From Ohio History Central
Robert Wilson was a conductor on the Underground Railroad near Loudonville, Ohio.
Little is known of Wilson's life. He earned his living as a farmer. Circa 1850, he became involved with the Underground Railroad. The Wilson family lived in a two room log cabin. Robert Wilson, the family's patriarch, sometimes hid one dozen or more slaves in the barn. Many of the Wilson children were scared of the fugitive slaves. The children had limited contact with African Americans before their father's involvement with the Underground Railroad. Eventually, as they became more acquainted with African Americans, the Wilson children actively assisted their father. Typically, Wilson hid the slaves during the day, and in the evenings, he led them from Loudonville, to Savannah, Ohio, to Ashland, Ohio, or to Hayesville, Ohio. Despite receiving threats from numerous neighbors and other acquaintances, Wilson remained active in the Underground Railroad until the American Civil War.
Wilson 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 Wilson.