Marysville was an underground railroad center from about 1830 until the beginning of the Civil War. Runaways were hustled into town from Mechanicsburg and North Lewisburg then left toward Dublin or Dover. The abolitionists of Marysville not only provided hiding places and guides, but were also known to care for the needs of the runaways.
"Conductors" on the underground railroad guided or transported slaves from station to station. Mr. Joe Mayo was the primary conductor for Marysville, and he once turned down a $200 bribe (worth more than $6,000 in today's dollars) from bounty hunters. Quakers also frequently carried runaways in their wagons from depot to depot.
Resting spots along the way were called stations or depots, and those in charge we referred to as Station Masters. Deacon Samuel Cherry was the most well-known Station Master in Marysville, and runaways knew before reaching Marysville that if they could locate Deacon Cherry, he would care for them.
The River Jordan
Using biblical references, escaping slaves referred to the Ohio River as the “River Jordan”, and Canada was referred to as the “Promised Land”. Ohio had the most active system in the country, given its close proximity to slave states and Canada. The main entry point to Ohio was along the Ohio River, and winter was the most active time since fugitives could cross on foot over the dangerous ice. They would then take one of the many routes through Ohio to reach an exit port to cross Lake Erie into Canada.
Oakdale Cemetery - 1290 West Fifth Street
Many known operatives are buried here, including Asa Caryl, Cyprian Lee, George Cherry, Edward Powers, and William Lee.
Mayo Cabin Site - 1105 West Fifth Street
Uncle Joe Mayo moved to Marysville as a free person of color in 1848. Mayo served as a "conductor" on the Underground Railroad. He fed and transported an estimated 250 runaway slaves.
Kinney Barn Site - 423 West Fifth Street
Dr. Stephen F. Kinney’s barn, built in 1845, was used as a hiding place for travelers on the Underground Railroad.
Deacon Samuel Cherry Home - West Fifth Street
Deacon Cherry and his wife built a small brick home on West Fifth Street in 1843 and lodged fugitives on the Underground Railroad.
First Congregational Church - 124 West Sixth Street
Many operators belonged to this church, originally known as the New School Presbyterian Church. Samuel Cherry was a deacon here.
Cyprian Lee Home - 118 West Sixth Street
This home is the oldest brick home in Marysville and the oldest surviving Underground Railroad station in the city.
Some runaway slaves decided to remain in the Marysville area. They built a small community on what was called the "High Road". One of those families was named Collins, and soon the way to Milford Center was not referred to as "taking the High Road", rather, as going past the Collins' cabin. Eventually, the road became known as Collins Road, and now is Collins Avenue.