Mount Pleasant Was Important Stop on Underground Railroad
MOUNT PLEASANT — The village of Mount Pleasant was an important stop on the Underground Railroad and for about a year home to Benjamin Lundy, an early founder of the abolitionist movement.
The village was established in 1803 by Jesse Thomas and Robert Carothers. According to National Park Service information, Carothers was an Irishman from Virginia and Thomas a Quaker from North Carolina.
Quakers did not believe in slavery. Mount Pleasant and its many Quaker residents became a refuge for people trying to escape slavery and for people who had already been freed from it.
“Local residents built and administered a school for free black children, and in 1848 established a Free Labor Store which sold no products that were produced by slave labor. Rice, for instance, was made by Quakers and cotton was made by German immigrants, but nothing sold in the store was produced from the efforts of slavery. The store remained open until 1857. As an important station on the Underground Railroad and a distinct voice in the abolitionist sentiment, the village of Mount Pleasant played a vital role in the antislavery movement,” according to the National Park Service.
While living in Mount Pleasant from 1822-23, Lundy published his newspaper, Genius of Universal Emancipation, there. Lundy was born in New Jersey in 1789 and raised by parents who belonged to the Society of Friends — the Quakers.
“They raised their son to oppose violence and the enslavement of other human beings. At the age of 19, Lundy was living in Wheeling, Virginia, (now West Virginia), where he was working as an apprentice to a saddle maker. It was in Wheeling that Lundy first became aware of the brutality of slavery,” according to the Ohio History Connection.
After living in Wheeling, Lundy moved to St. Clairsville. By 1815 he established the Union Humane Society, which was a group dedicated to abolishing slavery west of the Appalachian mountains, according to Ohio History Connection. The group began with five people and grew to have 500 members.
In 1819 he moved to Missouri where he tried to convince people there that slavery should be abolished.
Despite his efforts, Missouri was adopted into the union as a slave state instead of a free one. Lundy then moved to Mount Pleasant in 1822 where he lived for about a year. In 1823 he decided to move to Tennessee in an effort to reach out to slave owners there with his newspaper and its teachings on abolishing slavery. He lived there for about a year and decided to move to Maryland in 1824. He lived in Baltimore for several years, giving lectures and printing his newspaper.
“Northerners did not always appreciate Lundy’s efforts. Many Northerners viewed slavery as immoral. Others believed that their quality of life would decline with an end to slavery. They felt they would now face competition for jobs and property from the freed former slaves. Some of these people were violently opposed to the abolitionists’ plans,” according to the Ohio History Connection.
“One such man was Baltimore resident Austin Woolfolk, a slave trader. He nearly beat Lundy to death in 1828. Other residents of Baltimore also threatened Lundy’s life and prompted him to move to Philadelphia.”
While living in Philadelphia his printing press was destroyed in 1838 by slavery supporters. He then moved to Illinois to restart his newspaper. He died there in 1839 after becoming ill and having a fever.
Benjamin Lundy’s homes in St. Clairsville at 164 E. Main St., and Mount Pleasant on Union Street still stand today. The Mount Pleasant Historical Society annually conducts tours of several historic structures in the village.