Jacob Barnes was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Mahoning County, Ohio.
Barnes was born in 1785 in New Haven, Connecticut. In 1826, Barnes and his family relocated to Canfield, Ohio, where he purchased farmland and a home from Conrad Neff, Jr. The home, now known as Loghurst, is the oldest remaining log cabin in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Barnes farmed this land until his death in 1848. Barnes and his wife, Nancy Carroll, eventually had twelve children.
Barnes also participated in the Underground Railroad. He actively assisted fugitive slaves in attaining their freedom in Canada. According to reports, Barnes worked closely with Chauncey Fowler, a friend and fellow abolitionist.
Barnes's participation on the Underground Railroad placed this abolitionist's life in jeopardy. In 1845, Barnes and Fowler attended an anti-slavery meeting in Ellsworth, Ohio. Following the meeting, Barnes and Fowler discovered that pro-slavery men had placed their wagon on top of a pole and shaved their horse's tail. While the two men were returning to Canfield, a mob chased them, supposedly intending to tar and feather the abolitionists. The men rode together on a single horse, and the mob quickly closed on the men. Barnes jumped from the horse into a tree, managing to conceal himself from the pro-slavery men. Fowler was able to ride the horse to safety in Canfield. Barnes joined him the next morning.
Barnes represents the growing tensions over slavery between Northerners and Southerners during the early nineteenth century. While many Northern states had provisions outlawing slavery, runaway slaves did not necessarily gain their freedom upon arriving in a free state. Federal law permitted slaveowners to reclaim their runaway slaves. Some slaves managed to escape their owners on their own, while others sometimes received assistance from sympathetic Northerners, such as Barnes.
- History of Trumbull and Mahoning Counties. Cleveland, OH: H. Z. Williams & Bro., 1882.