Payne Cemetery and Paynes Crossing Historical Marker
Named for the Payne family, who settled the area in the 1860s, Payne’s Crossing is an example of early African American settlement in a rural space. Roughly from 1820-1880 Payne’s Crossing was a scattered settlement in the hollows and ravines below. Most settlers were freed or escaped slaves from Virginia. Payne served as a logical stop on the Underground Railroad. However, white immigrants did settle the area as the need for miners increased, thus blurring the racial lines in this remote region. Payne’s was symbolic because it was made up of several farmstead settlements and served as a logical stop on the Underground Railroad. Payne’s Crossing was emblematic of the racial tensions that existed throughout the 1800s. These new Ohioans were forced to settle in more remote, rural areas where the natural landscape provided seclusion and solace. Oftentimes, in nearby communities, black settlements were discouraged. However, this remote space offered African Americans a chance to build their own life and experience autonomy. Sub Themes: -Existing on the fringes of society -Autonomy leads to social mobility -Gradual Racial Harmony
Backstory and Context
This community of Paynes Crossing ceased to exist as the children left the farms for new opportunities in the city after the Civil War. The families were some of the first to settle this area in the 1830s. By the 1850s, the four families owned a considerable amount of land in the Straitsville area and tax records indicate that some owned personal property worht more than $1,000.
Most of the families came from Virginia and some even traveled to Ohio together. Some of the men enlisted in the U.S. Colored Troops and fought in the Civil War while others remained to work the land and protect the families while also continuing the work of assisting enslaved persons. The Payne family, for which the area was named, did not arrive until 1880. This suggests that the settlement may have had another name during the height of the community's involvement in the Underground Railroad.
By the early 1900’s, coal companies had bought up most of the land in the area and the families moved on from their homes. The cemetery was not restored until 1995 by the Wayne National Forest together with the efforts of many partners from the surrounding region. In the cemetery, flags and stones mark the graves of African American soldiers from the Civil War. Payne’s Crossing was transformed into a notable example of early African American history in rural America.
Winfield, Geraldine M. The Historical Marker Database. Paynes Crossing. . . https://www.hmdb.org/marker.asp?marker=86103.
nps.gov. Inrtroduction-Aboard the Underground Railroad. . Accessed March 04, 2018. https://www.nps.gov/nr/travel/underground/ugrrintr.htm.
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