Exploring the Underground Railroad in Historic Springboro

Blog by Stacha Yundt

Home to a critical piece of Ohio's first and only World Heritage Site, the Buckeye State's oldest hotel and restaurant, iconic aviation achievements and more historic highlights, Warren County's past is arguably as awesome as its action-packed present.

Among the region's most incredible, yet perhaps lesser-known historical offerings is the City of Springboro, a charming community on the county's northernmost end which once played a pivotal role along the Underground Railroad.

Once home to a network of at least 18 documented safehouses (plus another nine in nearby Clearcreek Township), Springboro once assisted thousands of fugitive slaves on their journeys to freedom, making the region one of the busiest Underground Railroad routes in all of Ohio.

So, why Springboro, you might ask?

Well, there were two major factors that made the city such a critical stop for freedom seekers.

The first was its location. The nearby city of Cincinnati was a critical destination for freedom seekers fleeing the South, and the journey from Cincinnati to Springboro could be easily covered in a single night.

The second factor was Springboro’s predominantly Quaker community. Springboro was officially founded in 1815 by Quaker Jonathan Wright, who himself would go on to become a conductor along the Underground Railroad. It was a deeply held belief among Quakers that every person had the fundamental right to freedom, and it was that belief that spurned many within the community to provide safe haven to freedom seekers. Barn lofts, hidden rooms, crawl spaces and underground tunnels were just a few of the many ways the people of Springboro helped conceal freedom seekers.

Documented Underground Railroad Safehouse | Warren County, Ohio

Take the story of Napoleon Johnson, a free Black man who once lived and worked in Springboro as a craftsman. Together with his wife Celia, Johnson would welcome freedom seekers into his home, claiming they were simply visiting family members if ever questioned.

While some of Springboro's Underground Railroad locations have since been lost to time, visitors can still explore a number of the documented sites to this day. Jonathan Wright's home, for instance, now operates as the Wright House Bed and Breakfast and offers guided walking tours to guests.

While some other documented stops are now private residences, visitors can take self-guided walking tours along Springboro’s South Main Street to view a number of other prominent safehouses.

Visit the Springboro Historical Society Museum today to learn more!