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The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue
The Rescuers at the Cuyahoga County Jail in April, 1859.
Oberlin's participation in antislavery activity from the 1830s to 1860 took many forms. The evidence of the action of individual participants can be gleaned from the sermons of Rev. Henry Cowles, accounts of missionaries who preached in the South about evils of slavery, the third-party references to safe houses built on the route of the Underground Railroad, and the correspondence that details the activities of slave catchers running down fugitives by those now remembered as freedom-seekers. Some historians consider Oberlin to be the most important stop on the Underground Railroad.

On 13 September, 1858, citizens and students of Oberlin and citizens of Wellington successfully rescued John Price, a runaway slave living in Oberlin, from slave catchers. As the story is told, Price had been forcefully removed from the outskirts of Oberlin to the Wadsworth House in Wellington, and faced a return to slavery in Kentucky. The events that followed, including a 1859 trial of the Oberlin Rescuers in Cleveland and their eventual release from the Cuyahoga County Jail, represented one of Oberlin's most remarkable achievements in the peaceful fight against the institution of slavery and in the moral quest for freedom for black Americans.

The Oberlin College Archives houses a diverse collection of materials related to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue, the people who participated in it, and the role Oberlin played in the history of abolitianism and antislavery in the United States. Keep reading for information on the unique sources available in person at the Oberlin College Archives, as well as the many resources accessible on the web.


Broadside calling a mass meeting in Oberlin, Ohio to celebrate the release of the Rescuers from prison on July 7, 1859.


Information about the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue is available online both through the Oberlin College Archives as well as other organizations focused on Oberlin and its history. The following are some relevant links to information and images about the Rescue:

Images related to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue from the Oberlin College Archives Digital Collections.

Oberling-Wellington Rescue information, documents, and photographs from the Electronic Oberlin Group.

A history of the Rescue under "19th century Oberlin," from the Oberlin Heritage Center's website.

The Oberlin-Wellington Rescue monument, dedicated in 1990, is located in Oberlin's King Park.    


Oberlin-Wellington Rescue related sources within the Oberlin College Archives can be found among many subject files as well as in the following archival records and manuscript sources. Along with these records groups, the archives also houses a copy of the sole issue of The Rescuer, the newspaper published by the Rescuers while they were imprisoned. Facsimile copies of The Rescuer are available from the Oberlin Heritage Center.

Subject Files

Underground Railroad
Wellington Rescue
Wellington Rescue - 150th Anniversary (2008)
Archival Records

RG 28 - Alumni & Development Records (former faculty & staff)
RG 28 - Alumni & Development Records (former students/graduates)
RG 0 - College General (Commencement files)
RG 7 - Records of the Office of Treasurer (correspondence)
RG 5 - Records of the Office of Secretary (Minority Records)
RG 31/4/1 - Records of the First and Second Congregational Churches (Including the Oberlin Society)
RG 41 - Records of the Oberlin College Archives (correspondence)
RG 16 - Records of the Oberlin College Library (autograph file)
Lorain County, Russia Township, Trustee Records, 1855-87
Manuscript Sources

RG 30/27 - Henry Cowles Papers
RG 2/3 - James Harris Fairchild Papers
RG 30/35 - Frances Hosford Papers
RG 30/250 - Marlene D. Merrill Papers
RG 30/22 - James Monroe Papers
RG 21 - Oberlin File (John Morgan Papers)
RG 21 - Oberlin File (Student Letters)
RG 21 - Oberlin File (Writings about Oberlin: Grossi, Ken)
RG 30/112 - Hiram Wilson Papers


The front cover of The 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue: A Reappraisal. The cover illustration is a sketch of the young John Price. Click for the back cover and more information.

There are many publications focused on or with references to the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue. Some of these include:

*Titles available for sale through the Oberlin College Archives.

*The 1858 Oberlin-Wellington Rescue: A Reappraisal, by Roland M. Baumann

*They Stopped in Oberlin: Black Residents and Visitors of the Nineteenth Century, by William E. Bigglestone

The Town that Started the Civil War, by Nat Brandt

A History of Oberlin College, by Robert Samuel Fletcher


Photographs from the collections of the Oberlin College Archives; all rights reserved.

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