Calvin W. Appleby

From Ohio History Central

Calvin W. Appleby was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Conneaut, Ohio.

Appleby was born on August 17, 1808, in Bethlehem, New Hampshire. As a youth, he was fascinated with sailing. In 1826, his family moved to Conneaut, where Appleby soon became a sailor, a shipbuilder, and a navigator for vessels on Lake Erie. Two vessels that he captained were the Indiana and the Sultana. He usually transported passengers onboard these vessels between Buffalo, New York and Chicago, Illinois. In the late 1840s, Appleby also won election to local political offices in Conneaut. He eventually retired from sailing and became a farmer.

Appleby firmly opposed slavery and commonly transported fugitive slaves to Ft. Malden in Canada, where the runaways gained their freedom. It is well documented that Appleby commonly picked up fugitives at Conneaut, and it is suspected that he also assisted runaways in Chicago. He died of natural causes on August 6, 1880.

Appleby 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 Appleby.

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