RIPLEY, Ohio – Students from Ripley-Union-Lewis-Huntington school district got an up close look at history recently.
As part of their Martin Luther King Jr. grant, RULH Elementary and Middle School students went on field trips to the Rankin and Parker Houses last week after hosting a canned food drive.
According to the President of the John P. Parker Historical Society Carol Stivers, the grant was in connection with Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“It was to give students some history of Ripley during the mid-1800’s and the important part John Rankin, a white minister and John P. Parker, a former slave played nationally in the Underground Railroad movement,” Stivers said.
Both the Rankin House and the Parker House are on the National Historic Landmarks, which is the highest ranking the National Park Service U.S. Department of the Interior gives historic sites. They are both Network to Freedom Sites as designated by the National Park Service.
“Each year both sites have visitors from all over the United States and from around the world,” Stivers said. “In 2018, Ripley now plays a key role in Heritage Tourism, which is one of the economic pluses for Ripley.”
The students were guided through the two historic houses. They had a chance to learn about the Rankin family and other community members who helped fugitives escape from slavery to freedom via the Underground Railroad.
According to the Ohio History Connection, it is estimated that over 2,000 slaves seeking freedom stayed with the Rankins, sometimes as many as 12 at a time.
The John Parker house was home to a former slave who planned many rescue attempts of slaves held captive in the “borderlands” of Kentucky.
Students conducted a canned food drive for community service as part of the grant and all students from first to eighth grades got a chance to tour the houses.
The grant was provided by National and Community Service, a federal agency that leads the annual MLK Day of Service.
According to a National and Community Service representative, the MLK Day of Service is about shining a spotlight on service as a powerful force to bridge economic and social divides.
RULH Superintendent James Wilkins said that several people helped in the process of making the canned food drive and tours happen.
“Kristi Scott, a retired RULH teacher, wrote the application for the MLK Grant in collaboration with Mrs. Michele Rau and Mrs. Patty Ream of RULH High School,” Wilkins said. “Rankin House Site Manager Mrs. Betty Campbell and Mrs. Carole Stivers also collaborated with RULH on the MLK Grant and the student’s field trips.”