Monday, May 22, 2017

Monday Memories--the Conestoga trip to Ripley and Georgetown, Ohio

Our Conestoga group supports the Ohio History Connection, and this year we took an all day bus trip on May 18 to Ripley, Ohio, to visit the newly restored homes of John Rankin and John Parker and to Georgetown to President Grant's boyhood home. All three homes are supported by local organizations with the help of the Ohio History Connection. We left the Ohio Center in Columbus about 7:30, and I think the trip was about 2.5 hours. Once the driver got lost as we looked for a McDonald's for our rest stop, so that contributed to some extra driving. Our group was over 40, so we needed to divide into 2 groups to take the tours because both houses are small. One group was dropped off at the Rankin House and then the other traveled to the Parker house which faced the river.

Rev. John Rankin, a Presbyterian minister, built his home in 1829 and he was active in the The Underground Railroad. It is located on a lovely bluff overlooking the Ohio River and the small town of Ripley, which in the 19th century had 9 millionaires. The river was narrower and more shallow then, and slaves came across from Kentucky. The hill was clear in the mid-19th century, so slaves and the conductors had to come at night watching for a candle in the Rankin cottage window. Now the hill is completely forested. The slaves were hidden in the barn as it was illegal to have escapees in the homes which could be searched. Mrs. Rankin and her daughters sewed clothes for them, and shoemakers in the community made shoes--and there were an unusual number of that craft in such a small town. The house didn't look very large from the outside, but had 4 nice sized bedrooms, where the children slept 3 to a bed. The Rankin family left Ripley and went to Kansas after the war, so none of the original furniture is in the house, but it is all appropriate to the era. John and Jean Rankin are buried in Ripley. The site of the Rankin home is having a make-over with a large visitor and education center, but it wasn't ready yet. The home was completely restored in 2014.

Before we switched places we enjoyed a relaxing lunch at Cohearts Riverhouse. The restaurant is located along the Ohio River in the scenic Historic District of Ripley and looks out across the river to the hills of Kentucky. We had selected our menu choice when we signed up so it was all ready for us.

 Half the group then visited the John P. Parker House, home of an African American inventor who helped hundreds make their way to freedom. As a young man he'd been sold 5 times, and his last owner allowed him to work extra at the foundry and save money to buy his freedom. Parker moved to southern Ohio and around 1853 established a successful foundry behind his home in Ripley. Patenting a number of inventions from his foundry, Parker was one of only a few African Americans to obtain a U.S. patent in the 19th century. Though busy with his business, Parker was also active in the Underground Railroad and is believed to have assisted many slaves to escape from the Kentucky side of the Ohio River. Suggested reading: His Promised Land; The Autobiography of John P. Parker Before leaving Ripley.

Then we boarded the coach and traveled about seven miles to Georgetown, Ohio and another Ohio History Connection and National Historic Landmark, the boyhood home of Lt. General and 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant; newly restored to its appearance in 1839. Grant's parents had moved to Georgetown in 1823 and his father was a tanner.  U.S. Grant lived there until he was 17. This home was saved from demolition in 1965 by local preservationists and in 2002 was donated to the state. It had a $1.4 million restoration in 2015. As with the other two locations, we had a wonderful docent.
Originally we'd planned to also visit the schoolhouse Grant attended as a boy, but we were about 2 hours behind schedule so voted to head for home. 

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