The diverse population living in Warren County, Ohio in the decades leading up to the Civil War made the area a hot bed of political, religious and social strife – reflecting the broad national unrest of antebellum America. The Warren County Historical Center (WCHC) decided to share the county’s history during this period to present a better understanding of pro-slavery and abolitionist stances in Warren County and abroad, and to help to dispel common myths associated with the Underground Railroad.
Following the Tracks of the Underground Railroad in Warren County shares the history of Warren County’s involvement in the Underground Railroad and the ways in which Warren County, like the rest of the nation, was not united on the issue of slavery during this time.
The secrecy once shrouding the Underground Railroad made it dangerous for those involved to leave a paper trail. However, once slavery ended, legends and lore developed falsely crediting people and locations with involvement in the Underground Railroad. To overcome the lack of primary resources and to remain as objective as possible, the WCHC used people and events that are well documented through resources such as Lebanon’s newspaper, The Western Star, and local and family records. The collection features personal letters, documents and family photographs of known residents who were long believed and/or confirmed conductors on the Underground Railroad.
Curriculum based on the exhibit has led to the creation of Underground Railroad themed school program, as well as the theme for a History Camp at the museum. Because the Following the Tracks touched on so many people and locations throughout Warren County, the museum linked this exhibit to other exhibits throughout the museum. Through their immersive tours, and personal and primary resources, the exhibit makes a multilayered story accessible to a variety of audiences.