300 Front Street
Ripley, OH 45167
Open Friday-Sunday in season
Admission $5 adults, $3 children, $4 Golden Buckeye
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 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.