1858 Redux: Lessons from the Town 10 Miles from Sin

Citizens of Oberlin, Ohio grabbed every available horse and buggy, plus a few rifles , and sped down route 58 to Wellington to free the fugitive slave John Price in September 1858.
Oberlin Rescuers
The Oberlin Rescuers outside of the Cuyahoga County Jail.

A hotbed of free thought and equality since it was founded as Christian Perfectionist community in 1833, Oberlin, Ohio has been credited with starting the Civil War.

In the early 1800s, Ohio was a free state, and Oberlin was a key stop along the Underground Railroad which helped fugitive slaves escape from the south and travel to freedom in Canada.

A pivotal event leading up to the Civil War was the rescue of fugitive slave John Price from Kentucky slave owners who came to Oberlin to arrest him and take him back to slavery. Price had been living in Oberlin as a free man, but the Fugitive Slave Act gave slave owners the right to come into free states and gather their “property”. When Oberlinites heard that Price had been captured, they grabbed every available horse and buggy, plus a few rifles, and sped south on route 58 to Wellington to free Price on September 14, 1858. After the rescue, Price fled to Canada and obscurity, and the brave abolitionists who saved him went down in history as the Oberlin Rescuers (pictured above).

As staunch Anglicans and citizens of Oberlin, my father’s family– the Lymans and Powers– were part of this history; Ansel Lyman (pictured above) played a pivotal role. Hear this story about the fight to end slavery and learn the parallels to today’s struggles for equality and civil rights on Sunday, Nov. 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson, on 22nd Street. I will be giving the sermon. Doors open at 10:30 a.m. Coffee hour at 11:30 a.m. Everyone is welcome.


  1. what most people credit for starting the civil war was my personal hero’s raid on harpers ferry captain john brown of kansas. while most northerners were aghast the south thought all of the north supported what john brown did. shows you what one person can do when they really try! henry david thoreau’s essays on john brown are a must read. lincoln would never have been elected with out john brown. malcolm X said it I don’t usually want white people in the movement but if john brown were alive I would make an exception in his case. H. rap brown john brown is the only white man I respect and he is dead!

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