Thursday, February 07, 2008

George J. Reynolds, Carriage Maker and Underground Railroad Conductor

Though there is not much personal information known about George J. Reynolds, his name has long been connected with the activities of the Underground Railroad in Sandusky, Ohio. He was an active conductor on the Underground Railroad, making the vital connections between the individuals seeking freedom and the persons in Sandusky who helped them achieve that goal. He showed an incredible amount of courage and determination for the cause of freedom.

No known images of George J. Reynolds, his home, or his business, exist in the Sandusky Library's collections. Here is an 1851 newspaper ad from the Sandusky Daily Commercial Register for Reynolds’ carriage shop:

A brochure from the Erie County Visitors Bureau cites the business of George J. Reynolds, located at the northeast corner of Jackson and Madison Streets, in their listing of safe houses and businesses associated with the Underground Railroad in Sandusky. Professor Wilbur Siebert described Reynolds as "a man of mixed Negro and Indian blood" and a skilled blacksmith. Professor Siebert gathered and published information about Ohio’s participation in the Underground Railroad for over fifty years. His collections are held by the Ohio Historical Society.

Hill Peeble Wilson, author of John Brown: Soldier of Fortune, places G. J. Reynolds at John Brown’s Chatham Convention. John Brown and several of his supporters met at Chatham, Ontario, Canada in May 1858 to make plans on how to create a plan of action to help put a stop to slavery. While G. J. Reynolds attended the Chatham Convention, there is no evidence suggesting his participating at the Harper’s Ferry Raid.

Rush Sloane’s address on the “Underground Railroad in the Firelands” is found in the July 1888 issue of the “Firelands Pioneer.”
Sloane gives an account of the anti-slavery operations of several Erie and Huron County residents, including G. J. Reynolds. Leading officials of Sandusky, lawyers, ship captains, business owners, ministers, and many unnamed individuals all played a part in the clandestine activities necessary to aiding the fugitives make their way safely to Canada.

For more information about the Underground Railroad in Sandusky, see William Steuk’s The Underground Railroad in Sandusky, available in the Genealogy/Local History Department of the Sandusky Library, and the brochure The River to Lake Freedom Trail available online.

No comments: