Located on the second floor of the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, the Sutliff Museum and Underground Railroad Exhibit educates visitors on life during the Victorian era and the contributions of the Sutliff family to the surrounding community. Created in 1955, the museum hosts exhibits which feature Victorian furniture and decorations, many of which were owned by the Sutliff family. The museum also houses documents related to abolitionist movements and anti-slavery settlements.
The museum was founded in 1955 through an endowment made by
Phebe T. Sutliff to the Warren Library Association. The daughter of Levi and
Phebe Marvin Sutliff, Phebe Temperance Sutliff was the first woman president of
Rockford (Illinois) College and was an Ohio candidate for Congress in 1924. She
founded the museum to ensure that her family’s legacy as activists in the Underground
Railroad and abolition movements would not be forgotten.
The Sutliff family moved from Massachusetts to Trumbull
County, Ohio in 1804. Settling in Vernon, the family quickly became involved in
the civil life of their community. Levi
Sutliff, born in 1805, was highly active in the Underground Railroad in
Trumbull County. His brother, Milton,
born in 1808, was an Ohio Senator and Supreme Court Judge. Milton also supported Trumbull County
abolitionist movements. The Sutliffs did not limit their abolitionist
activities to the state of Ohio. In 1833, Levi and Milton traveled to Philadelphia
to attend the first meeting of the National Anti-Slavery Society. Due in part
to their efforts, the Trumbull County abolitionist movement was one of the
largest in the state of Ohio, and contained over 150 miles of lines leading to
freedom in the North. The library has since been designated a Freedom Station
of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.
Museum exhibits include furnishings and household items from
the Victorian era, including a desk, kitchenware, clothing, and books. Careful
attention has also been paid to the wallpaper and carpeting, which reproduce
Victorian designs. One of the museum’s prized possessions is an iron hobble,
which Levi Sutliff removed from one of the escaping fugitive slaves he
assisted. The museum also houses a manuscript
collection which includes Sutliff family business records, personal letters,
and correspondence from national and state abolitionist societies. As part of their
ongoing efforts to educate their community, the museum created the Trumbull
County Museum in a Box program. Designed for elementary, middle, and high
school students, these kits contain objects and documents pertaining to various
subjects relevant to Trumbull County including Pioneer Life, Civil
War/Underground Railroad, Victorian Life, and Native Americans.