Rial Cheadle was a conductor on the Underground Railroad in Morgan County, Ohio.
Little is known of Cheadle's youth, but he spent most of his adult life in Windsor Township in Morgan County. He earned his living as a schoolteacher. Besides his economic pursuits, Cheadle was also active as a conductor on the Underground Railroad. He eventually left the teaching profession to dedicate his life to freeing slaves. Cheadle commonly visited Virginia and convinced slaves to flee their masters. Cheadle raised little suspicion among the slaveowners, assuming the persona of an imbecile. He would sing unusual songs that he composed himself, further enhancing his reputation as a lunatic. Cheadle commonly escorted the fugitive slaves from Virginia to Zanesville, Ohio, stopping at various stations on the Underground Railroad. He worked closely with Thomas L. Gray, who operated a safe house in Deavertown, Ohio. Cheadle died in 1867.
Cheadle 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 Cheadle.
- Siebert, Wibur H. The Underground Railroad: From Slavery to Freedom. New York: Russell & Russell, 1898.