Saturday, June 16, 2012

Africa and the Underground Railroad

Alum Creek Dam is part of the flood control plan for the Ohio River Basin. The lake was authorized by Congress in the Flood Control Act of 1962. Construction began in August of 1970 and was completed in 1974.
During the Alum Creek Dam project, several cemeteries were relocated. One of them, Africa Cemetery, is where you will find the grave of Samuel Patterson (b. 1803, d. 1884), an Ohio farmer whose home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.

April 4, 1803,
April 17, 1884.

His Wife
Dec. 2, 1804,
Aug. 16, 1888.

The monument to Mr. and Mrs. Patterson is substantial, but unassuming. In fact, although I have visited Africa Cemetery many times, I had not photographed this monument until today—when I stopped in just to find this stone.

After leaving the cemetery, I drove to the park at the base the Alum Creek Dam to check out the related historic marker.

Samuel Patterson arrived in East Orange in 1824 and, within a few years, began to hide runaway slaves in his home. He also invited anti-slavery speakers to the pulpit of the East Orange Methodist Church, which brought Patterson an his neighbors into conflict with the bishop. Following their consciences, they became Wesleyan Methodists and built a new church. A pro-slavery neighbor mocked them by calling their community Africa, and so East Orange was renamed. The village has disappeared, but several homes owned by Patterson and his neighbors still stand in this vicinity.

The reverse side of the marker continues the story:

In 1859 slaves from a North Carolina plantation owned by the Alston family were sent north. The plantation’s mistress had disapproved of slavery and made arrangement for the slaves to travel to Ohio and freedom. These slaves moved to the community of Africa, lived in log homes, were employed by the anti-slavery farmers, and joined the Wesleyan Methodist Church. After the Civil War the freed slaves left Africa and settled in the communities of Delaware and Westerville, and Van Wert and Paulding Counties.

Coming soon. I hope to share more about the Alston freed slaves, because a number of them may be buried in nearby Oak Grove Cemetery. Can I find their graves?

Africa Cemetery, Delaware County, Ohio


  1. Very cool, Amy. I knew part of the story behind Africa and Africa Road, but didn't know about the cemetery being relocated or the historic marker. Thanks for sharing it, and good luck finding the other graves!

  2. I hope you'll continue your research of this area. My great-grandmother was born here in 1865.


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