the links which hold it together.

Abolition and the Union cannot coexist. As the friend of the Union I openly proclaim it–and the sooner it is known the better. The former may now be controlled, but in a short time it will be beyond the power of man to arrest the course of events.

We of the South will not, cannot, surrender our institutions.

To maintain the existing relations between the two races, inhabiting that section of the Union, is indispensable to the peace and happiness of both. It cannot be subverted without drenching the country in blood, and extirpating one or the other of the races. Be it good or bad, [slavery] has grown up with our society and institutions, and is so interwoven with them that to destroy it would be to destroy us as a people.

But let me not be understood as admitting, even by implication, that the existing relations between the two races in the slaveholding States is an evil:–far otherwise; I hold it to be a good, as it has thus far proved itself to be to both, and will continue to prove so if not disturbed by the fell spirit of abolition. . . .

I appeal to all sides whether the South is not equal in virtue, intelligence, patriotism, courage, disinterestedness, and all the high qualities which adorn our nature. But I take higher ground. I hold that in the present state of civilization, where two races of different origin, and distinguished by color, and other physical differences, as well as intellectual, are brought together, the relation now existing in the slaveholding States between the two, is, instead of an evil, a good–a positive good.

. . . I hold then, that there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other. Broad and general as is this assertion, it is fully borne out by history. This is not the proper occasion, but, if it were, it would not be difficult to trace the various devices by which the wealth of all civilized communities has been so unequally divided, and to show by what means so small a share has been allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the non-producing classes.

. . . I may say with truth, that in few countries so much is left to the share of the laborer, and so little exacted from him, or where there is more kind attention paid to him in sickness or infirmities of age. Compare his condition with the tenants of the poor houses in the more civilized portions of Europe–look at the sick, and the old and infirm slave, on one hand, in the midst of his family and friends, under the kind superintending care of his master and mistress, and compare it with the forlorn and wretched condition of the pauper in the poorhouse. . . .

I fearlessly assert that the existing relation between the two races in the South, against which these blind fanatics are waging war, forms the most solid and durable foundation on which to rear free and stable political institutions . . . There is and always has been in an advanced stage of wealth and civilization, a conflict between labor and capital. The condition of society in the South exempts us from the disorders and dangers resulting from this conflict; and which explains why it is that the political condition of the slaveholding States has been so much more stable and quiet than that of the North.
In September 1837, a free black woman, Eliza Jane Johnson, was kidnapped from her home and family in Brown County, Ohio, by slave catchers from Kentucky who believed she belonged to Arthur Fox, the sheriff of Mason County, Kentucky.  When Arthur Fox came to the jail in Washington, Kentucky, to claim her, he said that this was not the female slave who had escaped from his home four years earlier.  But Eliza Jane Johnson was not released: under Kentucky laws, a colored person was considered to be a slave until proved otherwise.  She was held in prison while advertisements were run in newspapers searching for her owner.  If no owner came forward, the sheriff could sell her to cover the costs of incarceration and advertising.

Men from Brown County, including John Rankin, rode to Washington to challenge her kidnapping and detention by the citizens and government of Kentucky.  Judge Walker Reid held a hearing on October 1, 1837.  After listening to testimony, he ruled that
I am bound to consider every person of colour especially of the African race of negroes a slave until the contrary is proved.  In the case of a person visibly appearing to be a negro the presumption is in this state the he is a slave and it is incumbent on him to make out his right to freedom.
. . . How must a judge act in such a case?  . . . He must redeliver the black or mulatto with a flat nose and woolly hair to the person claiming him or her as a slave . . . 
For the present, Eliza Jane Johnson is remanded to jail as a runaway slave.  The law will not justify me in discharging her.
Soon after, the Maysville Eagle in Kentucky published a letter from a Kentucky resident:
In order to properly understand this case abroad, it should be remembered that Kentucky has lost millions of dollars in slaves; that her citizens have been most outrageously abused in Ohio when in pursuit of them, that there is a certain close of fellows there who make a business of stealing our negroes or aiding and abetting in getting them off.  
The efforts of the abolitionists' efforts to have Eliza Jane Johnson released from prison were
John Bennington Mahan
successful in March of 1838.  However, in April, notices were posted in Northern Kentucky offering rewards up to $2,500 for the abduction or assassination of John Rankin, Alexander Campbell, Isaac Beck, and John Bennington Mahan.

During my Antislavery efforts large rewards were offered for my head.  Men lay around my house at night to murder me.  A man came into the house one night to find where I slept but I was not at home . . . My daughter Isabella saw him.  After the great mob at Cincinnati against the colored people, many threats of violence were made against my person.  My sons armed the house as a matter of defence in case of our attack.
In September 1838, William Greathouse, a slaveholder from Mason County, Kentucky came with a group of men to Sardinia, Ohio to arrest John B. Mahan for "aiding and assisting certain slaves, the property of William Greathouse, out of and beyond the state of Kentucky."  His wrists and ankles were put into irons and he was taken to a basement cell in the prison at Washington, Kentucky.  His arrest was based on perjury by Greathouse and others in Kentucky that Mahan had come to Kentucky to assist Greathouse's slaves in escaping.  In fact, Mahan had not been in the state of Kentucky for nearly twenty years.

Rankin and other abolitionists raised money for his legal defense and publicized his arrest and imprisonment.  The case gained national attention because a citizen of the free state of Ohio was charged and to be tried under Kentucky's slave laws.  The Morning Star in New Hampshire wrote:
Our own liberties, our own persons are in jeopardy.  If slaveholders can go into Ohio and carry off its citizens and try them for crimes falsely charged against them under their own unjust and unrighteous laws they can come into New Hampshire, Maine or any other free state and do the same.
In November, Judge Walker Reid, who had presided over the case of Eliza Jane Johnson, now told the jurors in Mahan's trial:
Law declares, "that if any person shall be guilty of seducing or enticing any slave, to leave his lawful owner or possessor, and to escape to parts without the limits of the state, or a foreign country; or shall make, or furnish, or aid, or assist in making or furnishing, a forged pass, of freedom, or any other forged paper, purporting to be a deed of emancipation or will, or other instrument liberating or purporting to liberate, any slave, or shall in any manner aid or assist such slave in making his escape from such owner or possessor to another state or foreign country, any person so offending shall, on conviction, be sentenced to confinement in the jail and penitentiary of this commonwealth a period not less than two or more than twenty years; and if any person shall be guilty of enticing any slave to abscond from the service of his or her owner, or possessor as aforesaid, or shall conceal any such runaway or absconding slave, knowing it to be such, within this state, every person so offending, in addition to compensation to such owner or possessor, shall be liable to an indictment, or presentment of a grand jury, and on conviction, be liable to pay a fine of not less than fifty nor more than six hundred dollars." 
. . .  I shall be pardoned for denying that the condition of our slaves is such as to require the kind offices of the modern abolitionists. . . . Our slaves are better fed and clothed, than many of our white neighbors whose sympathies are enlisted in their favour. . . .  
I cannot believe that any country, however enlightened by Christianity or philosophy, has done more to ameliorate the condition of its slaves than Kentucky. 
They are indeed happy, and if let alone would still remain so. . . .  The efforts of their pretended friends to educate them and emancipate them, among us in the present state of our laws and of public opinion, render their condition worse . . .
The relation of master and slave is so wrought up in our social and political existence, that it ought not to be tampered with by any and every political or religions empyric . . .It is a sacred relationship; it existed among the Jews and Gentiles, long before the coming of the Messiah . . .  I am mistaken, if they are not pursuing a course contrary to that marked out by their Saviour, or his great Apostle to the Gentiles, all that twattle on the subject of equality, to the contrary notwithstanding. . . Rest assured that those who think they are doing God service, by meddling with the slave question, and making it a test, are as mad in their career as was Saint Paul himself before he was better taught.
. . . When they talk about the truths which they maintain as self-evident— "That all men are bom equally free, &c." we must point to the practice of our fathers ever since tho adoption of the Constitution, to prove that slaves were not included in that expression . . .
 I have given you the law, gentlemen, and no matter how slavery may be deprecated or defended, obedience to the laws is among the cardinal virtues, especially in a government like ours . . .  Whenever people forget, or disregard the law, and wrest from the constituted authorities their administration and condemn even the unworthy and guilty without the ceremonies and forms of law, liberty is in danger.
Because testimony showed that Mahan had not come to Kentucky to assist the escaping slaves, as charged, the jury's verdict was "Not Guilty."  But Mahan remained in prison because William Greathouse had filed a civil suit against him, demanding compensation for the value of the slaves, which he said was $1,600.

Although the trial was over, discussion and controversy about Mahan, the rights of slaveholders and abolitionists, and the laws of slave and free states continued.  The Kentucky legislature sent commissioners to the Ohio legislature to lobby for a law to prosecute Ohioans who "interfere with the relations of master and slave in Kentucky."  The Maysville Monitor wrote
The State of Ohio owes it to Kentucky to adopt some speedy restrictive measures.
The Cincinnati Gazette editorialized that Ohio law regarding runaways be aligned with
James Clark
Kentucky laws, including the high fines and prison time of up to twenty years.  Kentucky Governor James Clark published his opinion that death was the proper punishment for abolitionists who aided runaway slaves:

There is a spirit of Abolition now abroad in the land that threatens fearfully the overthrow of all social intercourse between neighboring States and is ominous of consequences appalling to every true lover of his country.  It is a fact no longer to be disguised that the conduct of the Abolitionist is at war with the acknowledged and legal rights of the citizen that he tramples under his feet laws that hold sacred the property of others . . . Kentucky has exercised too much forbearance on this subject . . . These men are dangerous . . . 
Wilson Shannon 
Ohio Governor Wilson Shannon urged Ohio legislators to pass laws to assist slaveowners to recapture their slaves who had escaped to Ohio.  In February 1839, "The Ohio Fugitive Slave Law" was passed, calling for jail time and fines for anyone who aided in the rescue of a fugitive slave.

Letter of Rankin to the Editor of The Philanthropist:
RIPLEY, Feb. 20, 1839 
Some time since, a member of the Presbyterian Church of Ebenezer, Brown county, Ohio, landed his boat at a point on the Mississippi. He some disturbance among the colored people on the bank. He stepped up, to see what was the matter. 
A black man was stretched naked on the ground; his hands were tied to a stake, and one held each foot. He was doomed to receive fifty lashes; but by the time the overseer had given him twenty-five with his great whip, the blood was standing round the wretched victim in little puddles. It appeared just as if it had rained blood - Another observer stepped up, and advised to defer the other twenty-five to another time, lest the slave might die; and he was released, to receive the balance when he should have so recruited as to be able to bear it and live. 
The offense was, coming one hour too late to work.
Rankin's sons attended Lane Theological Seminary and during one of his visits to Cincinnati,
he told Professor Calvin Stowe and his wife, Harriet Beecher Stowe, the story of a woman the Rankins had sheltered in 1838 after she escaped by crossing the frozen Ohio River with her child in her arms. Harriet Beecher Stowe later modeled the character Eliza in her book Uncle Tom's Cabin after the woman.

A widely-distributed and influential book, American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, was written by Theodore Weld, his his wife Angelina Grimke Weld, and her sister Sarah Grimke.  It was was published in 1839, and contained six accounts by John Rankin.  The work was the second most influential piece of anti-slavery literature of the time period, second only to Uncle Tom's Cabin, which would be published 13 years later.  It was used by Stowe as inspiration and information for her abolitionist novel.

In May 1839 the American Anti-Slavery Society held its Sixth Anniversary Meeting in New York City.  John Rankin was invited to give a speech:
We feel the hand of oppression not only upon the slave, but upon ourselves.
Rankin House
Where I live, my soul is harrowed continually with the cruelties committed in sight of my house, where slavery exists in its mildest form. There, slavery has sometimes caused our town to go in mourning. [Here he related the case of the slave ferryman, who was suddenly and without warning or preparation, sold for $750, by his master, to go " down the river," after having agreed to set him free, and the money had been raised for the purpose, because an opportunity of getting 8200 more, so that he was separated from his wife and children. The details of the case have been already published.] While I continue to be a husband and father, I must stand up and protest against this evil.

Laws have lately been passed in Ohio, imposing a fine of $500, or imprisonment, on any person who shall knowingly assist a slave to escape. There was an aged mother who had been brought up in the Presbyterian church, and who sustained an unblemished Christian character for twenty years, who fell into the hands of heirs, who, it is said, wished to liberate her, but the guardians were determined to sell her, old as she was, into the cruel slavery of the South. . . . Now suppose this sister in the church had come to me, and I had assisted her to flee from her cruel persecutors, the State would have fined me $500 or sent me to prison. Yet I, as a minister of Christ, should only have been doing what is enjoined by the gospel I preach. 
I am forbidden to do an act of charity — I am commanded to do the very thing which the Bible forbids me to do — to deliver the fugitive servant to his master. I should be bound to take this sister into my house, if she comes there; and yet such is the effrontery of slavery, that they have come over and demanded that we, who assist our brethren, according to the requisitions of God's word, shall suffer bonds and imprisonment. I cannot, therefore, but rejoice in the success of this Society ; and it shall have my prayers day and night.
William Lloyd Garrison, center, with Wendell Phillips and George Thompson
The society, however, split over differences of approach.  William Garrison and his followers were more radical than other members: they denounced the U.S. Constitution as supportive of slavery, were against established religion, and insisted on sharing organizational responsibility with women. A minority of anti-feminist delegates, who were more moderate on many issues left the society, forming the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society.  They were more conservative, supporting organized religion and traditional forms of governance, and excluding women from leadership.

Another issue was whether abolitionists should enter politics as a distinct party. The Liberty Party was a separate anti-slavery organization that broke away from the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1839 in order to pursue an abolitionist agenda through the political process. As a radical, Garrison did not believe it prudent to fight the system from the inside.

Because of this schism in national leadership, the bulk of the activity in the 1840s and 1850s was carried on by state and local societies.

View from Rankin House
On the morning of February 17, 1840, Jean Rankin was at home with her one-year-old son, Thomas, and 17-year-old son, Samuel.  John Rankin was out of town that day.  Slave hunters appeared and demanded the surrender of fugitive slaves they believed were hiding in the home. Holding her baby in her arms and standing beside her son Samuel, who was armed with a shotgun, Jean Rankin refused the men permission to enter her home. Assuring them truthfully there were no slaves in the house, she argued her privilege of privacy in a long exchange. To her great relief, her older sons, 18-year old Richard and 22-year old David, appeared on horseback with several townsmen who held the intruders at bay until their client, a Kentucky slave owner appeared. With his arrival, the Rankin sons ended the stalemate by forcing him and the principal members of his group off the property.

In 1840, Lowry Rankin was appointed publishing agent for the Ohio Anti-Slavery
Lowry Rankin
John Mahan of Sardinia led a small group in Brown County who supported the new Liberty Party. Rankin did not join them until 1843, though his son Lowry was one of the original Liberty Party men in Ripley.  A year later, Lowry moved to Iowa as a Presbyterian missionary. 

A bounty of up to $3,000 had been placed on John Rankin's life, and in September 1841 he and his sons had to fight off attackers who came to burn his house and barn in the middle of the night.  He later wrote that 
One Sabbath night my son Calvin heard a man whistle.  He looked out and saw a man step behind the corner of the house.  He and a cousin took up each two pistols, ran out and took different directions.  Calvin hailed the man he saw, as he did not wish to shoot him without knowing why he was there.  Just as Calvin spoke to him, he shot at Calvin, tore the shoulder piece of his shirt off, set his shirt on fire and marked his shoulder distinctly with eleven shot.  The fellow ran off as fast as he could.  Calvin had to put out the fire in his shirt before he could pursue him. . . . The cousin fired and there was a loud scream.  There were six men seen, two at the house and four at the barn.  They all fled and shot back at their pursuers who were shooting at them as they ran.  There were seven shots fired before I got out of bed.
At the barn they had made a little fire of sticks to take the weather boarding.  The dampness of the night caused the fire to go out after the sticks had burned . . . The barn was open at the sides and full of straw.  It seems that the design was to make a fire we would try to put out and by that means draw me out so they could shoot me.
The Rankins managed to douse the flames.  Rankin subsequently warned would-be invaders from his pulpit and through the local newspaper that it was “as much my duty to shoot the midnight assassin in his attacks as it is to pray.”
Thus have I been attacked at midnight with fire and weapons of death, and nothing but the good providence of God has preserved my property from flames and myself and family from violence and death. And why? Have I wronged any one? No, but I am an ABOLITIONIST. I do not recognize the slaveholder's right to the flesh and blood and souls of men and women. For this I must be proscribed, my property burnt, and my life put in jeopardy! Now I desire all men to know that I am not to be deterred from what I believe to be my duty by fire and sword. 
I also wish all to know that I feel it my duty to defend my HOME to the very uttermost, and that it is as much as duty to shoot the midnight assassin in his attacks as it is to pray.
~ John Rankin, 1841
Slave catchers continued to abduct people of color in Ohio, and in May 1843, The Cincinnati Gazette wrote in an editorial:
KIDNAPPING: This crime is increasing all along the borders of the free states.  Slavery in its mildest form is bad enough; but when the free are violently deprived of their liberty by a hellish thirst for lucre, and trafficked about as if they were logs of wood, every man possessed of human feeling should raise his voice against the crime and do what he may to overtake and bring to punishment the foul and fiendish perpetrators.
John B. Mahan died in Sardinia, Ohio on December 15, 1844.  During his imprisonment in Kentucky, he had suffered from a severe chest cold and cough; he never recovered his health.  He was buried in the Sardinia cemetery; on his tombstone were engraved the words: "A victim of the slave power."

John Gregg Fee, the Kentucky abolitionist, wrote of a meeting Rankin attended in Kentucky:
John Gregg Fee

Saturday morning found Matilda and me each on horseback, winding our way through the hills of Lewis to our appointment fifteen miles distant on the banks of the Ohio river. No molestation that day. That night during the hour of preaching some "roughs" took our horse out of the stable, took him off into the forest, tied some billets of wood to his tail and started him, thinking he would be greatly frightened and they see some fun. "Ben" took the matter so gently that they declared he had "religion" and let him go at pleasure. When my wife found that her horse was gone, the horse her father had given to her, and that he was probably being abused, she was troubled and "sweat at the eyes." Old Father Rankin, John Rankin, had come across the Ohio river to attend the meeting; and by way of comfort to my wife, said: "Why, Sister Fee, I have had my horse's tail shaved and mane cropped and one ear cut off, and he rode just as well afterward as before." Not long after "Ben" was found quietly browsing among the bushes and waiting to do his part in further evangelization.
In 1845 Lowry Rankin became publishing agent for The True AmericanCassius Clay’s newspaper; it was published at Cincinnati since its original plant at Lexington, Kentucky, had been destroyed by a mob sometime earlier.  Lowry Rankin lectured, organized churches, and agitated relentlessly to promote the antislavery movement.

A new "conductor" became active in the Ripley Underground Railroad: John Parker, who had been born into slavery in 1827 in Norfolk, Virginia. In 1835, at the age of eight, he was sold by the his plantation owner, who was also his father.  The boy was chained to another slave, torn away from his family and marched from Norfolk to Richmond. In Richmond he was sold again  and forced to march in chains to Mobile, Alabama.  Parker arrived in Mobile as the property of a local doctor. The boy made several attempts to run away during his teen years but was always captured. At the age of 16, Parker made the doctor an offer he couldn't refuse. He talked the doctor into selling him to a local widow for $1,800. Simultaneously, he arranged with the widow to buy him and then hire him out to a local foundry. He proposed to buy his freedom in two years time for $2,000, money he would save from his share of his wages at the foundry.

In 1845, Parker, at age 18, headed north, first to work in Jeffersonville, Indiana; he later moved to Cincinnati.  He met Levi Coffin, the Quaker farmer and merchant in Wayne County, Indiana; Coffin also moved to Cincinnati.  Parker was one of the free blacks to work on the Underground Railroad with whites.  

In 1849, Parker and his wife, Miranda Boulden, moved to Ripley.  He eventually became the owner of one of the larger foundries in Ripley. An inventor who held several patents as well as a prominent businessman, Parker established the Phoenix Foundry and the Ripley Foundry and Machine Company. The Phoenix Foundry was located on Front Street in Ripley next to Parker's residence. He employed over 25 men in his foundry, which molded and built Parker’s patented “Portable Screwpress.”  Additionally, the foundry built “soil pulverizers,” another of Parker’s inventions.  Parker's work included "repair of steam engines" in addition to "castings for mills and threshing machines." 

Parker became a leading figure in the Underground Railroad, not only assisting enslaved 
John Parker House in Ripley
people who crossed the Ohio River, but also making trips into Kentucky to guide others to freedom.  This excerpt comes from newspaper interviews with Parker in 1885:
It is necessary to tell you about Ripley in 1845. At that time it was as busy as a beehive. There was no town along the Ohio River except Cincinnati that was in its class. . . . There were the upper and lower boatyards, busy the year round. . . . One hundred flatboats were made here in one year for Vevay, Indiana, to float hay down the river. These boats were turned out in quantities and very rapidly all winter long. . . . The entire riverfront was filled with flatboats loading cargoes for New Orleans and all waypoints. . . . 
 Only pork was packed, as the south did not feed beef to its slaves. The slaughterhouses were in full blast at all seasons. Flour mills, both water and steam, ground up the grain of the neighboring farms, which were very fertile. . . .All winter long the farmer and his family were busily engaged making pork and flour barrels, and tobacco hogsheads. These were brought to town either on sleighs or by four-to-six-horse teams. At times the farmers killed [and] packed their own hogs. . . . 
This little town was so rich [that] in the Panic of 1837, it sent its funds to help New York banks over that depression. It was as busy as a beehive and as thrifty as it was busy.
I must make a passing observation that it is now 60 years after the time I have just been dealing with. All the boatyards are gone. The flatboats have disappeared years ago, not even a steamboat can be seen. That group of able financiers and businessmen are gone and with one exception not a kith or kin of those busy men is left in town. The men and women of the metropolis of Ripley have passed on. Hardly a memory of them now exists, except in the mind of a few aged citizens like myself. So quickly does our country change in its centers of trade but [also] in its methods of trade. But the Ohio River still remains a thing of real beauty to me.
Amidst this commercial activity lived and moved the little group of old-time abolitionists. They were by name Dr. Alexander Campbell, Rev. John Rankin, Theodore, Tom, and Eli Collins, Tom McCague, Dr. Beasley, [and] Rev. James Gilli-land.
The undoubted leader was Rev. John Rankin.
While the businessmen were not abolitionists, they were antislavery. But the town itself was proslavery as well as the country around it. In fact, the country was so antagonistic to abolitionism at this time, we could only take the fugitives out of town and through the country along definite and limited routes.
There was also very active a certain group of men who made a living by capturing the runaway slaves and returning them to their masters. These men were on watch day and night along the riverbank the year round. While they captured quite a few it was remarkable how many slaves we got through the line successfully. The feeling grew so tense Rev. John Rankin and his followers left the Presbyterian church forming a new congregation who were given over to the antislavery movement.
Many of the Methodists were in silent sympathy with the movement, [and] would give us money, but would take no aggressive part. As a matter of fact, this abolitionist group were ridiculed, detested, and even threatened by the town’s people.
After the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law in [1850], the attitude of the town’s people grew even more critical of our group.  We had to be more secretive than ever, for it meant confiscation of property, a fine, and [a] jail sentence.
I had kept a diary giving the names, dates, and circumstances of all the slaves I had helped run away, which at that time numbered 315. As I had accumulated considerable property, as a matter of safety I threw this diary into the iron furnace, for fear it might fall into other hands.
The other men were equally as cautious, but the work went on just the same. Having now become actively engaged in aiding the fugitives, my contact with the other abolitionists was close, and maintained until the close of the Civil War.
Now to an adventure that required all my skill and resourcefulness to get out of a bad situation. Tom Collins, the coffin maker, came to me [one] night very much excited, bringing with him one of the freemen of the town. His agitation was due to a message which this freeman had given him, to the effect that there was a party of refugees hiding in the woods in Kentucky about 20 miles from the river.  The word was that the slaves were from the central Kentucky [area, and] had made their way to where they were, when their leader was captured. With no one to guide them they were helpless. It was one of those “grape vine” dispatches, given by word of mouth from one friend to another until it mysteriously got across the river.
Being new and zealous in this work, I volunteered to go to the rescue. As my mission was a dangerous one, I put a pair of pistols in my pockets and a knife in my belt, ready for emergencies. The colored man himself was a slave and lived across the river in Kentucky. He had stolen a boat to bring the message to us, so that I accompanied him in it across the river. He furthermore assured me he would take me to the cabin of another colored slave, who would guide me to the fugitives. It was about daylight by the time we reached my guide, who hid me away in the woods. That night we found the party in the midst of the deep woods, scared and perfectly helpless. There were ten in all, which included two women and their husbands.  They were paralyzed with fear since the loss of their leader, and huddled together like children. They were so badly demoralized some of them wanted to give themselves up, rather than face the unknown. Food had been supplied by friends, so they were well fed, otherwise I could not have done a thing with them.
One of the men set up a wail when I had them ready to start. Drawing a pistol I sternly gave him the choice of picking up his things and coming along, or be shot down in cold blood. After that show of force, I had my charges under my control. It was a fortunate thing for me I did, as you will soon see.
My guide could not stay with me, as he had to be back home by daylight. We dared not follow the road with our party, because we were in the Borderland, which was thoroughly patrolled, and we were likely to run on one of the guards at any turn of the road. Going through the brush was hard and exhaustive labor. With the exception of a clearing now and then, dense woods extended about to the river, so we could with care travel in the daytime. It was dangerous but I soon saw it was a chance I had to take.  
They were hopeless woodsmen; try as I would, I could not keep them from breaking down the bushes [and] stepping on dry sticks, the cracking of which echoed through the woods like an alarm bell. I soon discovered I would have to keep them in the ravines where the ferns and moss grew.
Instead of being demoralized, they now became buoyant and . . . [hopeful] over their prospects.  In spite of my warnings, one of the single men, being thirsty, decided he would look for a spring. Again I begged him to stay by the party. As he insisted I had to let him go. Fortunately, I moved the party ahead. He had hardly got out of sight when I heard him shout. And [he] came racing through the brush pursued by two white men.
As soon as I heard the shout I made my party lie down. The man, forgetting the location of our party, went flying by where we were lying. Shortly there was a shot, which I could see disturbed my crowd. Drawing my pistol I quietly told them I would shoot the first one that dared make a noise, which had a quieting effect.
Shortly, there was a cracking of the brush. Peering cautiously through the bushes, I saw our man being led by a rope. He had his arms tied behind his back. Evidently, the fugitive had not betrayed the presence of his friends, because the three men went on their way, looking neither to the right or left, and were soon lost in the undergrowth. It was a mighty narrow escape for me and my party, for had we gone straight ahead, we would have all been trapped and captured.
Not knowing how soon the captured man might tell of the presence of the party, I decided to get as far away from this spot as I could. Ordering the crowd to their feet, I impressed upon them that I was in greater danger than they were, and that unless they listened to me, I would leave them just where they were and save myself.
Everything went well until we came to a road. Hiding my party, I advanced to make a survey of the situation. I found a well-traveled road which I was sure I could not get across in daylight. Now the party wanted to push ahead, and it was only after more threats that I got [them] safely into the brush. It was a good thing that we did, for we had hardly hid before a party of white men on horseback passed along in sight of where I was lying. From time to time wagons rumbled by, so that I did not dare to let any of my party get out of sight, in fact move without my consent.
We made the river all right, but I was 24 hours ahead of my schedule, as Tom Collins had not figured I would travel by daylight. Consequently, there was no boat awaiting our arrival. I had no other alternative than to push straight down the bank and take my chances. My chances proved very poor, because I ran into a patrol. Seeing the size of our party he turned and ran away. I knew that the whole countryside would soon be buzzing like a hornet’s nest.
Making my people throw away their bundles, I started along the bank as fast as I could go, with the fugitives following. I could see the lights of the town, but they might as well have been [on] the moon so far as being a relief to me, in my present situation. I knew there were always boats about the ferry landing. My one hope was to beat my pursuers to them. One of the women fell exhausted.  I only stopped long enough to tell her to follow us if she could, because I could not wait. Sure enough, at the ferry I found one lone boat. The next thing was to find the oars. I sent the whole crowd stomping through the brush in search of them.  While we were wildly searching, I heard the cry of hounds. The patrol had worked faster than I thought. Leaping into the boat to tear up a seat to use as a paddle, I stumbled over the oars, which I had missed finding in the dark. With a halloo, I piled the crowd into the boat, only to find it so small it would not carry all of us. Two men were left on the bank.
As I started to push off, leaving the poor fellows on the bank to their cruel fate, one of the women set up a cry that one of the men on the bank was her husband. Then I witnessed an example of heroism and self-sacrifice that made me proud of my race. For one of the single men safely in the boat, hearing the cry of the woman for her husband, arose without a word [and] walked quietly to the bank. The husband sprang into the boat as I pushed off.
As I rowed away to safety I saw dimly the silent but helpless martyr. We were still far from the Ohio shore when I saw lights around the spot where we had left the man, followed by shouts, [by] which I knew the poor fellow had been captured in sight of the promised land.
. . . We decided, in view of the alarm, both of us had better send the party to the home of Rev. James Gilliland at Red Oak Chapel, about five miles from town. There we left them, which was the last time we ever saw or heard of that crowd.
It would have been hard for the business owners to openly support the town’s abolitionists because their economic success was intimately tied to the South and slavery. Pork packing was one of the premier industries in Ripley, which shipped via steamship to New Orleans. Slave owners feed their slaves pork rather than beef:  Southerners considered pork to be “high in energy and best for working people,” thus providing the slave with cost effective protein that would give a higher work ratio.  

The term "Comeouter" was first applied to a small group of American abolitionists who withdrew from established churches because the churches were not progressive enough on the issue of abolition. A come-outer would not join a church which held a neutral position on the issue of slavery. The phrase was derived from the Christian Bible verse, II Corinthians 6:17, which read 
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, said the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you.
Ripley, 1846
with Rankin House on top of hill at upper left
Opposition within his own congregation, spurred by Rankin's attempts to expel slaveowners from the church, finally led him to resign in 1846 after 24 years as minister of the Ripley Presbyterian Church. Over one-third of the church's members left with him and helped Rankin establish the Free Presbyterian Church, which grew to have 72 congregations.  He later wrote:
This was one of the greatest afflictions of my life.  I never endured at any other time such agony of spirit.  To see a church that I had brought from thirty-six to two hundred and twenty members, that had to a great extent controlled the morals of the town, that had always been harmonious, and for which I had labored twenty-four years and made for it every sacrifice in my power, now violent torn asunder was heart rending.
In November 1847, the Presbyterian "comeouters" formally united into the Free Synod of Cincinnati, later renamed the Free Presbyterian Church. Under Rankin’s leadership, their most valuable contribution was the relentless exposure of the proslavery practices of the major Presbyterian denominations.

On Christmas Day, 1847, the Rankin's 29-year-old son, David Wilmot, died of typhoid fever in Ripley.  The Rankins took his small children into their home and raised them.

The passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 heightened the danger and profile of assistance to runaways. At an anti-slavery society meeting in Highland County, Ohio, attended by Rankin and Salmon P. Chase, Rankin declared, "Disobedience to the enactment is obedience to God."

The Fugitive Slave Law struck down the right of habeas corpus: a writ of habeas corpus is a court order that requires a person under arrest to be brought before a judge or into court. The principle of habeas corpus ensures that a prisoner can be released from unlawful detention —that is, detention lacking sufficient cause or evidence. It has historically been an important legal instrument safeguarding individual freedom against arbitrary state action.  

The law also demanded that any person could be held responsible for the return of the alleged runaway to the alleged owner.  It raised all fines and terms of imprisonment for violation of the law.  It made any federal marshal or other official who did not arrest an alleged runaway slave liable to a fine of $1,000 (about $28,000 in present-day value), and it actually offered financial incentives for the commissioners claiming the runaways, whether they could prove the person's status or not. Law-enforcement officials everywhere now had a duty to arrest anyone suspected of being a runaway slave on no more evidence than a claimant's testimony of ownership. The suspected slave could not ask for a jury trial or testify on his or her own behalf.

The law not only threatened the freedom of all people of color, it also destroyed the freedom of all people, black or white, in the free states by demanding their participation in the capture and return of enslaved people. Any person aiding a runaway slave by providing food or shelter was subject to six months' imprisonment and a $1,000 fine.

There were, however, no penalties in the law for those who made false claims or abducted free people, whether black or white.

The Fugitive Slave Law brought the issue home to anti-slavery citizens in the North as it made them and their institutions responsible for enforcing slavery. Moderate abolitionists were now faced with the immediate choice of defying what they believed to be an unjust law or breaking with their own consciences and beliefs.  It brought a defiant response from abolitionists. Reverend Luther Lee, pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church of Syracuse, New York, wrote:
I never would obey it. I had assisted thirty slaves to escape to Canada during the last month. If the authorities wanted anything of me, my residence was at 39 Onondaga Street. I would admit that and they could take me and lock me up in the Penitentiary on the hill; but if they did such a foolish thing as that I had friends enough on Onodaga County to level it to the ground before the next morning.
As the American Tract Society, the publishers of Christian literature, balked at continuing to publish antislavery material, Rankin proposed the organization of an antislavery tract society.   At a convention in 1851 in Cincinnati, the members voted to support the idea.  Rankin spent seven months traveling through New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and New England to raise money to found the Western Tract and Book Society.  He also wrote tracts for the new society, including one about the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law:
a standing monument of the most high handed wickedness ever a nation did.
Slavery supporters took two thousand copies of the tract off a boat docked at Ripley and burned them on the banks of the Ohio River.

Any slave emancipated in Kentucky after passage of the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was required to leave the state after March 24, 1851.  Slaves who were emancipated after that date had to leave Kentucky within thirty days.  Free blacks could only purchase another slave if he or she were a member of their family; free blacks from other states were not allowed to migrate into Kentucky.
One of the most famous responses to the Fugitive Slave Act was the writing of Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible. It is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s. In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States; one million copies were sold in Great Britain. 
The Fugitive Slave Act did not stop the flow of runaways.  By the 1850s, Kentucky newspapers ran advertisements for a new trend: slave insurance.  Banks no longer accepted the "property" of slaves as collateral for a loan.
In August of 1857, Rankin spoke at an antislavery convention in Cleveland, Ohio.  The convention was formed to organize a National Compensation Emancipation Society, which hoped to end slavery by financially compensating the owners of freed enslaved people.  The effort, however, was vigorously opposed both by radical abolitionists and by the slave power.

On September 27, 1859, an abolition meeting was held in Brown County at Red Oak, with Robert Gilliland serving as chairman.  A Georgetown newspaper called them "a gang of lunatics" who gathered to pass treasonable resolutions:
The Rev. Geo. Gordon . . . we are told, "delivered a very able and interesting address," the purport of which we are not informed, but presume, as is usual in such cases, consisted, in part, of the importance of forming sewing societies for furnishing the naked papooses of Boobotilla Ghana with shirts and the adults with green goggles.  . . . Let the people of Southern Ohio - of the whole State - severely rebuke such blasphemous and traitorous assemblages.
Governor Beriah Magoffin of Kentucky, in a speech in Frankfort in 1859, said
Beriah Magoffin

I do not believe slavery to be wrong.  I do not believe it to be a moral, social, or political evil.  Many a distinguished patriot of the South committed in my judgment a great error when they made this admission, in the earlier days of the Republic.
 113th Illinois Infantry
Rankin was 68 years old when the Civil War began in April 1861.  Five of his sons joined the Union Army.  His oldest son, the Reverend Adam Lowry Rankin, 44 when the war began, was the chaplain of the 113th Illinois Infantry.  Richard Calvin Rankin, at the age of 40, enlisted in the 12th Ohio Regiment; he would later become a captain in the 4th Independent Cavalry. John Thomas Rankin, (also known as John Rankin, Jr.), 35, was a quartermaster in an Illinois regiment. Dr. Andrew Campbell Rankin, who was 33, served as a surgeon. William Alexander Rankin, 29, became chief quartermaster of the cavalry command in William Sherman's Atlanta campaign.

John C. Rankin, a grandson that the Rankins had raised after their son David's death, was a private who served in the Armies of the Ohio, Tennessee, and Cumberland.  He was with Sherman's army at the fall of Atlanta.

"I lived to see four million slaves liberated but not in the way I had long labored to have it done."
~ Reverend John Rankin 

John and Jean Rankin celebrated their Golden Anniversary of 50 years of marriege in 1866, surrounded by their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  In his autobiography, written in 1872 when he was 80, John extensively praised Jean's virtues throughout their marriage. 
In every place she exerted a good influence, being exemplary in all
John and Jean Rankin, 1866
her intercourses and showing kindness to all the afflicted and speaking evil of none. But few women have filled as well the place of a minister’s wife. She contributed greatly to my success in the sacred office.
. . .  My wife proved to be a fruitful vine.  She brought me thirteen children, nine boys and four girls, all of whom lived to be married.  Eleven are still living now in November 1872.  We adopted an orphan niece whose father died before she was born and her mother died a few weeks after her birth . . . Thus we had fourteen children to bring up and educate. . . .   
Family worship, morning and evening, was never omitted for any purpose however urgent.  On Sabbath we shut up the house and all went to church. . . . The mother gathered her little ones all into the pew with her and kept them in order during divine service. . . . 
Three of my sons are ministers of the gospel, and all but two of my living children are church members.  May the Lord regenerate those tow, is my constant prayer.
. . . In addition to our fourteen children we brought up a girl who was partly colored. We treated her as we did our own children.  She stayed with us until she was twenty-five years of age and then married.  She was a woman of unblemished character and a church member. . . 
The mother of my son David's children died in a few years after he did, and his three children were left in my care.  . . . I had, in family for some years, two nieces and two of my brothers.  It may seem incredible that I could give myself to the ministry and support and educate so large a family and have a salary worth but three hundred and fifty dollars a year and that not very well paid.
. . . Having received an invitation to visit our children in Ohio, my wife and I are now paying that visit at Ironton and vicinity.  I do as much preaching now as when I had a charge.  Since I came to this place I preached at Ironton in the forenoon, rode seven miles to Sheridan in the afternoon, preached at that place, and returned to Ironton . . . I went to bed and rested as comfortably as if I had performed no labor, and no blue Monday followed.  Such is the strength the Lord has given me after being over eighty years of age.
 The Ironton Register of  February 3, 1876 reported on the Rankins' 60th anniversary:
PEARL WEDDING - Many of our readers know Rev. John Rankin. He has preached here several times, and has contributed interesting articles to the REGISTER. He lived at Ripley 44 years, and is now at his son’s in Lawrence, Kansas. Recently his wedding of sixty years ago was celebrated. We copy from the Lawrence (Kansas) Journal, an account of it.
The marriage took place at Washington College, Washington County, East Tennessee. . . . He moved to the State of Ohio; was settled as the pastor of the church at Ripley, where he preached forty-four years. In his advanced age, he resigned the charge of the church, and lives now with his youngest son at Emporia, Kansas. 
He is now eighty-three, and his wife, eighty years of age.  
The reunion took place at the residence of Hon. John K. Rankin, Mayor of the city of Lawrence, Kansas. The relatives of the family in attendance were Rev. Alex. Rankin, of Baltimore, Maryland, a brother of the groom, and Mrs. Adams, youngest sister of the bride and her three children, Alex. Rankin, Mary Merryweather, and Jno. K. Rankin, a grandson of the oldest brother of the groom, Joseph Rankin, of Kansas City.
The children present were R. C. Rankin and wife of Ripley, Ohio; J. T. Rankin of Mississippi; A. C. Rankin, M. D. and wife, of Illinois; Rev. A. T. Rankin, of Indiana; W. A. Rankin and family of Lawrence, Kansas; T. L. Rankin and family, of Emporia, Kansas; Mrs. Jas. Wiley and husband, of Quenemo, Kansas; Mrs. Fletcher and husband, of Douglas County, Kansas.
The children absent were Rev. A. L. Rankin, of California; Rev. S. G. W. Rankin of Connecticut, and Mrs. Humphreys, of Huntington, West Virginia.
Also cousins present were Mr. Thomas Rankin and wife, of Olathe, Kansas, and a grandson; John C. Rankin and wife, of Osage County, Kansas.
Jean Rankin died in Lyndon, Kansas 1878; the Rankins were living there with their youngest son, Thomas Lovejoy Rankin.  Rankin then moved back to Ohio to live in the the home of one of his granddaughters.  The Ironton Journal reported on April 5, 1883:
FATHER RANKIN, 94 years old, walked from Col. Gray's residence to the Water Works, through the snow, last Monday to vote. He believes in putting himself to some inconvenience in order to perform the duties of a citizen.
Before his death, Rankin suffered from a painful and slow cancer of the face, which finally attacked his brain.  He died on March 18, 1886 in Ironton, Ohio at the age of 93.  The Ironton Journal carried an article on his funeral:
Rev. John Rankin died at the residence of his granddaughter, Mrs. Col. Grays, last Thursday evening. Old age and a cancerous affliction combined, brought him to the grave. His death, at any moment, had been expected for some days. 
On Friday afternoon, at 4 o'clock, the funeral services were conducted at the Presbyterian church. . . . There was a large audience, among whom were several colored people. The pastor, Rev. Robinson, delivered an eloquent and instructive funeral sermon, from which we note a few prominent facts: The deceased was born in Jefferson county, Tenn., February 4, 1793, and died March 18, 1886, being over 93 years old. He was one of ten sons, four of whom, with himself, were preachers. His parents were of the old Scotch Presbyterian stock. He entered Washington college, Tenn., when 20 years old and graduated in four years. He volunteered in the war of 1812, but was refused on account of bad health. He married the granddaughter of President Lowry, of the college he attended, before he graduated. He . . . went to Ripley, where he preached for 44 years. During all this time he was an active man, lecturing, preaching and founding churches. He established eight new churches in the region of Brown county, and got pastors for them; wrote and published four books and many pamphlets - all, too, outside of his regular church work which he did on a salary of $350 a year, and much of the time bringing up a family of thirteen children. 
He was a tireless worker for good. Want of means never kept him still. He was the Paul of the 19th century. He founded the Western Tract Society, and begged money to keep it going. His life was full of zealous work for his church. 
As a citizen, he was a great lover of his country, of freedom and equal rights, and he had the courage to stand up for his opinions on all occasions. 
He organized an abolition society in 1818 and was the first man in this country to take a public stand for immediate emancipation. This he did in pamphlets and lectures; and for which he was mobbed and rotten-egged repeatedly. A price was set on his head. He was a member of the American Anti-Slavery society and one of its lecturers, whose arguments brought into the society some of the leaders whose renown afterward overshadowed their brave and humble teacher. As a helper to slaves escaping northward, he was ever ready, and from his thrilling experiences in this, he recounted some facts on which Harriet Beecher Stowe based some of the most interesting characters of Uncle Tom's Cabin - notably, Eliza and George Harris.
. . . At the close of the services, the remains were taken to the boat, and then to Ripley where they were interred.
Rankin was buried in Ripley’s Maplewood Cemetery.  In May 1892, six years after his death, a monument named "Freedom's Heroes," was dedicated to Rankin and his wife on the grounds of the Maplewood Cemetery.  The Ironton Journal again carried the news:
UNVEILING - The Bronze Bust of Rev. John Rankin - Rev. John Rankin, the
noble hero of Freedom, lies buried in the cemetery of Ripley, amid the scenes of his great conflict for liberty a half century ago.
Last Thursday occurred a beautiful tribute to his memory, when a bronze bust was placed over his grave. The bust is the work of his granddaughter, Mrs. Ellen Rankin Kopp, a teacher in the Chicago Art School. It is life size and is a faithful representation of the brave abolitionist when he was in his prime . . . This beautiful work of art bears this inscription: 'John Rankin and Jane Lowrie Rankin - Freedom Heroes." Beneath the stone rests the wife, too, the faithful ally of the champion of abolition in all his struggles.
The ceremonies attending the unveiling were beautiful and suggestive. First there was an address at the Presbyterian church by Mr. J. C. Liggett, a merchant of Ripley. There was a large audience and a choir of 100 school children. Then a procession formed and proceeded to the cemetery, where the unveiling of the monument was conducted by Jackson Atwood, a colored man, who made a very eloquent address. He was followed by Rev. S. G. W. Rankin, of Glastonbury, Conn., a son of John Rankin, who spoke to the relatives. Rev. A. T. Rankin of Greensburg, Ind., also addressed the people. A colored choir furnished the music at the unveiling. Capt. A. C. Rankin, of Ripley, was the Master of Ceremonies.
Upon returning from the cemetery, 37 of the descendants of Rev. John Rankin sat down to dinner together. There were five sons and one daughter present. Attending the ceremonies that day were about 50 of the 100 descendants of John Rankin.

The Rankin House in Ripley is  is now a National Historic Landmark. The house was acquired by the State of Ohio in 1938 and is owned by the Ohio Historical Society.  It is open for tours by the Ripley Heritage Society.  

In Beyond the River, published in 2004, Ann Hagedorn tells the remarkable story of the participants in the Ripley line of the Underground Railroad, bringing to life the struggles of the men and women, black and white, who fought "the war before the war" along the Ohio River. 

"I could write a book about the writing of this book and the exceptional individuals with whom I connected, both living and dead.  What a privilege it was to spend a good part of each day for nearly three years with John and Jean Rankin, John Parker, John B. Mahan, and Issac M. Beck, among others.  Their strength and courage are an inspiration to me, and I will always feel that John Rankin is now somehow a part of my own spirit.  The phrase "touching greatness" has new meaning to for me.That greatness, it must be noted here, extends into the realm of the living, to those people who so generously contributed hearts, minds, and souls to helping me create Beyond the River."
~ Ann Hagedorn


By RICH DAVIS, Courier & Press staff writer. Saturday, August 26, 2006

Lea Rankin recalls reading an article in The Evansville Courier & Press several years ago and going, "Wait a minute ..." 
It was an account of Underground Railroad activity from the 1830s to 1860s along the Ohio River or "River Jordan" in slave songs.  Piquing her curiosity was the mention of a Presbyterian minister named John Rankin of Ripley, Ohio, who helped take in an estimated 2,000 escaping slaves upriver from Cincinnati.  It required some research, including a visit to the Rankin House (a National Historic Landmark in Ripley), but Lea Rankin found her answer.  Her African-American family has white abolitionist roots. Her great-great-great-great grandfather was John Rankin.
Two of Rankin's sons, William and Arthur, had children by black women, one of them through marriage. Lea Rankin and her cousins, Larry and Michelle Rankin of Evansville, are descended through William Rankin and his son, Adam.
This weekend, about 200 Rankins from across the country are in Evansville. Many of those relatives gathered at a dinner and dance Friday at the C.K. Newsome Center.  . . . The gathering was organized after Lea Rankin, a mortgage banker, attended a reunion of Rankins in Cincinnati earlier this month - relatives she previously didn't know existed because they're descended from the other son, Arthur. . . .
"I grew up hearing stories from my auntie about my grandaddy," said Lea Rankin. Her grandfather's mother had been a slave, but he was so light-skinned he "could pass" when he came to Henderson County, Ky., to become a farmer.
Still, she didn't know the bigger picture until Gore accompanied her to the Rankin House, where she tracked down relations through a visitors sign-in book. . . . Gore describes the Maysville museum as a "healing station" where African-Americans find heritage and white Americans find inspiration. . . . Gore isn't surprised two of Rankin's sons had children by black women, given the respect which existed between the minister's family and slaves they were helping.
"My father was always ready and quick to get through any difficulty.  He firmly believed that a kind Providence assisted and guided those who earnestly tried to help themselves or others in dire trouble coupled with right."
~ John Rankin, Jr.


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