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The Sroufe House is directly connected to the Underground Railroad movement. Located one-half mile east of Dover, in Mason County, Kentucky, the Sroufe House played a role in the escape of three slaves that were owned by the Sroufe family. John Parker, a famous African American underground "conductor" helped the slaves safely across the nearby Ohio River and into Ripley, Ohio where they became free in 1864. 150 years later and the Sroufe House still sits in its original location on its original foundation.


  • The front of the Sroufe House
-Photo by the National Park Service
  • Close-up of the front of the Sroufe House
-Photo from The Ledger Independent

The Sroufe House was built ca. 1800 and has been expanded 3 times since then. Located only .3 miles from the Ohio River and Ripley, Ohio, this property along the borderland of Kentucky served as a prevalent area for Underground Railroad activity. The Underground Railroad was a secret network that prohibitionists used to aid fugitive slaves on their journey to freedom. There were not always specific routes, and fugitive slaves were transported by foot, trains, boats, or wagons by "conductors" that helped to deliver them to freedom. During the Civil War, Kentucky tried to remain neutral but ended up fighting for the Union as long as farmers were allowed to keep their slaves. Slaves at the Sroufe House could literally see their freedom across the Ohio River.  

 Sebastian Sroufe and his wife Mary Ann Sroufe lived in the Sroufe House and owned several slaves in the mid-1800s. John Parker, a noted Underground Railroad "conductor" helped 3 of the Sroufe family's enslaved workers to escape bondage and cross the Ohio River to freedom in 1864. According to his autobiography, John Parker came to the Sroufe House during the night and was able to hide himself in the tall cornfields until he could sneak up to the house and assist a family of 3 slaves out of the house and across the Ohio River. 

 The slaves Parker assisted were Celia Brooks, her husband, and their child Louis.  Sebastian and Mary Ann Sroufe had been expecting the family to try and escape, but knew they wouldn't leave without their child, so they slept with the Brooks' child in their room. In his autobiography, Parker describes sneaking into the Sroufes' bedroom and stealing baby Louis. The Sroufes woke up and chased Parker and the three fugitive slaves, but they managed to escape across the Ohio River and were never caught. Once across the Ohio River, the family stayed in a safe house and were able to avoid the search parties combing the area. 

Parker, John P., and Stuart Sprague. His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, Former Slave and Conductor on the Underground Railroad. New York: Norton, 1996.

 Gara, Larry, Brenda E. Stevenson, and C. Peter Ripley. Underground Railroad. Comp. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior. Washington D.C.

Hudson, J. Blaine. Fugitive Slaves and the Underground Railroad in the Kentucky Borderland. Jefferson, NC: McFarland, 2002.