Magical history tour

SANDUSKY Madison Elementary students got a brief glimpse of Sandusky's history Friday. Toby Notestine
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010



Madison Elementary students got a brief glimpse of Sandusky's history Friday.

Toby Notestine's fifth-graders were bundled up in hats and mittens as they boarded a yellow bus for a tour with principal William Biehl.

"One hundred and 60 years ago Sandusky was a different place with different goals and diversity," Biehl told the students. "We're going to make six stops out of the many places in Sandusky that were part of the Underground Railroad."

The 20-minute tour stopped in front of the John Irvine house, Second Baptist Church, the Follett House Museum, the Joseph M. Root house, Henry F. Merry house and the Rush R. Sloane house.

After a short lesson about each location, students were permitted to stand and peer out the windows at their community's history.

"These people in our area were sacrificing their own freedom to help these slaves obtain their freedom," Biehl said.

Toward the end of the tour, Biehl summed up what he described as the pure generosity of those involved in hiding the slaves by quoting words from Elizabeth Follett, who once lived in the house that is now the Follett House museum.

"She told her husband, 'I have to answer to a higher authority,'" Biehl said.

Biehl told students that those who hid slaves could face $3,000 in fines. When he explained that today the sum would be close to $100,000, the students were flabbergasted.

"Wow, that's a lot of money," Brady Mckillips said after a classmate said his house wasn't worth that much.

Stopping at Facer Park, Biehl led the students to a snow-covered statue of runaway slaves and described the conditions faced by those seeking freedom.

"They just kept following the North Star," he said. "The Ohio Department of Transportation put signs along the Ohio River marking where the slave states and the free states were. We have the last plaque here in Ohio."

The students said they enjoyed the short tour, but wished they could've seen more and could have gone inside some homes.

I wish we could've seen the Barney house," Pamela Hatfield said. "I heard it was all pink inside."

When asked if they would have helped a slave to freedom, all the students raised their hands.

"A lot of my friends are black," Cody Arwood said. "No one should have to be whipped or tortured like the slaves were. If it wasn't for the people who helped them, I wouldn't have my friends today."