Little Bits of History

Trail to Freedom

Posted in History by patriciahysell on November 9, 2015
Calvin Fairbank

Calvin Fairbank

November 9, 1851: Calvin Fairbank is abducted. Fairbank was born in New York in 1816 and grew up in a highly religious family. The time was part of the Second Great Awakening and western New York was a hotbed of evangelical preaching. While still a teenager, Fairbank met two escaped slaves and listened intently as they told their stories. He was forevermore a strident abolitionist. In 1837 he was piloting lumbar rafts on the Ohio River and was given the opportunity to help a runaway slave. He helped the slave cross the border between slave state Kentucky and free state Ohio. He was soon helping Levi Coffin, a Quaker, with moving slaves through the Underground Railroad.

Fairbank was licensed in 1840 by the Methodist Episcopal Church to preach and was ordained as a minister in 1842. Devoutly religious, he enrolled in Oberlin Collegiate Institute in northern Ohio in 1844. Today called Oberlin College, the campus was multicultural, allowing people of any race and even women to be educated. The institution was known as abolitionist and drew like-minded people together. Fairbank was asked and obligingly went to Lexington, Kentucky to help an escaped slave retrieve his family. Gilson Berry’s wife did not arrive at the meeting place, but  during his time in Kentucky, Fairbank met Lewis Hayden and his family. They were hoping to gain their freedom. He brought them to Ripley, Ohio and to safety.

Fairbank and his accomplice, Delia Webster (a teacher from Vermont) were arrested for helping runaway slaves when they returned to Kentucky. Webster was tried in 1844 and sentenced to two years, but was released after just two months. Fairbank was tried in 1845 and sentenced to five years for each slave he helped, for a total of 15 years. He was pardoned in 1849 after Hayden paid his former master $650 (quickly collected in Boston, where he had settled) to approve the pardon. In 1851, Fairbank helped a slave named Tamar escape from Kentucky to Ohio.

With the help of the sheriff of Clark County, Indiana as well as Joseph Wright, governor of Indiana, Fairbank was abducted and transported back to Kentucky in order to again be tried for helping a slave escape. Fairbank was tried in 1852 and imprisoned for 15 years. He received exceptionally harsh treatment while incarcerated. He was routinely flogged and overworked. He was said to have received 35,000 lashes over the course of his  years in prison. In 1864, Acting Governor Richard Jacob pardoned the minister. Once Fairbank was again a free man, he married Mandana Tileston, a woman to whom he had become engaged between his prison stints. They had one son. His time in prison had deleterious effects on his overall health but he was able to live until 1898 and the age of 81, outliving his wife who died of tuberculosis in 1876.

Cruelty was the devil, and most people were, in one way or another, cruel. Tyranny, suppression, persecution, torture, slavery, war, neglect — all were cruel. The world was acid and sour with hate, fat with greed, yellow with the triumph of the strong and the rich. – Rose Macaulay

They don’t stand for anything different in South Africa than America stands for. The only difference is over there they preach as well as practice apartheid. America preaches freedom and practices slavery. – Malcolm X

Uncle Tom’s Cabin was no literary masterpiece but it was a culture-bearing book. It came at a time when the entire culture was about to reject slavery. People seized upon it as a portrayal of their own new values and it became an overwhelming success. – Robert M. Pirsig

I am naturally anti-slavery. If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong. I can not remember when I did not so think, and feel. – Abraham Lincoln

Also on this day: Kristallnacht – In 1939, Nazi Germany began the systematic elimination of the Jews.
Damrell’s Fire – In 1872, the Great Boston Fire took place.
IE Look Out – In 2004, Firefox 1.0 was released.
Papa Was a Rolling Stone – In 1967, Rolling Stone magazine’s first issue was on the stands.
November Witch – In 1913, the Big Blow hit the Great Lakes.


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