Roots of discovery on Underground Railroad tour

2011-10-13T23:00:00Z 2011-10-17T11:01:17Z Roots of discovery on Underground Railroad tourWENDY MITCHELL Ledger Independent
October 13, 2011 11:00 pm  • 

For some people there is something exciting about finding out an ancestor is a person of note in history.

On Thursday, history and ancestry grew into a voyage of discovery and personal fulfillment, said relatives of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, John Rankin and Milton Clark.

Participating in a tour of Underground Railroad historic sites in the Maysville area, with local history guide Jerry Gore, Kenneth B. Morris Jr. knew at a young age there was something special about his family tree.

"There was a picture of Frederick Douglass hanging at the top of my great-grandmother's staircase," he said Thursday. " We called him the man with the big white hair."

The idea he would someday do great things was instilled in Morris from the image, he said.

"My great-grandmother was Fannie Douglass. When we were young my Aunt Portia would tell stories about the family and there were pictures and letters," Morris said. "Aunt Portia was Booker T. Washington's daughter."

Morris discovered their historic roots combined the families of Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass, but kept the information to himself.

"I didn't think anyone would believe me," he said.

Now Morris is embracing his family lineage and significance to anti-slavery in the past. He is also currently re-reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, by Harriet Beecher Stowe.

"Knowing I would be taking this tour was an inspiration," he said.

Morris is collaborating with California photographer Steven Collins to make his own mark in history, researching historic slavery and modern day human trafficking.

"Most people know about slavery in the past, but few know it is still in existence, here and in places like the Sudan," Morris said.

Collins also participated in the tour route, documenting Morris' trek.

Stowe wrote the now historic novel, based on her visits to the area and association with the Rev. John Rankin family when the Underground Railroad movement was in operation.

Following a lunch break at the Lion's Club picnic shelter at Maysville River Park, Morris, along with about 60 school children and teachers from Oakmont Elementary School in Columbus, slave descendant William Campbell and Rankin descendent Lea Rankin, and Mason County Judge-Executive James "Buddy" Gallenstein, also visited the John Parker House and the Rev. John Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio.

For Campbell the connection to his ancestor came while he was looking through history books on Wednesday night.

More research has to be done, but from what Campbell unearthed, Milton Clark, a slave who sought freedom through the area is his ancestor.

"I just found out last night. We had looked at the Campbell and Clay connections from Madison County and happened to see it in the book," Campbell said." His picture even resembles me."

Family names and locations appear to match, so Campbell is doing more research after the tour is over, he said.

Matching up family names brought Lea Rankin together with the Rankin family several years ago.

"It was about 16 years ago I read about the Rankins in an Indiana newspaper and there were names I recognized from our family," Rankin said.

She got in touch with Gore and the connection to Rev. John Rankin's son, William and grandson Adam was made to her family, Rankin said.

She attended the tour Thursday, along with her cousin Annabell.

"This is all a euphoric experience for me," Rankin said.

Copyright 2015 Ledger Independent. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

No Comments Posted.

Add Comment
You must Login to comment.

Click here to get an account it's free and quick