John Price

Without violent acts or the usual mobocracy, the citizens of Wellington, Ohio and professors and students of Oberlin College near Cleveland, performed one of the most rewarding attempts at freeing a fugitive slave from Kentucky and successfully placing him on a ship for Canada.

 John Price initiated his own escape in January of 1856 when he chose to run away from he plantation farm owned by John G. Bacon of Tuckahoe Ridge (just opposite Rev. Rankin’s home in Ripley) in Mason county, Kentucky.

 In September of 1858, a known slave catcher, Anderson Jennings, of nearby Dover, Kentucky, traveled to Oberlin, Ohio to retrieve John Price.  Along with Jennings were Bacon’s overseer, Richard P. Mitchell and a federal marshal with his deputy.  Their actions were based upon the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law, which gave them the legal authority to enter Ohio and retrieve a slave.

 They successfully arrested Price, who had been staying in Oberlin recovering from major injuries to his leg incurred during his escape.  However, they had traveled but a few miles south when a group of over 200 citizens surrounded them in a hotel in Wellington.  The rescue party consisted of Oberlin residents, many of them black, as well as many college students and professors.

 Several of the citizens found Price and the slave catchers at the Wadsworth Hotel waiting for the afternoon train for Columbus.  The rescuers brought Price out and sent him quickly back to Oberlin to the safety of Professor Fairchild, later President of Berea College in Kentucky.  He secreted Price in his own home at the college for several days before forwarding him to Canada.

 The federal grand jury of the Northern Judicial District court in Cleveland, Ohio held the initial investigation into the rescuers’ part in interfering with the marshal’s duties under the 1850 law.

 Many were jailed awaiting the hearing, while in nearby Lorain County, a grand jury indicted the Kentucky slave catchers for kidnapping Price.  An agreement was reached and all were freed!


From the 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue: a Re-Appraisal