Friday, October 16, 2015

Uncle George and the Underground Railroad

In a memoir she wrote in 19731, Rosemary Callin recalled as much as she could about her grandmother, Elizabeth Berlin Callin. Rosemary's father was the George W. Callin who compiled the Callin Family History in 1911 (which I refer to as the "CFH"). At one point, Rosemary says:

"Father said they were warned not to say nothing at school about it, but their cabin was a station on the Underground Railway. I don't know whether it was William or Elizabeth, probably the latter, who awakened them softly in the middle of the night and led them to the window. The moon flashed out and they saw a white man, maybe William, leading a string of blacks through the clearing around their cabin and into the woods. They were on their way to Great Uncle George's barn. From there he would take them onto the next stop."
George's tree
(click for a closer look)

This Great Uncle George was most probably the second eldest child of Elizabeth Simon2 and John Callin, born in Pennsylvania in 1804. When he was 12 years old, his father moved the family from Pennsylvania to settle on the farm of George's uncle James in Milton township, Ohio. His older brother, John, would have been 14. I imagine that this would have been high adventure for boys that age; even though the 1812 Battle of Tippecanoe effectively ended the last organized resistance of Native Americans to the westward settlement of Ohio, there was still very real danger of attack, in addition to the usual dangers of making a long journey with three smaller sisters and two infant boys.

George Callin (c. 1870s)
George grew up on that farm in Milton township, and married Mary Ann "Polly" Lewis, probably before 1832, when he was 28 years old. Their first child was a son born in 1832, whom they named John - after both George's father and his late brother.

Judging from the 1850 Census, which places George and Polly in Peru township, 100 miles west of Milton township, he probably relocated with his family some time before then. (There is a George Callen listed in Butler township in Darke county in the 1840 Census, but our George's children were younger than those listed there.) His son, John, is 18 on the 1850 Census, and the record notes that he is a farmer, and that he attended school in the previous year.

As we have seen in several earlier posts on this blog, that period from 1835 to around 1845 seems to have been a time of dispersal for this group of cousins and siblings who had made the move to Ohio just two decades before. 1835 is when George's father, John, died of tuberculosis, 1845 is when George's younger brother, William, retrieved their youngest sister, Margret, from Iowa.3  In between, we saw George's cousins, Alec and James, leave for Iowa (taking their widowed mother, Mary, with them); in coming weeks we will see George's sisters marry and leave for Illinois and Indiana (possibly taking George's mother, Elizabeth, to Indiana); and as we explore the rest of the family, it will be interesting to note who stayed in Milton township.
Mary Ann Lews (c.1870s)

But for all of that movement and activity, we are only guessing when George's family moved to Peru township. We can only say for certain that they were there in 1850.

William - George's brother, and the grandfather that Rosemary writes about above - was still in Milton in 1840, but he also relocated with his family to Peru township in 1849. The youngest of William's surviving sons was born in 1850, so Rosemary's story probably took place in the 1850s in Peru township.

What "the next stop" from Great Uncle George's barn might have been is hard to say. When I searched for sites in Peru township, the National Park Service site gave me the Reuben Benedict house. However, that is about 65 miles south of Ridgefield in Peru township, which is the town nearest to William's farm in the 1850s. I suspect that someone with more familiarity with the geography of Ohio and the locations of the Underground Railroad sites may be able to help me puzzle this out later.

George and Polly were described by descendants who remember as "very proper and Victorian", as well as "very Presbyterian". George's property values doubled between 1850 and 1860, indicating that he was successful and industrious. By 1870, he and Polly would have been in their 60's, and they appear to have moved into town, being listed in Monroeville. Their daughter-in-law, John's wife, Helen, died around that year, and after George's death in 1879, Polly and John are listed together on the 1880 Census. Polly died in February 1884, having survived her three youngest daughters.

Earlier "Mightier Acorns" posts referenced above:
1 see Silk or Satin
2 see Who Was Great Grandma Callin?
3 see The Distance of Close Connections

Photos posted with permission of Ancestry user meganoneill10.

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