From the beginning, slavery was not allowed in Ohio. This makes Ohio a very important state along the Underground Railroad. Ohio also attracted those who wanted to improve the lives of slaves and former slaves. Galia County, Ohio, was a place that welcomed religious and political refugees, and eventually included African Americans in their settler group.
The John Gee African Methodist Episcopal Chapel was organized in 1818 by Barbara and John Gee; William and Eliza Napper; Leah Stewart; Nancy Belt; John Givens and Lorian Givens. John Gee, a skilled carpenter who built houses in Gallipolis, donated the land at 48 Pine Street for the first church building. During these times, Black Americans were usually buried in church cemeteries. But John Gee donated 4 acres of land at the end of Pine Street as a burial ground for the local black citizens. Samuel Humphrey donated the lumber, and a team of horses to move the materials. Henry and Thomas Bell furnished the materials and did the plastering. Alexander Woody, John Black, George Toney and Jesse Devine, who were not members of the church, performed the masonry work.
Before the Civil War, there was no West Virginia just Ohio and Virginia--North and South divided by the Ohio River. Gallipolis, the county seat of Gallia County, sits on the Ohio River. Not only did the river supply the county with commerce and industry but was also a major hub for the Underground Railroad. When slave owners had a change of heart and willed their slaves be free upon his death, they often bought land in Ohio creating African-American settlements and/or communities. The Lambert Lands in Morgan Township, was one such settlement. Former slaves Jefferson Scott and Caroline Hockaday joined a community within Gallipolis.
|The Lincoln School|
"Edward Alexander Bouchet" was the first African-American to receive a Ph.D. from an American university and the sixth American among all races to receive a Ph.D. in physics from Yale University. In 1874, he graduated 6th in his class at Yale and was a Phi Beta Kappa in good standing. In 1908, Bouchet arrived in Gallipolis with the mind to repair and restructure the aging Lincoln School. The Lincoln School, originally constructed in 1867 on Third Avenue and Olive Street, was built for educating the "colored" children of Gallipolis. After a lot of hard work and continued attention, Bouchet turned that school into the best school in the area.
Every year, Gallia County holds what may be the nation's longest-running celebration of the Emancipation Proclamation. The vendors are encouraged to dress in African-American inspired clothing of 1862 to allow the guest to steep him/herself in the history.
- Text originally added by Saundra Stewart