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The Lett Settlement and the Underground Railroad!

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Lett Settlement Reunion 2007 Tee Shirt

Our Lett Settlement Reunion 2007 TEE SHIRT features a map of Underground Railroad trails through southeastern Ohio which highlights the Lett Settlement Underground Railroad Station. Further down on this page are some details about the history of the Underground Railroad relating to the Lett Settlement area.

Tee Shirt Price: $15.00 at the reunion, $20.00 ordered. 

Robert Lett

2800 Monterrey Rd.

San Marino CA. 91108

e-mail address

telephone number 626-799-0654

Best hours for contact by phone:

12:00 - 3:00 p.m. E.S.T Mon. thru Fri.


9:00 - 11:00 p.m E.S.T. on weekends.



The Underground Railroad in Southeastern Ohio.

For additional details about the Underground Railroad in southeastern Ohio please see this link-

The Freedom Movement for enslaved African Americans was initiated by African Americans when the first African captives were brought to, and enslaved in, the English Colonies of North America! The Freedom Movement was continued by all African Americans, enslaved or free, right up until slavery was abolished by the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution in 1865.

Free African Americans, individually, as families and as communities, in Ohio before the Civil War, participated whole heartedly in the part of the Freedom Movement called the Underground Railroad.

Of course depending on circumstances, some free African Americans in Ohio were more deeply involved with the Underground Railroad than others. African Americans like John Parker in Ripley, who personally assisted over 900 fugitive slaves, were geographically located, had the ingenuity, resources and opportunity to assist many fugitive slaves. My point is that an overwhelming number of enslaved and free African Americans assisted when and how they could, but that it was simply not written.

Fortunately there is some written evidence hidden within documents in local historical societies throughout the country. This is where I have found some evidence and documents that supports my statements listed above. My research strongly indicates that there is a definite relationship between African American communities that existed in Ohio before the Civil War and Underground Railroad routes across Ohio.

The Lett Families Settlement in Meigs township of Muskingum County, Ohio was located on an Underground Railroad route. It is the early time frame when the Lett Families Settlement began, that makes it significant to the history of the Underground Railroad in Ohio.

The following story about the escape of Mike is significant because of the time and place it occurred and the fact that Mike was executed on or very near what became the Lett Families Settlement a few years later.

If anyone has any comments please let me know, otherwise I hope you enjoy this bit of Underground Railroad history!


The Story of Micah (Mike), a Runaway Slave


Henry Robert Burke

This story is interesting because it is the earliest account of slaves escaping from Virginia into Ohio that I know off. Before the Underground Railroad in Ohio got started around 1812 it was not generally known that fugitive slaves from the United States could find freedom in Canada. Apparently the slaves in this story were unaware of the Federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793.

Our story unfolds in 1808 when Joseph Tomlinson II of Grave Creek, Virginia, (present day Moundsville, West Virginia), brought some of his slaves down to Williams Station, Virginia (present day Williamstown, West Virginia) to clear and improve property that he owned there.

Two slaves, Micah, (the name of the other slave unknown), ran off and went about 40 miles up the Muskingum River in Ohio to a site called Owl Creek. Believing they were safe since slavery was illegal in Ohio, and not being aware of the Federal Fugitive Slave Law of 1793, they obtained employment with a settler name Mr. Craig who lived near the mouth of Owl Creek.

A few months later, Joseph Tomlinson learned where his runaway had gone. Using the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 as his authority, Tomlinson took his eldest son Robert and several other men, crossed to the north side of the Ohio River and traveled up along the Muskingum River to Owl Creek to capture his runaway slaves.

The slaves saw the party of men approaching and made an attempt to get away. The unnamed slave did manage to escape capture, but Robert Tomlinson, being fleet of foot, caught up with Micah and a fight ensued. Micah overpowered Robert and stabbed him to death with a knife.

I presume that Joseph Tomlinson and his party were mounted on horseback, but at any rate they started east across country in the direction of the Ohio River and Grave Creek, Virginia with the body of Robert and the captured slave Micah.

It was reported that when they reached a point six miles due west of Cumberland, Guernsey County, Ohio, they made camp on what came to be known as “Nigger Run”. It was here that Joseph Tomlinson decided to execute Micah. Little more is known about this incident, except Micah was buried in a shallow grave and his bones were soon dug up and scattered by wild animals.

The description of the location of Micah’s execution and burial puts it directly in Meigs Township of Muskingum County, on or very near the former Lett Families Settlement area; present day property of the ‘Wilds’ Wildlife Conservatory. 


The Underground Railroad is the name applied to the methods of escape, routes of travel, hiding places, and other details concerning the flight of fugitive slaves from the slave states of the United States to freedom in Canada. During a period that covered tree decades, 1812-1830, the Underground Railroad Movement had spread to all states of the United State and some of her Territories.

At the very beginning of the formation of the United States, the Northern States began to individually abolish slavery. The abolition process in the Northern States was initiated by New Hampshire in 1777 and completed by New Jersey in 1805. In addition, the Ordinance of 1787 prohibited slavery in the newly formed Northwest Territory, and as a consequence slavery was prohibited in the States that were formed from the Northwest Territory. This created the pre-Civil War boundary between the Northern States where slavery was illegal and the Southern States where slavery was legal. This boundary was the Mason-Dixon Line.

Slaves quickly began to run off from their enslavement in the South, crossed he Mason-Dixon Line and claim freedom in the non-slave states in the North. This confounded slave owners who protested about their loss of property, i.e., their human chattel.

To satisfy the demands of slave owners, in 1793 the United States Congress passed the Federal Fugitive Slave Law that allowed slave owners to pursue and capture runaway slaves who ran off to Northern States. In 1850 more restrictive provisions were inserted into the Fugitive Slave Law. The Fugitive Slave Law made it nearly impossible for fugitive slaves to be free if they remained anyplace within the boundaries of the United States or her Territories.

Fortunately in 1793, the Upper Province of Canada, (Ontario), abolished Slavery and in 1803 the Lower Province of Canada, (Quebec) abolished slavery. Whether this was intended by Canada to make a way for fugitive slaves from the United States to cross the International Border and be free is not known by me. Possibly due to the War between Britain and the United States in 1812, Canada opened her border with the United States and allowed fugitive slaves from the United States sanctuary!

Still fugitive slaves running away North to Canada had to avoid capture while crossing the Northern States of the United States. The Underground Railroad was developed by free African Americans and white Abolitionists in order to assist runaway slaves safely reach Canada.

Details concerning the many episodes that encompass the history of the Underground Railroad are far to lengthy and complex to cover here. The geographical location and political events that transpired in Ohio contributed significantly to the initial formation of the Underground Railroad movement.

All free African Americans who settled in Ohio before the Civil War and communites founded by free African Americans in Ohio contributed greatly to the cause of freedom for enslaved African American by their active participation with the Underground Railroad and in the Civil War!

 My points in this essay are to show:

  • The Underground Railroad across Ohio to Canada had not yet been formed in 1808.
  • The true story of Mike's capture demonstrates why the Underground Railroad across Ohio was crucial to helping fugitjve slaves reach freedom in Canada.
  • This incident occurred on or near where the "Colored" Lett Families Settlement was established a few years later, around 1819.