Isaac Patterson was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Northwood, Ohio.
Little is known of Patterson's life. Patterson helped found a Covenanter Church in Northwood in the early 1830s. Covenanters are an offshoot of the Presbyterian Church and primarily consist of people of Scottish heritage. Patterson earned his living through farming and was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Northwood, which is located in Logan County, Ohio. He usually hid the fugitive slaves in his care in a cave on his property. The runaways descended a ladder into the cave. To gain admittance to the cave, people had to give the password, which was "Boston." The ladder is currently on display at the Logan County Museum. Patterson supposedly hid the slaves in the cave for as long as three weeks, waiting until slave catchers had given up the search for the fugitives. Perhaps as many as thirteen runaways stayed in the cave at one time. Other conductors would then transport the runaway slaves to other stops on the Underground Railroad. Many of these conductors were students at nearby Geneva College.
Isaac Patterson 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 Patterson.
- Siebert, Wibur H. The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom. New York: Russell & Russell, 1898.