Built in 1821, this house served as a safe haven for slaves traveling the underground railroad in northeast Ohio.
Thomas and Charity Rotch were a Quaker couple from New
England who were devoted to helping slaves escape through the underground
railroad. In 1811 they moved to northeast Ohio primarily to cure Charity’s case
of spotted fever by living in a healthier climate. For their first 9 years in
northeast Ohio they lived in a log cabin on 4,000 acres which was used as a
safe haven for runaway slaves. They kept the runaways in the upper story which
was a successful hideout until the house that stands today was built in 1821. The
house was designed by Jehial Fox and features a hidden staircase that leads directly
from the basement to the second floor while being hidden from the first story. Thanks
to this innovation, no runaway was ever caught at the Springhill house.
Unfortunately, Thomas died in 1823 and Charity a year later. The house was passed
to their heirs but was sold to Arvine Wales in 1830 who also supported the
abolition movement. Arvine added a west wing to the house in 1831.
The house has been owned by the Wales family since the 1830
purchase and has been recognized by the Friends of Freedom Society as an
underground railroad site. In addition, it’s known as the oldest house of significance
in Massillon, Ohio.
story is the focus of a book by Ethel Conrad, Invaluable Friends: Thomas and Charity Rotch. The
house also has open tours. The house also features a live underground railroad
experience reenactment. More information can be found by calling 330-833-6749
or visiting www.massillonproud.com/springhill