Elijah Anderson (Gallia County)

From Ohio History Central

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

Little is known of Anderson's life except for his Underground Railroad activities. He was an African American and lived near Morgan, in Gallia County. He earned his living as a Baptist preacher. Circa 1850, he was arrested near Maysville, Kentucky and charged with "enticing" slaves to run away. Purportedly, a group of pro-slavery men tricked Anderson, convincing him to come to Maysville to assist some fugitive slaves. Once arrested, authorities transported Anderson to Frankfort, Kentucky, where the preacher was jailed. Friends of Anderson came to Frankfort to negotiate the pastor's release. Officials informed the group that they must pay two hundred dollars in court and jail fees. The friends returned to Gallia County, where they raised the two hundred dollars. Upon returning to Frankfort, the men discovered that Anderson had purportedly died in jail. Officials turned a casket over to the men, who brought the body back to Gallia County for burial. Before interring the body, mourners opened the casket and discovered a bullet hole in Anderson's head. His skull had also been crushed. Kentucky police authorities had murdered Anderson for assisting runaway slaves.

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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