Previous Ripley House Mention Stirs a Reader’s Memory

A previous story dealt with plans to enlarge the Buffington Island battleground on the National Register of Historic places, and mentioned other locations on the register linked to the Thunderbolt Raiders.

Rankin House Back Door

Rankin House Back Door

Included was the village of Ripley, Ohio, visited during the war by some of the Raiders, but best known as the residence of the Rev. Thomas Rankin.  At night, he would put a lantern in his window overlooking the Ohio River so escaping slaves would know to stop there as they fled North on the Underground Railroad. 

That item brought back childhood memories of one of our loyal readers and moved him to respond.  Here are Al Myers comments:

Let me start from the beginning. I graduated from Ohio State with a degree in Education and taught history in the Columbus Public schools for about 39 years. The Civil War period has always been my heart’s desire, primarily because I had relatives who lived in the D. C. /Maryland area and we visited them quite often. I had been to Gettysburg three times by the time I graduated from high school.

My father was a Methodist minister, and he served the church in Ripley when I was three years old. The church and parsonage were right on the main drag of Ripley two streets from the river. In those days, most of the wealthy families lived down near the Ohio River and the black families lived up on the hill. Ripley is set right on the river, and at one time was one of the stops for the Delta Queen. (But I digress!!!)

The reason the preceding information is ironic is that in 1944 or ‘45 there was a flood on the Ohio and all of the rich folks got flooded out and the black families looked down and laughed. Remember, at this time there was not total integration in Southern Ohio.                                                                                                                                                                       

Rankin House Front Door

Rankin House Front Door

The Rankin House, Ripley, Ohio

When we lived there, the Rankin house was a deserted and run-down place on the top of the hill. My sister and I used to play games by running up the steps leading from the base of the hill to the top. We would get to the top and she would look into the windows (I couldn’t; I was too short.) and she would shout: “Blood!!!! Blood!!!” and we would run down the hill together.

How times have changed. Today you have to pay to get into the house. Probably very few people knew how historically important that house was and still is.

Now, a history lesson: Harriet Beecher Stowe was the author of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” Her father Rev. Beecher was a pastor of a church in Cincinnati. He and Rev. Rankin were friends and sometimes the Beechers would visit Rev. Rankin in Ripley. Rankin’s house was the first stop in the Underground Railroad on the north side of the Ohio River. While the Beechers were there, Harriet observed the escaped slaves and probably talked with them to get her “background information.”  She never once was in the South before she wrote her book, which was entirely fiction, a fact many people either don’t know or forgot.         

Yours in history,

            Al Myers

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