Poke Patch Antebellum African American Community
Poke Patch was established by African Americans, many of whom had escaped slavery, sometime prior to formal records which date back to 1850. Located in the swamps near the junction of Gallia, Jackson and Lawrence counties in Ohio, the site was a refuge for African Americans who were born free or had escaped slavery. The community was also home to some Native Americans and mixed-race individuals who came together to form a community. Poor soil made farming difficult, but many local men worked in the iron industry.
Backstory and Context
Poke Patch was not a formally incorporated town but rather a community of people who lived among each other for safety in an era when free people of color were in constant danger of being claimed as someone else's property. People who lived at Poke Patch eked out a living along the various creek bottoms that dotted the region. Many found work at area iron furnaces and performed hard labor such as cutting timber, digging ore and limestone, or leading a team of livestock to haul supplies.
Numerous families came together in this area to create a free community. They also aided refugees fleeing slavery through the secret network known as the Underground Railroad. According to some oral histories, some of the owners of the iron furnaces also provided support to runaways.
Federal Census 1840, 1850, 1860, 1870
Fox, Wilma: Family Notes
The Lawrence Register - Poke Patch - www.lawrencecounty.com
Ohio History Central - The Poke Patch Settlement
Siebert, Wilbur H.: The Mysteries of the Underground Railroad in Ohio