Elijah Anderson (Erie County)

From Ohio History Central

Elijah Anderson was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Erie County, Ohio.

Little is known of Anderson's life except for his Underground Railroad activities. He earned his living as a blacksmith, but according to all accounts, he forsook his trade to assist fugitive slaves. Other abolitionists referred to Anderson as the "general superintendent" of the Underground Railroad" in northwestern Ohio. According to fellow abolitionist Rush R. Sloane, Anderson assisted at least one thousand fugitives in gaining their freedom. Unfortunately for Anderson and his wards, in 1846, officials in Kentucky arrested the abolitionist and charged him with "enticing" slaves, convincing them to flee their owners. A judge found Anderson guilty of this crime and sentenced the abolitionist to eight years in prison. On March 4, 1861, before Anderson secured his release, he died of unknown causes.

Anderson 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 Anderson. Northerners who assisted runaways risked their very lives to help the African Americans.

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