HOME Historical Sites and Museums
The Parker House
300 Front Street
Open Friday-Sunday in season
For more information: The John P. Parker Historical Society, P.O. Box 246, Ripley, OH 45167 or call Carol Stivers, President, 937-392-4188
The Parker House
The Parker House is a National Historic Landmark, home of African-American abolitionist, John Parker. John Parker advanced his status from former slave to successful patented inventor and businessman in Ripley before the Civil War, is credited with assisting virtually hundreds of slaves to make their way north to freedom through his Front Street home.
John P. Parker was born into slavery in 1827, the son of a black woman and white plantation owner. He knew first-hand the scourge of being bought and sold and used like an animal. At age eight he was sold, chained to other slaves, and made to walk ragged and barefoot from his original home in Virginia to Mobile, Alabama. On this journey his spirit was ignited with the anger and hatred of bondage that would fuel his life-long passion for helping others to freedom.
In Mobile, Parker was sold to a doctor. There he was taught illegally by the doctor's sons to read. Several years later, Parker made multiple daring attempts at escape, but was returned to Mobile. His last 'owner' allowed him to purchase his freedom in 1845 by earning extra money at a foundry. Parker moved to Ohio, married Miranda Boulden of Cincinnati, and eventually settled in Ripley by 1849. Ripley was a thriving abolitionist town, with over 300 members in the Ripley Anti-Slavery Society.
In Ripley, Parker continued his iron foundry work during the day and helped fugitive slaves escape at night. Parker frequently crossed the Ohio River to bring across fugitive slaves into Ohio, keeping the Underground Railroad filled with passengers. Parker was well-known for his activities, and there was a $1000 price on his head in Kentucky. During the Civil War, Parker was a major recruiter for the 27th Ohio Volunteer Infantry (Colored) Regiment.
After the war, Parker continued his foundry work and was a successful entrepreneur and inventory. He has two patents for agricultural inventions, the earliest granted an African-American.
John P. Parker died January 1900.
Parker's house is still in existence on the banks of the Ohio River in Ripley, Ohio. The John P. Parker Historical Society is raising funds to preserve and ultimately open the house as a museum to share with the world John Parker and his genius and bravery.
According to recorded journals of Parker, the real warfare against slavery in the borderlands along the Ohio River was waged around the few houses at the top of the river bank on Front Street in Ripley, Ohio. "The occupants of these few houses were the midnight marauders, very secretive and silent in their ways, but trustworthy and friendly to the fugitives."
Such homes included the North Star Station, located at 212 Front Street, which was owned by Thomas and "Aunt Kitty" McCauge. McCauge was known as the wealthiest man in the Western Reserve, but was also an avid abolitionist. Another supporter was Thomas Collins, owner of the property at 200 Front Street. One story is told that John Parker was
being closely pursued. Collins, a cabinetmaker and woodmaker, had coffins on display in his shop.
Parker left the slaves with Collins, who hid the two in empty coffins. When the search party approached, Collins ordered them off the property. The story is told that the two slaves were able to escape to the Rankin House and on to freedom in Canada.
One residence on Front Street, which heralds undocumented fame, is the Signal House owed by Vic and Betsy Billingsley. A lantern in the attic signaled Rev. Rankin that the waterfront was safe to transport slaves to freedom.
Other prominent properties include the Campbell home at 114 Front. The site of the Beasley home was at 124-28 Front, currently 136 Front Street. Both the Rankin and Parker House have been accorded National Historic Landmark status.
John Parker describes Ripley in 1845.
Autobiography of John P. Parker, His Promised Land, edited by Stuart
Seely Sprague, published by W.W. Norton
"To give you the real background of my activities, it is necessary to tell you about Ripley in 1845. At that time it was busy as a beehive. There was no town along the Ohio River except Cincinnati that was in its class. There was a group of live men there that made it the center of industry and finance. There was Samuel Hemphill, Archibald Leggett, the Boyntons, Thomas McCague, James Reynolds were the leaders.
"There were the upper and lower boatyards, busy the year round. The upper boatyard was the oldest and larger of the two, located at the mouth of Red Oak Creek. There was a jut of land below the creek which gave the boatyard a safe harbor, winter and summer. One hundred flatboats were made here in one year for Vevay, Indiana, to float hay down the river. ...
"In winter steamboats were on the ways. The entire riverfront was filled with flatboats loading cargoes for New Orleans and all waypoints. Winter and summer there flowed down the river highways into the town a continuous stream of logs night and day. 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. ...
"All winter long the farmer and his family were busily engaged making pork and flour barrels, and tobacco hogsheads. There were brought to town either on sleighs or by four-to-six horse teams. At times the farmers killed (and) packed their own hogs. A woolen mill made most of the jeans for the town and the flatboats....
"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."
The Rankin House
6152 Rankin Road
(937) 392-1627 or (937) 392-4044
Wed..-Sat. 10 am-5 pm
Rankin House is operated by Ripley Heritage, Inc. and owned by the Ohio Historical Society
The Rankin House
The Rankin House is a National Historic Landmark and Underground Railroad Station. The Rankin House, located on Liberty Hill which overlooks the Ohio River and Ripley, is one of the better known sites which assisted in the Underground Railroad efforts. Built in 1828. This state memorial commands one of the most beautiful views on the Ohio River. Seven bends may be seen on a clear day. The home contains much of the original woodwork and several personal Rankin items, including the family Bible.
One hundred steps led from Ripley to the house on the hill; these steps are accessible today. Rankin said: "My house has been the door of freedom to many human beings, but while there was a hazard of life and property, there was much happiness in giving safety to the trembling fugitives. They were all children of God by creation and some of them I believe were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb." Rankin's first home was located at 220 Front Street.
Rev. John Rankin was born in Tennessee in 1793. In 1822, after preaching for several years in Kentucky, Rankin and his wife Jean moved his growing family across the Ohio River to Ripley in the free state of Ohio. In 1822, he began his 44 year ministry of Ripley's Presbyterian church. In 1825, he built the house on Liberty Hill overlooking the river.
With its proximity to the river and its owner's fierce opposition to slavery, the Rankin home was a perfect choice to become a stopping point on the Underground Railroad. The Rankin family (which included 13 children) was proud of never having lost a "passenger". Most of the 2,000 escaped slaves who traveled through Ripley stayed with the Rankins.
Upon learning one of his brothers in Virginia had acquired a slave, Rankin wrote a series of letters denouncing slavery to the editor of the local paper, later published as the book Letters on American Slavery in 1826. Rankin also helped organize the Ripley Anti-Slavery Society, Rankin taught, preached, wrote and traveled to inform many people of the evils of and the need to abolish slavery.
The Rankins' work inspired others to rally to the cause. Well-known abolitionist Wm. Lloyd Garrison called himself a Rankin disciple. Harriet Beecher Stowe heard Rankin's account of a slave who carried her child across the thawing ice of the Ohio River and was saved from the bounty hunters that chased her when the ice broke up. Stowe later included the story in her novel Uncle Tom's Cabin. Six of Rankin's sons and one grandson fought in the Civil War, all survived.
John's wife Jean died in 1878, and John Rankin died in 1886 at the age of 93, both buried in Ripley's Maplewood Cemetery.
John Rankin's grave,
703 S. Second Street
U.S. 52 East
Ripley, OH 45167
The Ohio Tobacco Museum
Ohio Tobacco Museum, Inc. is located at 703 So. Second Street (U.S. Rt. 52) beside the former tobacco warehouses.
The two-story brick house is of Federal and Georgian style architecture. This 1850s home was once owned by the Espey family. Mr. Espey worked for Heavy Munition Works in Cincinnati, the company that produced Ripley’s three cannons for protection during the Civil War. The historic home became the site of the Ohio Tobacco Museum in 1988 and stands as the only such museum in the state of Ohio. The contents of the museum have been provided through public and private donations and represent the story of Ripley’s unique southern Ohio agricultural history.
Tour groups are welcome.
See: Tobacco Resources http://www.qozi.com/tobacco/ for a very comprehensive site about tobacco.
The Ripley Museum
The Ripley Museum
is located in an 1850's home featuring 10 rooms with
collectibles dating from the late 18th century up to the mid-20th century.
This federal design house is similar to many built in Ripley in the
1850's. It features three fireplaces and a curved staircase. The parlor,
with its shuttered windows, contains a Valley Gem piano which was
manufactured in Ripley in the 1870s.