Say I Do!

T’is the season of engagements. For the past two years, I’ve known someone who’s gotten engaged over the holiday season and it’s certainly a popular gift. But then the fun starts… planning a wedding.

This means dress shopping, tux rentals, engagement parties, bachelor and bachelorette parties, bridal showers, catering tasting, cake tasting, choosing colors, venues, photographers, musicians, and much, much more.

So let us make one thing a little bit easier for you. Find your ceremony and/or photograph venue right now.

Spring Hill Historic Home hosts weddings, bridal showers, and photography sessions for engagement and wedding photos. It’s the perfect place for outdoor weddings with old country charm that is unlike anywhere else. Tucked back from the street, the noises of modern day life fade away so you feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere without having the inconvenience of being far away from family, friends, caterers, musicians, or reception halls.

Best yet, the fees from your wedding go straight to preserving Spring Hill as a historic landmark. It helps preserve the house for future generations.

Call our office at 330-833-6749 or email our director, Sammy Kay Smith, at for more information!

The Great Scandal of Spring Hill

We’d like to thank MassMu Archivist, Mandy Altimus Pond, for uncovering this slightly scandalous part of our history.

First, some backstory:

In 1854, Arvine Chaffee Wales inherited Spring Hill from his father, Arvine Wales (or as we call him, Arvine One). A few months after his father’s death, his step mother, Nancy Shepherdson Wales, passed away. Nancy had two daughters from her first marriage, Lydia Teller (who lived at Spring Hill until her death), and Louisa Pease.

In 1864, Arvine Chaffee married Eliza Weimar. The two had three children, Helen (Nell) Wales Skinner (1868-1956), Arvine Wales (or Arvine Three) (1869-1935), and Horatio Wales (1880-1952). When Horatio was 2-years-old, his father, Arvine Chaffee passed away at the age of 55 (in 1882).

Louisa Shepherdson (Arvine Chaffee’s step-sister) married Samuel Pease (Massillon’s first elected Mayor). The two had three children: Percy Pease, “Aunt” Tat Church, and Amanda Babcock Rhodes.

Make sense?

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So do we. But, we don’t have time to get bogged down in family genealogy.

It is Aunt Tat and Percy Pease who take center stage for our scandal.

In the late 1880s, there had been a prowler in the neighborhood. There are multiple reports of someone peering in windows.


One evening Percy Pease and Aunt Tat were in Spring Hill’s parlor reading. Aunt Tat looked up and said, “Percy, there is a man looking in the window.”

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Percy, the take charge man that he was, picked up a gun on the table and fired it over his shoulder towards the window behind him.

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The bullet went straight through the slats of the partially closed shutters and killed the man!

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The prowler turned out to be someone fairly prominent. (But we’re still not 100% sure who he was.)


As a result of the notoriety, Percy and Aunt Tat moved to California where Mrs. Wales, Nellie, and Horatio spent 1889-1891.


They closed Spring Hill and went there on the advice of Dr. Allen of Cleveland. Arvine Three (Horatio’s older brother) graduated from Yale in 1891 and then went to San Leandro for the summer.

See? Every family has some black sheep and skeletons in their closet.

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Early American Christmas: Religious or Debauchery? Part Two

**Notice: This post will include discussion of alcohol, intoxication, sexual misconduct, and cross-dressing. Nothing will be explicit, but please be aware before allowing younger history enthusiasts to read.

Check out Part One of this post for information on the religious history of Christmas in Early America.

While many people celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, many also do not. Early American Christmases would be unrecognizable to most U.S. Citizens today. If we stepped back to the 16th, 17th, 18th, or even 19th centuries, Christmas would look more like Mardi Gras. This is true in the American colonies and throughout Europe. Christmas was a time to left off steam and to gorge.

Christmas’ origins come from the Roman holiday Saturnalia and various winter solstice celebrations from pagan religions. This was the time of year that the harvest was finally in, farmers were entering their much needed season of rest, animals were freshly slaughtered, and beers and wines were done fermenting. This meant it was time to party!

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Communities would come together to eat, drink, and be merry as they celebrated the end of another season and tried to eat whatever fresh meat and vegetables they could. This also meant it was time for some mischief.

Seen today in Boxing Day, and the American custom of giving Christmas bonuses/tips, Saturnalia was a day of reversals. The lords and wealthy had to serve the poor and would give gifts of food, drink, or money. A poor man would often be elected as the “Lord of Misrule” and was in charge of all the festivities. (This is similar to the opening scene for Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame with the Feast of Fools and the song “Topsy Turvy”)

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This also meant there were traditions the poor kept in place to make sure the wealthy were paying them back for their year of service. Mumming, wassailing, and caroling was popular, with groups approaching the homes of the wealthy and offering to sing songs or put on performances (St. George and the Dragon was popular), or simply to pray and provide “good will” for the wealthy. The wealthy were then expected to provide food, alcohol, and sometimes money for these performers.

Sometimes, the poor would  hide their real identity, and we get into some Halloween-style trick-or-treating. Some people would wear costumes, including animal masks, or simply cross dress (this was very popular). Then, no one would know who they were!

Hunchback Funny GIF - Hunchback Funny Festival GIFs

Of course, with everyone so drunk, it isn’t a surprise that some things went array. Some carolers essentially threatened their guests in song, using lyrics like:

Come bring, with a noise,

My merrie, merrie boys,

The Christmas log to the firing;

While my good dame she

Bids ye all be free (ie with the alcohol)

And drink to your heart’s desiring.

One surviving song contains this blunt demand and threat:

We’ve come here to claim our right…

And if you don’t open up your door,

We will lay you flat upon the floor.

Definitely not the cute Christmas carolers we picture today.

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With the addition of alcohol, it also isn’t surprising that men and women were looser with their favors. Some midwives joked about their busy season being August and September after the festivities. One Maine midwife noted her children going out for Christmas celebrations and finding their spouse through these courting rituals. In most parts of early America, as long as the couple married, most communities were willing to turn a blind eye to pre-marital pregnancies.

In The Battle for Christmas, the author notes the following from a Victorian historian:

“The late-nineteenth-century historian John Ashton reports one episode from Lincolnshire in 1637, in which the man selected by a crowd of revelers as “Lord of Misrule” and was publicly given a “wife,” in a ceremony led by a man dressed as a minister (he read the entire marriage service from the Book of Common Prayer). Thereupon, as Ashton noted in Victorian language, “the affair was carried to its utmost extent.”

Unfortunately, we don’t know what happened to the happy couple after the celebrations were over.

The Christmas celebrations offered people a chance to do the things they wouldn’t normally do. They were allowed to get drunk, eat until they couldn’t eat anymore, and act out their fantasies. (Is it really any wonder that the Puritans hated these celebrations?) Since so many people were acting out anonymously, it was even better, since you couldn’t always connect what happened during Christmas to actual people.

According to some sources, after the American Revolution Christmas in this way stopped being celebrated. The new United States didn’t want anything to do with anything they considered “British” including these celebrations. Unfortunately, there is little information on this, so it is hard to verify. It’s during the Victorian era that we start to see the romantic idea of good will to all man kind, giving back, and coming together with family and friends that we now associate with Christmas.

However, who’s to say how we’ll be celebrating the season in another 200 years. Only time will tell.


If you’d like more information on early Christmas, we’d recommend the book The Battle for Christmas by Stephen Nissenbaum. It is an interesting, amusing and well-researched read.

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Early American Christmas: Religious or Debauchery? Part One

**Notice: This post will include discussion of alcohol, intoxication, sexual misconduct, and cross-dressing. Nothing will be explicit, but please be aware before allowing younger history enthusiasts to read.

Today, we fight over whether Christmas should be a secular or sacred holiday. Secularists call it good family fun, with Santa and a time for families to come together to celebrate the leaving year. Sacred proponents advocate to remember the “reason for the season” and to put “Christ back in CHRISTmas.”

Our role at Spring Hill is not to enter into this argument, but to instead discuss what Christmas would have looked like when the Rotch-Wales families were living here at Spring Hill.

Being open for Holiday Tours, many people have asked us if this is what the house would have looked like when the family was living here. Simply put, the answer is No. But to explain this more, let’s step back into time.

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Most of us are aware that the Catholic Church adopted Christmas, near the Winter Solstice and the Roman holiday of Saturnalia in the 4th Century. This was a way for the Catholic Church to essentially prove that they were cool and adapt to the existing cultures around the world. From these pagan holidays, we see familiar traditions and decor that we still use today (evergreens, music, making merry, mistletoe, and eating until we can’t move).

In 1517, when Protestant radical Martin Luther penned his Ninety-Five Theses to the Catholic Church, there was then a divide in what practices of the Catholic Church should these new Protestants keep. Unfortunately, there is little information on early Protestant Christmas, unless we’re talking about the Puritans.

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Puritans, who settled Massachusetts and parts of New England, hated Christmas. Like many other Protestant denominations, the Puritans didn’t believe that Christ was born in December (there are many theories varying from October to the spring). “Puritans were fond of saying that if God had intended for the anniversary of the Nativity to be observed, He would surely have given some indication as to when that anniversary occurred” (The Battle for Christmas, Nissenbaum). Puritans in Massachusetts actually outlawed celebrating Christmas in 1659 (not even 40 years after landing in Plymouth), the Massachusetts General Court declared the celebration of Christmas to be a criminal offense.

Quakers, like Thomas and Charity Rotch, didn’t agree with celebrating Christmas either. Quaker founder, George Fox, told his followers that if they were to take off Christmas Day that they should spend it doing good works for those in need. Every Christmas, Fox would take money around to the widows and orphans in his town. Quakers believed that celebrating Christ’s birth shouldn’t be confined to one day. Instead, they should celebrate it every day.

While there aren’t as much writings on Quaker’s not celebrating Christmas, there are lots on why Puritans didn’t celebrate. Besides disliking the idea of celebrating only once, they hated the traditional festivities associated with Christmas. Mainly they hated the drunken revelry and gorging that came with most Christmas festivals. Puritans hated the displays of excess and sexual debauchery that happened, especially between unmarried couples!

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Steamy Puritan Flirting

This was quite normal throughout Europe and the Colonies through the 18th and early 19th centuries. To learn more about our secular celebrations, check out Part Two of this blog post.

It isn’t until the early 1800s that non-Catholics start getting interested in celebrating Christmas as a religious holiday. Specifically, it is the famous writings of “Twas the Night before Christmas” and “A Christmas Carol” that caused Americans to start falling in love with the romantic British country-side Christmas. Puritans, Universalists, Congregationalists, Methodists, and Unitarians were the first to try to move Christmas towards a religious celebration with families going to church. In Boston, Puritans tried to close the city’s businesses and push people towards open churches. This lasted about 3 years before it puttered out. New York religious leaders tried to do this also, but had little luck.

It is during the Victorian Era that the religious aspect of Christmas became more ingrained. With the pictures of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert, and their children gathered around a Christmas tree, the celebration became more religious and family oriented. However, the holiday stayed controversial, with some states not recognizing it as a holiday until the turn of the 20th century.

Some religious denominations today still argue if Christmas should be called Christ’s birth, using similar theological arguments as the Puritans.

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A Step-By-Step Guide to Victorian Mourning

**Disclaimer: Spring Hill is not making fun of or light of death. However, because we are exploring Mourning habits, we thought we’d share this fun, silly, and education guide.

We promise, mourning the Victorian way isn’t as difficult as it seems. Just follow our steps below!

1. Someone dies (we suggest waiting and not taking matters into your own hands. As much as it may be nice to think about getting rid of that annoying co-worker).

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2. Stop all the cocks in the house (or at least the ones in the room where the death took place). They need to be stopped at the time of death.

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3. Clean and dress the body for the wake, then move into the most formal room in the house (most likely the parlor, or living room).

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4. Go to the coffin warehouse, or to one of the men in your family, and have a coffin made.

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5. Cover all of the mirrors, portraits, and photographs with black crepe fabric. If you really like black, feel free to cover up everything that’s shiny. (Mirrors, Portraits and Photographs might steal your soul, or keep the dead one’s soul in the house to haunt you).

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6. Make sure you have all your mourning clothes! They can be made, purchased, or you can simply dye your told clothes back.

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7. Send your funeral invitations.

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8. Stark cooking! Wakes and funerals bring lots of people that you have to feed!

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9. Bring in your guests for the wake and funeral. Depending on your religious beliefs, be sure to stock up on appropriate food, alcohol, and music!

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10. Hold the funeral, either at your home or at graveside. Funerals are short, maybe lasting only 15 minutes.

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11. Widows and Widowers stay in mourning for up to two and a half years, with other family members adopting it for shorter periods of time, depending on their relationship to the deceased.

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Bonus! Most important, the body can’t be left alone at any time! (Just in case anything freaky happens).

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Good luck with your Victorian Mourning! And while we recognize that it is often easy to overlook death when it comes to history, or to make light of some very strange customs, death is a part of our life.

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Spring Hill is currently hosting a full house exhibit with the home set up similarly as would have been seen in 1854 when Arvine Wales passed away. Come tour the home on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00-4:00pm. There are two audio tours available for your enjoyment: Victorian Mourning and Hidden Killers of the 1800s Home. 

Adults $5.00
Students and Seniors $4.00
5 and Under FREE

Check out our website for information on our upcoming Mourning Arvine Wales programming.

(Queen) Victoria Mourning

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After the death of her husband, Prince Albert, Queen Victoria of England plunged into mourning. A political match had turned into a beautiful, 21 year marriage, with the two clearly in love with one another. Victoria mourned deeply, wearing black for the rest of her life, including to some of her own children’s weddings. She became known as the “Widow of Windsor” for her dedication to grieving her husband.

Prince Albert was only 42 years old when he passed away in 1861. He left behind his wife and their nine children. For the next 40 years, Victoria dedicated her life to remembering her husband, and making many of his dreams a reality. This included commissioning two public statues of her husband, one in Wolverhampton in 1866 and one in Hyde Park in 1877. She also built the Royal Albert Hall in 1871, which had been his idea and dream and is still used today.

Victoria was strict with her mourning. Until her own death, she used black bordered stationary and required her daughters and maids to only wear black jet jewelry in her presence. She and her daughters took memorial photographs, like the one above, with her daughters and a bust of Prince Albert.

These photographs, the black bordered stationary, and wearing all black started to influence the culture around her. With Victoria’s very public display of her mourning, people around the world started to emulate her. This turned mourning into something new. Instead of a private, personal process, grieving loved ones became a public performance that others could witness and critique.

Mourning guides were published for the public’s consumption. People could judge how others measured up to the expectations of mourning. One young maid was the subject of peer pressure by her community when her husband died only a year into their marriage. The widow chose to mourn modestly, sticking within her budget. When her employer saw her later decked out in extravagant widows weeds, she asked what had caused her to spend so much money on mourning her husband. The maid mentioned that her neighbors had started commenting that she and her husband must not have actually been married because of her lack of mourning him. She was pressured into spending lots of money that she didn’t have to prove to her neighbors that their marriage had been legitimate.

With Victoria’s public grief, mourning became a public performance for the community. In the upcoming blog posts, we’ll explore a variety of mourning customs to coincide with our Mourning Arvine Wales: Death in the 1800s exhibit.


Spring Hill is currently hosting a full house exhibit with the home set up similarly as would have been seen in 1854 when Arvine Wales passed away. Come tour the home on Saturdays and Sundays from 1:00-4:00pm. There are two audio tours available for your enjoyment: Victorian Mourning and Hidden Killers of the 1800s Home. 

Adults $5.00
Students and Seniors $4.00
5 and Under FREE

Check out our website for information on our upcoming Mourning Arvine Wales programming.

Freedom Quilts: #UGRRMyth

The Underground Railroad is an amazing story with people coming together to fight for one basic American right: freedom. Unfortunately, over the years, the idea of the Underground Railroad has become romantic and surrounded by myths. It makes it next to impossible for historians to weed through everything, let alone the the average American citizen.

<p>Here is the last installment of our #UGRRMyth series!

<p>—– <p>Go onto Pinterest and enter in the search bar “Underground Railroad Activities Kids” and I guarantee in the first 10 pins that pop up, at least 3 will be about Freedom Quilts, or Quilt Codes.

<p>Coming onto the history scene in the 1990s, the book “Hidden in Plain View” spread the story authors Tobin and Dobard based around their interviews with Ozella McDaniel. The idea that McDaniel shared was that slaves would make quilts to tell each other stories and to remember directions to get to freedom. Each quilt square means something different in the code, so once you know it, theoretically, an abolitionist could put out a code with directions or a message to runaways about what was safe and where to go.

<p>This story is beautiful, romantic, and so much fun, because, who doesn’t like a secret code? Unfortunately, most historians and organizations such as the National Parks and the Freedom Center are all in agreement when it comes to the lack of evidence.

<p>First is the practical problem: Where are slaves getting the material for these quilts? In the popular children’s picture book “Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt,” Clara works in the Big House sewing for her master. Her quilt is made entirely of scraps she takes from the sewing room. This idea is possible. It is also equally possible that if Clara had been caught stealing these scraps, she would have been beaten and her quilt would have been taken away. Most slaves wouldn’t have access to scraps of fabric, especially not to make a beautifully crafted quilt. The lack of materials and time to make something for appearance, was foolish. Better to use any materials on something practical, like a blanket that would keep you warm, instead of one to hang outside your house. Even more, how do slaves who have never been north know the directions to freedom?

<p>Bringing up another practical problem is the fact that the Underground Railroad is a network constantly in flux. It wasn’t as simple as always sending runaways to the same homestead, along the same roads, and hiding them in the same places. Instead, multiple balls were always up in the air. Say you are using a quilt to give runaways directions, but the path you sewed into the quilt is now covered in slave catchers. What do you do? Make another quilt? By the time you finish that, where you’re sending runaways has probably changed again. And these paths easily fluxed from day to hour.

<p>With these two ideas, the quilt code just simply doesn’t make sense.

<p>Possibly the most important part of this story is McDaniel’s oral histories herself. There are no mentions of quilt codes in slave narratives in the 1800s or during the public works projects of the 1930s. Why is it that this huge part of the Underground Railroad was never mentioned until the 1990s, a full 125 years after the end of the Civil War? No other oral histories have appeared to back up McDaniel’s stories, which are sadly, also full of holes.

<p>Unfortunately, this very romantic story from the Underground Railroad probably can never 100% be ruled out. Despite this, many of the quilt patterns cited in the Quilt Code weren’t invented until after the Civil War (some don’t appear until the 1930s), along with the information cited above, many scholars studying the Underground Railroad have all come to the same conclusion: The Quilt Code is an elaborate story told by a woman who owned a quilt shop that flourished after the publication of her story. This certainly makes things suspicious.

<p>Unfortunately, McDaniel passed away before “Hidden in Plain View” was published, so it is hard to ask her more questions. This story passing through 9 generations of family members and none of them using this Quilt Code to escape slavery also raises eyebrows. We cannot speak for McDaniel, but we can, as many historians do, find fault with the story. Perhaps one or two slaves did create a device to remember their way. Or perhaps a few abolitionists would mark their home with a quilt in the window for runaways to find from the last station. However, with no other documentation, it makes it difficult to corroborate the story.

<p>If you’d like more information on the Quilt Code, including people who have spent more time researching these stories and writing about them, check out these links:

<p>Quilt History (This one has amazing information on the break down and the defense and critique of “Hidden in Plain View” from the authors and other historians.)

<p>Quilting in America

<p>Giles Wright

<p>Harry Louis Gates Jr. 

<p>History Myths Debunked

Abolitionist=Underground Railroad: #UGRRMyth

The Underground Railroad is an amazing story with people coming together to fight for one basic American right: freedom. Unfortunately, over the years, the idea of the Underground Railroad has become romantic and surrounded by myths. It makes it next to impossible for historians to weed through everything, let alone the the average American citizen.

<p>Leading up to our annual Underground Railroad Experience, we are putting some of those myths to rest. Check in each week to read about a widely spread myth and the truth behind it.

<p>And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our Underground Railroad Experience on Saturday, June 25th. Check out our website for more information or call Spring Hill Historic Home at 330-833-6749. Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 1st.


American Colonization Society Founders

<p>Many people believe that all abolitionists were part of the Underground Railroad. And, of course, it is easy to see why. Men like William Still or women like Harriet Tubman, or couples like the Rotches were all abolitionists and worked as station masters or conductors on the Underground Railroad. We all logically know that not all abolitionists were working with the Underground Railroad. We know that Abraham Lincoln wasn’t hiding slaves in the basement of the White House, and we can guarantee that Thomas Jefferson, for all his talk of abolition, never freed his own slaves, so why would he free other people’s? But there was quite a bit of division within the abolitionist movement on what should actually be done with freedom seekers.

<p>To break this down simply, the abolitionist movement fought to abolish slavery. That’s all an abolitionist is. While many of us say, that’s all it needs to be, just like today’s political climate, it was never that easy.

<p>Many abolitionists believed that slavery had to be abolished through legal means. That meant petitioning the state and federal government to change laws to end slavery. This is essentially what the Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment did. These abolitionists believed that if they petitioned and told the horrors of slavery enough, eventually the government would make the change.

<p>Other abolitionists believed in ending slavery by whatever means necessary. These are more likely to be the people like Nat Turner, leading rebellions, kidnapping or purchasing slaves to get them to freedom, or simply offering their homes and services to hide runaways. They believed that the government was morally wrong, and many believed God would overlook them breaking earthly laws to follow His Law. Thomas and Charity Rotch would have been similar to these abolitionists, but they are always very careful about their work, and definitely not as rebellious as some.

<p>Neither of these two groups really tackle what happens when the slaves are free. Many Irish building the canals here in Ohio were strongly pro-slavery, fearing that freed slaves would move north and take their jobs! Many abolitionists simply focused on education for freed slaves, to make them productive and upstanding members of society.

<p>Perhaps the most interesting, and often forgotten, segment of the abolitionist movement was the American Colonization Society. The four men above were all early organizers. Like the other two abolitionist groups above, some of the ACS believed that slavery should be abolished legally. Others believed that it had to be dismantled by any means necessary. Others simply just didn’t believe that slavery was an economic reality to build a nation on. However, they did unite on the idea of reparations. This is a politically charged word in modern times, as it was in the early 1800s when Thomas and Charity were around.

<p>How do you pay people back for centuries of unpaid labor? Their solution: Liberia. In 1821-22, the ACS founded the colony of Liberia for free American blacks to settle and be able to live full lives. From 1821-1847, thousands of free blacks moved to Liberia, and then created an independent nation. By 1867, ACS moved 13,000 Americans to Liberia.

<p>These are only a few differences separating abolitionists. We mentioned in an earlier blog post that the abolitionist movement is the first interracial movement in the U.S. However, that doesn’t mean the movement was without it’s differences. Just like today, there were different ideas on how to best end slavery and what to do after. Men and women would gather, as today to argue the best course of action. And, like today, it seems that they chose to splinter off into groups of like minded people instead of opening a dialogue. While all had the same end goal, few seemed to be able to agree on how to reach it.

What is Juneteenth? #UGRRMyth

The Underground Railroad is an amazing story with people coming together to fight for one basic American right: freedom. Unfortunately, over the years, the idea of the Underground Railroad has become romantic and surrounded by myths. It makes it next to impossible for historians to weed through everything, let alone the the average American citizen.

<p>Leading up to our annual Underground Railroad Experience, we are putting some of those myths to rest. Check in each week to read about a widely spread myth and the truth behind it.

<p>And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our Underground Railroad Experience on Saturday, June 25th. Check out our website for more information or call Spring Hill Historic Home at 330-833-6749. Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 1st.


<p>To many people, slavery ended on January 1st, 1863 with the Emancipation Proclamation. On that day, there was much celebration, as Abraham Lincoln’s proclamation stated ” I do order and declare that all persons held as slaves within said designated States, and parts of States, are, and henceforward shall be free; and that the Executive government of the United States, including the military and naval authorities thereof, will recognize and maintain the freedom of said persons.”

<p>Unfortunately, the Emancipation Proclamation itself did not end slavery. This was a decree to end slavery in the states rebelling against the Federal government. In fact, it was a whole two and a half years later that slaves in Texas were freed when it came to Major General Gordon Granger’s attention that their owners were ignoring the Emancipation Proclamation, and the 6 month old 13th Amendment. On that day, June 19, 1865, the Major General issued General Order Number 3. This is a rather unassuming name for a piece of legislation that is so important in our country’s fight for freedom.

<p>”The people of Texas are informed that, in accordance with a proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are freed. This involves an absolutely equality of personal rights and rights of property, between former masters and slaves and the connection heretofore existing between them, becomes that between employer and hired labor.” (General Order No. 3)

<p>This day became known as Juneteenth in celebration. For many African-Americans, this is their Independence Day. Frederick Douglass spoke out against the 4th of July, claiming that Independence Day was not a day of independence for his people, who would still be enslaved for another 12 and a half years from the time of the 4th of July speech he delivered. “This Fourth of July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony.”

<p>Unfortunately, most people know little about Juneteenth. And even fewer want to recognize that it is an Independence Day. It is an Independence Day for half of our nation who finally received their promised right to be treated as equals. For a country who prides itself on our ideas of freedom and equality for all, it is a shame that few people know the story of Juneteenth, or celebrate it.

<p>Juneteeth has seen a resurgance of celebrations surrounding it in modern times. People are recognizing that it is a day to come together and celebrate the freedom that was so hard won. It also remembers a time when our own prejudices against someone who simply looked, spoke, or acted different was enough to make them inhuman and take away their rights. It is possible that is part of the reason Juneteenth has seen such amazing support. We want to be a united people, who accept and support everyone, and never take those steps backwards to dividing us.

<p>On this Juneteenth, celebrate with your family! This year, Juneteenth and Father’s Day coincide, so many families are already gathering. Use this family time to focus on dad, but also on how far we have come in just 151 years since General Order No. 3 was given. Work to dispel myths and stereotypes, and encourage sensitive and open dialogue. Perhaps best, learn something new about the many African-Americans who made our country great. For many, without the protection of the 13th Amendment and the chance to simply have the same rights as others, we would not have made as much progress as we have today.

<p>Remember to always celebrate freedom, and always protect freedom.

Spirituals: #UGRRMyth

The Underground Railroad is an amazing story with people coming together to fight for one basic American right: freedom. Unfortunately, over the years, the idea of the Underground Railroad has become romantic and surrounded by myths. It makes it next to impossible for historians to weed through everything, let alone the the average American citizen.

<p>Leading up to our annual Underground Railroad Experience, we are putting some of those myths to rest. Check in each week to read about a widely spread myth and the truth behind it.

<p>And don’t forget to mark your calendar for our Underground Railroad Experience on Saturday, June 25th. Check out our website for more information or call Spring Hill Historic Home at 330-833-6749. Tickets go on sale to the public on Wednesday, June 1st.


McIntosh Counter Shouters

<p>The McIntosh County Shouters – Sign of the Judgement

<p>Throughout the years, spirituals have become synonymous with the slavery experience here in the United States. In almost any film that takes place during the Civil War, the Antebellum South, and focusing, or even just mentioning, slavery, music has become a central theme. There are many beautiful and haunting spirituals that come from slave communities, including the tradition of ring shout (see the link above to the McIntosh County Shouters who keep this beautiful style of music alive).

<p>Unfortunately, because of the strong connection between slavery, the African-American community, and music, spirituals are now being connected with the Underground Railroad. There are often rumors of certain songs, the most common being “Steal Away” or “Follow the Drinking Gourd,” being signals and coded messages for the Underground Railroad.

<p>It is possible that these songs were used as quiet forms of communication. Music is a great way to lament or encourage others. In the National Park’s Network to Freedom’s new pamphlet “Freedom is Coming: Songs of Freedom, Resistance, and the Underground Railroad,” Richard Newman writes that “somehow the slave community never lost sight of the light of freedom.” Looking at spirituals, there are often references to sweet freedom, thanking the Lord, and overcoming strife and fears.

<p>However, many of the spirituals that we associate with slavery, have no documented connection. Unfortunately, because many of the spirituals sang by slaves have had their authors lost to time, it is nearly impossible to know when these songs originally were created. Many songs aren’t documented for the first time until towards the end of the Civil War, and some not even until decades after, so it makes it very difficult to track the origins.

<p>It is important to remember that music is important in the slavery narrative. Music was a way to bring people together. There are stories of slaves raising their voices in song while one of their own was beat. Not only did this bring them together in solidarity, to bring strength to their friend, but also to drowned out their cries so family and children wouldn’t have to hear. Others would sing simply to support one another. It is easier to come together in song, especially working songs that help everyone keep pace, than to simply leave one another on their own.

<p>Many popular spirituals were feared by slave owners, so much that they would outlaw them on plantations. The lyrics and spirit behind some were more dangerous than Union troops in the Civil War. The song “Go Down, Moses” about Moses leading his people to freedom, was considered so dangerous, that it was actually called “Song of the Contrabands” before emancipation. Powerful words encouraged slaves to always be looking forward and hoping for a better tomorrow. “Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen” is another song that supposedly brought Abraham Lincoln to tears with it’s powerful lament of slavery.

<p>While we can’t say for certain if any songs were used as coded messages for the Underground Railroad, it does seem unlikely that the stories we hear about deeply encrypted messages would have happened. Runaways would have wanted very few people to know about their plans, so singing “Steal Away” or “Follow the Drinking Gourd” (who’s first documentation isn’t until the 1920s), would have been very foolish. It wouldn’t have taken too long for plantation owners, and overseers, especially black overseers, to figure out the message. Even without those hidden meanings, spirituals strong message of faith, hope, and freedom were terrifying enough for any slave owners who heard voices raised together in their own fields.