Saturday, June 30, 2012

Road-trip to Ripley: Front Street

Part One
I recently took my first Classical Quest road trip to Ripley Ohio! I was joined by my dear friend Christine, her lovely mother, and three awesome children.

Ripley is located on the Ohio River about fifty miles east of Cincinnati. Almost two centuries ago, it was the epicenter of the abolitionist movement in Ohio. Ripley's courageous past was an inspiration to Harriet Beecher Stowe. Her character, Eliza, was based on the true story of a woman who escaped a life of slavery by crossing the Ohio River on ice floes with her child in her arms.
 During the Civil War, the Ohio River separated free states from slave states.
What happened in that little river town nestled in a majestic valley would forever change a nation and aspire to rank as pivotal and seminal moments in the heritage of a free people. That place is Ripley-Freedom's Landing in Ohio.  ~ Judge Thomas F. Zachman
Inscription on the monument at Freedom's Landing.

View of Front Street which faces the river.
When you walk the streets of Ripley and climb the steps of Liberty Hill you are on hallowed ground.  Courage, compassion, and moral outrage against slavery dwelled in the hearts and minds of men and women who lived and walked here. Their words and deeds are not of our time, but have shaped our time and their stories are stories for all time and all mankind. ~ Judge Thomas F. Zachman
A view of Kentucky, which was slave territory during the setting of Uncle Tom's Cabin.
"A little town with a big heart."

Peering above Liberty Hill is the Rankin House -- a very important part of the Underground Railroad. It  is often referred to as a "lighthouse for freedom".
Home of Thomas Collins, "Chief conductor on the Underground Railroad"
"Thomas Collins,
Englishman, cabinet-maker, chief conductor on the Underground Railroad. Its portals were always open. Through this door stole refugees innumerable. The night was never too dark, nor the journey too long for its owner to issue forth, leading the helpless across the hills to freedom."
"Through this door stole refugees innumerable"

... I am reminded of the most important incident that ever took place at Ripley, during all the years of the activities of the abolition group. Strange as it may seem, no one placed any importance to the episode when it occurred, because we did not know what was in the mind of Harriet Beecher Stowe. It was she who took the incident and wove it into the pages of Uncle Tom's Cabin, making it one of the most appealing and forceful attacks of this epoch-making book.... I am referring to that incident of Eliza with her babe in arms crossing on the ice, chased by dogs to the water's edge. This all really happened, and it took place at Ripley... I have heard the story directly from Rev. John Rankin, to whom Eliza told her story within an hour after she had made the crossing, as she sat by his fireside in his hilltop home.  John Parker -- freed slave who became a conductor on the Underground Railroad. His home is on Front Street.
...nerved with the strength such as God gives only to the desperate, with one wild cry and flying leap, [Eliza] vaulted sheer over the turbid current by the shore, on to the raft of ice beyond. It was a desperate leap -- impossible to anything but madness and despair... 
...The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake; -- stumbling -- leaping -- slipping -- springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone -- her stockings cut from her feet -- while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank...
The Signal House -- "a historic home with rooms overlooking the Ohio River. Legends tell of its involvement in the Underground Railroad. A lantern from a skylight in the attic signaled Rev. John Rankin that the waterfront was safe to transport slaves to freedom." Now a Bed & Breakfast.
..."I'd be glad to do something for ye," said he; "but then there's nowhar I could take ye. The best I can do is to tell ye to go thar," said he, pointing to a large white house which stood by itself, off the main street of the village. Harriet Beecher Stowe, Uncle Tom's Cabin

Window on the rooftop of the Signal House -- clearly visible from the Rankin House on the hill above.
The proprietor said these roses were prettier a few weeks ago. I thought they were still picture-worthy.
A view of Front Street facing East.

In my next post, I'll show pictures of my visit to the Rankin House, where Harriet Beecher Stowe was once a guest.
Other posts in this series:


  1. How lovely. Your pictures capture the town beautifully. This is a wonderful tribute to the town and those citizens who made it what it was (is).

  2. Thank you for making the journey with me Christine! You were so patient and cheery when I missed the exit and we had to drive back quite a distance... Your mother was a treasure trove of information. And your kids! Oh my! I don't think I heard ONE complaint. They were such good sports. Great memories :)

  3. Thank you for sharing your field trip with us. I got goosebumps looking at the photos and seeing places/hearing stories that inspired HBS. Amazing.

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the pictures. Wish all of my WEM friends could have come along! I certainly had you all in mind as I explored the town. There was so much to take in. Sadly, I missed the John Parker house and Rev. Rankin's church. Maybe I'll get to go back someday.

  4. Thanks for such a wonderful travelogue in pics and words, Adriana. I'm looking forward to the next installment!


    P.S. New guest post at Nick McDonald's place (linked through my name), woo-hoo!

  5. Replies
    1. Rachel Stone put up a guest post for me today, too. It's about good looking food and the greatness of God (I linked it in my name). Hope you get a chance to look it over, Adriana.

      P.S. Sorry about this blatant self-promotion ... if only I had a blog of my own, readers could subscribe if they want. If I had any readers, that is!

    2. Thanks for sharing the link.I appreciated your viewpoint on that subject. It went along well with Rachel's philosophy on food. (Also, my kids enjoyed the video. Interesting.)

      No need to apologize for telling us about your post! I'm interested in building a community here at Classical Quest, so I'm very glad you felt comfortable to share that with us. Blessings:)

  6. I hate to be redundant, but I got goosebumps reading this post as well (maybe if I called them goosepimples then I wouldn't be redundant?)

    I love the view of the Rankin house standing out on the hill like a lighthouse. Also, I was shocked by the wideness of the Ohio River, it made Eliza's crossing even more amazing.

  7. Christina, I get goosebumps reading about my readers getting goosebumps!!

    About the width of the Ohio River -- I thought that was pretty amazing as well, but Christine's mother explained to me that in the 1800s the river was narrow near Ripley. It was dredged for steamboat passage after HBS's time. I confess, I have not researched this myself (other than a quick Google search, which yielded nothing). You are correct: the river is very wide. I do not see how it would be humanly possible to cross it in the way HBS described now.

    Perhaps my friend Christine's mother will comment and give us more info...

  8. Ok, my mom know a whole lot more about how the Ohio River changed when they put in dams to aide the passage of steamboats. I do know that settlers made their way down the river via flatboats, and they used long "sticks" to manuver and guide the flatboats down the river. That kind of passage could never occur with the depth and width of the river now.

    Knowing from my mom that the locks and dams were put in place, chages the way we view the river now, but it doesn't diminish the great part it played in the crossing of Eliza, or others. My mom says that the river was deepened both by dredging the bottom and by adding locks and dams. When you deepen a river, you will naturally widen it also.

    After a little research, I found two places with a little more information. Wikipedia chimes in on River depth with this, "The Ohio River is a naturally shallow river that was artificially deepened by a series of dams. The natural depth of the river varied from about 3 to 20 feet (0.91 to 6.1 m)." (

    A websight dedicated to the Ohio River says about the river in certain places that, "Before dams were built on the Ohio you could walk across the entire width of the river in periods of dry weather, obviously traffic by boat would be impossible. Congress authorized the canalization of the Ohio in 1878. There were a total of 49 of these dams and they raised the level of the river to 9'." ( There is wealth of information about the Ohio River at this websight. There are before and after pictures of the changes in the river after the dams.

    Thanks for your patience with my long (and wordy) response!

  9. Thank you for this thorough response! So helpful!

  10. "Wow, Adriana's really done something special here!." ~ Christine's Mom

  11. That means a lot to me coming from you! I really respect your opinion. Thank you for coming with us on the road trip. Maybe we can plan another adventure in the future!

  12. Wow. It is so easy to forget the history of this beautiful country we live in. What a beautiful way of making it come to life.

  13. Thank you so much for stopping by Jodi! I look forward to getting to know you better through Sew Fearless. I have a couple of little sewing project dreams for my home... I only break out my machine every few years, so each time I have to relearn how to use it! I was soo inspired by your "Embroidered" video/poem! I hope my readers will take the time to check it out.

  14. I am SO happy you emailed me!!! :-) I love your blog very much. The detail and stories and beautiful photographs are so inspiring. :-) Thank you for making contact!! I look forward to catching up. :-)

  15. :)It's delightful to reconnect with you after all these years! The time I spent in Moscow is forever etched on my heart. I remember your sunny disposition and contagious enthusiasm!Really looking forward to following your gorgeous blog! Blessings:)


Comments make my day! I read each one and try to respond within 24 hrs. If you choose to comment anonymously, please leave your first name, pen name, or nickname in the comment box along with your comment. Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts!