We had a great time in the Cincinnati area and came away with several stories to share with you about some of the interesting places you can visit on your next trip to the Queen City in future blog posts. Whether you like historical sites like the Harriet Beecher Stowe House or the William Howard Taft National Historic Site, oddball attractions like the American Sign Museum, places that honor our heroes like the Cincinnati Fire Museum and the Cincinnati Police Museum, or sporting venues like Phil Brown Stadium, Cincinnati has plenty to offer. But eventually, even with all of that to keep us busy, it was time for us to move on.
Leaving the Cincinnati metropolitan area, we drove east on US Highway 52 along the north bank of the Ohio River. Designated as the Ohio River Scenic Byway, it’s a good road, divided four lane in some areas and two lane road in others, but all of it in good shape whether you are in an automobile or an RV. There are several laid back campgrounds along the route if you want to stop for a day or a week.
We spent some time in New Richmond, a small town with a tremendous amount of history. Founded in 1804, New Richmond was a hotbed of abolitionist activity prior to the Civil War. It was here, in 1836, that James G Birney launched his famous abolitionist newspaper, The Philanthropist.
Several buildings in the town have been designated as having connections to the Underground Railroad, a system of safe houses and caring people who sheltered runaway slaves.
Many fugitive slaves made their way across the Ohio River to New Richmond, knowing that if they could make it that far they had a good chance of staying free. Not that slave hunters weren’t still to be feared, but at least in New Richmond the runaways weren’t on their own. In 1862, slave hunters hooted and hollered as they proudly paraded a captured slave named LeRoy Lee in shackles down Front Street to the ferry landing, intending to take him back across the river to Kentucky. But their joy was short lived. Alerted to what was happening, a crowd of New Richmond citizens confronted the armed slave hunters, demanding the release of the poor man. Realizing that they were greatly outnumbered, the slave catchers turned him over to the crowd and left. Lee went on to enlist in the Union Army to help in the struggle to end slavery in America..
This was the home of Methodist minister George C. Light, an agent for the American Colonization Society. Founded in 1816, the organization’s goal was to return free blacks to Africa. The group’s efforts resulted in the establishment of the country of Liberia.
While we stopped in New Richmond because of its anti-slavery history, while we were there we stumbled across another one of those little hidden gems that most people drive right past and never realize exist. In this case, it was the World’s Only Cardboard Boat Racing Museum. How could we not stop and check out a place like that?
I’m not talking about little paper boats you float around in a pond, these are boats that people make out of cardboard, paint, and duct tape, and actually race on the Ohio River. Some of the creations were absolutely amazing, and I’ll be posting a blog dedicated to the museum soon.
Another five miles down the road brought us to Point Pleasant, where we stopped to visit the U.S. Grant Birthplace State Historic Site that honors the Civil War hero who became the eighteenth president of the United States.
The Grant Memorial Bridge, located just a few yards from the house where Grant was born, is a handsome stone and concrete structure. This bridge, built in 1985, replaced the original bridge here, which was built in 1927.
Half an hour east of Point Pleasant we came to Ripley, another friendly little river town. It was here that leading abolitionist John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, opened his home to fugitive slaves, putting his own life and the lives of his family at risk to help them gain freedom.
We stopped for a late lunch/early dinner in Portsmouth, another town with a lot of history. Unfortunately, unlike New Richmond, 90 miles to the east, black people were not always welcome in Portsmouth, whether they be free blacks or escaped slaves. In 1804, bowing to pressure from the slave states to the south, the Ohio state legislature passed what became known as the “Black Laws” that put restrictions on the movement of free blacks and required them to carry paperwork at all times to prove they weren’t fugitive slaves. Based upon these laws, in 1831, many free black residents of Portsmouth were forced out of the city.
Not that all people in Portsmouth felt the same way by any means. The Underground Railroad was just as active there as in other places. One of the leading abolitionists from Portsmouth was James Ashley, who went on to be elected to Congress. Ashley wrote the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which abolished slavery in 1865, at the close of the Civil War.
In tomorrow’s blog I’ll tell you about our trip through West Virginia on the worst 175 miles of highway we have driven in all of our years of exploring this country from coast to coast and border to border. Let’s just say that it’s no place you ever want to take an RV!
Thought For The Day – Fruit cocktail is the most disappointing of all the cocktails.