The Rankin House
While it cannot be known how many enslaved persons found refuge on the Ranking property, Rankin's connections with white and Black abolitionists throughout Ohio helped many escape.
Backstory and Context
Reverend John Rankin was born in Tennessee in 1793. He grew up to be a Presbyterian minister and abolitionist in Carlisle, Kentucky, where he created an anti-slavery group. Because Kentucky was a slave state, he faced a great deal of opposition and threats there. He then decided to move across the river to Ohio, a free state, where his views received more support and he could do more to help enslaved African-Americans.
Rankin used his house in Ripley, Ohio as a station on the Underground Railroad. The house was linked with a network of other stops in southern Ohio and northern Kentucky. Oftentimes, it was free African-Americans or those still in slavery who helped escapees make it to Rankin’s home. From there, fugitive slaves tried to make their way to Canada where they could not be recaptured and sent back to their “owners.”
Rankin’s other claims to fame include the nearby Ripley College, which fell apart when a large number of his white students (mainly from Kentucky) left the institution after he admitted a Black student. Rankin also established the Free Presbyterian Church of America, which did not allow slave owners to join. He would go on to help create anti-slavery societies in New York and the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society in 1835.
In her book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe praised the Reverend’s efforts to bring freedom to the enslaved. Unfortunately, opposition to Rankin’s views remained strong. He died in Ironton, Ohio in 1886 as a result of injuries sustained in an act of mob-violence by men who opposed his actions and views.
The Rankin House. Ripley Ohio. . Accessed June 06, 2018. http://www.ripleyohio.net/htm/rankin.htm.