During slavery in America, the secret path to freedom we know as The Underground Railroad ran through the Mahoning Valley.
Slaves who ran away from southern plantations tried to make their way north to freedom in Canada.
On Mahoning Avenue in Austintown, the Strock Stone House is believed to be a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Built in 1831, the historic landmark had the perfect conditions to serve as an underground railroad station to move slaves through the area. It had a 250-acre farm and a creek with no neighbors nearby.
The Underground Railroad Association said they didn’t have any addresses because the journey to freedom was life or death for slaves and people who helped.
In fact, it was against federal law in 1850 to help slaves escape. Anyone who did faced legal and sometime social consequences, so most shelters didn’t keep a record of their address and who came.
That makes it hard to find concrete evidence for any stops on the Underground Railroad in Ohio.
“We had some real history buffs with the Underground Railroad come out, and they said they thought they may have come from a boat,” said local historian Joyce Pogamy.
Pogamy said it’s believed that they traveled at night, coming up the hill to the back door of the Strock House. She said they’d likely stay in the basement.
The North Star led the slaves to freedom, but quilts guided them.
“If it was an Underground Railroad, they would hang quilts. If there was an arrow right in the middle of it, it meant go straight for the next Underground Railroad,” Pogamy said.
Most of the slaves couldn’t read or write, so they would put stars signifying that they made it to their stop and that it was safe to come to that house.
“These quilts hung out all summer,” Pogamy said.
The road to freedom is such a guarded secret that history isn’t sure slaves stopped at the Strock House, but Pogamy said that history buffs from years ago agreed that it was a likely stop.
If you want to visit the Strock Stone House and see it for yourself, it is open for tours on the first Sunday of every month, from 1 to 4 p.m.
It’s located at 7171 Mahoning Avenue.