Sandusky marked an important step in the journey of many enslaved freedom seekers using the Underground Railroad during the mid-1800s.
This Lake Erie community opened its heart to those travelers during their fight for freedom, helping them get across the Great Lake to freedom in Canada.
Sandusky has many sites is of interest to students of the Underground Railroad (UGRR).
Facer Park, with its evocative sculpture of a family in flight towards Canada, and the Rush R. Sloane house, home to an abolitionist who went on trial for helping people along the Underground Railroad, are two of the newest sites along the National Park Service’s officially designated National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom Trail.
The Maritime Museum in Sandusky, which exhibits local boats and other historical artifacts used by those participating in the Underground Railroad, hopes to join the group as it continues working on its application for official designation.
Designation of sites along the Network to Freedom Trail is a nationwide effort to coordinate preservation and education among local historical societies, museums, libraries and interpretive programs associated with the UGRR.
Ohio had one of the more active UGRR networks among the states with around 3,000 miles of routes heavily traveled by freedom seekers. Many routes appeared especially after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which sought to prosecute those aiding the fugitives seeking their freedom and caused more acts of civil disobedience from those aiding their flight.
Sandusky became one of the most common exit ports into Canada from northern Ohio. Others included: Toledo, Cleveland, Fairport Harbor and Ashtabula.
Sandusky celebrated the official addition of Facer Park and its sculptural UGRR tribute by local artist Susan Schultz to the Network to Freedom Trail in May 2014.
Schultz’ life-sized “Path to Freedom” sculpture, created in 2007, stands on the waterfront along Lake Erie. Eight-hundred feet of chain make up the bodies with the faces and limbs cast in bronze.
The Rush R. Sloane House received its official Network to Freedom Trail designation in October 2014. Sloane, an attorney, studied law as a young man with one of Sandusky’s leading abolitionists F. D. Parish, which may have influenced his own abolitionist views.
Other Sandusky UGRR sites worth seeing:
- The Follett House Museum is a Greek Revival-style house listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The museum houses a collection relating to Sandusky-area history, including Sloane’s silver-headed cane. Open April through December.
- The Sandusky Public Library is a beautiful Carnegie library building that also houses many archives related to the area’s UGRR history.
The Lake Erie Shores and Islands Visitors Center-East has a brochure with a pretty thorough history of the UGRR in the area that is very helpful for those planning a visit to area UGRR sites. Call the LESI (1-419-625-2984 or 1-800-255-3743) to get free copies of the brochure and area maps mailed to you.