The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

October 7, 2012

Underground Railroad tour teaches area black history

By WARREN DILLAWAY - warren@starbeacon.com
Star Beacon

ASHTABULA — A historic stand-in for one of Ashtabula County’s most famous men painted a picture of life at Hubbard House in the 1800s.

The famous home, located on Walnut Boulevard, was a crucial cog in the Underground Railroad that helped escaped slaves to freedom in Canada.

“By the time they reached this terminus (Hubbard House) he (the slave) could count himself free,” said Fred Robsel who was portraying abolitionist attorney Joshua Giddings. Giddings had a law office in Jefferson and served many years in Congress.

Robsel said Ashtabula County had a strong reputation on the Underground Railroad and opposed bounty hunters seeking to catch slaves.

Hubbard House was the last stop on one portion of the Underground Railroad.

More than 20 people gathered at Hubbard House, now a museum, to tour numerous Lake County stops on the Underground Railroad.

Bob Minnoch, who helped organize the tour, said Hubbard House volunteers put the tour together each year to try and make people aware of the important history right here in northeastern Ohio.

This year’s tour started and ended at the Hubbard House and wound through Lake County. Hopper House on County Line Road in Madison and the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse were stops on the tour.

“He (Hopper) ended up helping rescue some of the slaves through his stable,” Minnoch said. He said operators of the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse helped 70 people to freedom.

Minnoch said it is important to know the history of our county. “I think basically no one knows the actual black history,” he said.

Grant Filbeck is a believer. The teenager from Erie comes to Ashtabula on a weekly basis during the tourist season.

“I love everything about that time period,” Filbeck said of the late 1800s. He said he helped guide tours at Hubbard House almost every weekend all summer long.

Betsy English, director of the Hubbard House, said there have been many improvements to the house and many more are to come.

She said groundbreaking on a new addition to the historic site should begin in about a month. English said the new addition will allow lectures to be held and provide access for the handicapped.

“I try and go every other year if I can. I love history,” said Leslie Jenkins of Ashtabula.