The Cleveland Daily Herald
Cleveland, July 7, 1859
The Welcome at Oberlin.
More than two thousand persons met the “Rescuers” at the cars at the depot on their return to Oberlin last night, the 6th. The entire Fire Department of Oberlin turned out, to meet their returned brethren, some of whom were of the number imprisoned. Prof. Monroe welcomed the “Rescuers to their homes and firesides, and, led by the Band, the procession marched through town – which was a glare of light from bonfires, and was vocal with cheers and ringing of bells – to the big brick church, where a dense mass of three thousand people crowded to welcome the “Rescuers.” Father Keep was called to preside.
Father Keep said that they had met for the purpose of hearing from those who had just been released from jail, and concluded his remarks by introducing Hon. Ralph Plumb, who was received with unbounded enthusiasm.
Mr. Plumb briefly stated the motives, which had prompted them to remain in jail, and explained the manner of their deliverance, assurance his friends that they had come forth with their honor untarnished, and without the smell of fire upon their garments; in proof of which he concluded by reading the leading article in the Plain Dealer of last evening.
Prof. Peck next took the stand, and made a very impressive speech. He alluded feelingly to the different events in his own life, which made the deepest impression upon his mind, and referred particularly to the hour when, as a Christian patriot, he offered his heartfelt thanks for the delivery of the boy John from his pursuers; and then to the day when, as a criminal, he was arraigned at the bar of the U.S. Court, charged with crime in sympathizing with the oppressed, to the day when he was cast into prison, and finally to the occasion which had called out the immense audience before him. His experience had taught him that it was “not all of life to live.”
Rev. Jas. M. Fitch next gave a brief history of their imprisonment, and recited several lessons, which they had learned in the bitter school of experience. They were conscious of having acted right, and he should look back upon the events of the last three months, spent with his fellow prisoners, with feelings of satisfaction, in being able, under Providence, to do conduct himself as not to bring reproach upon the cause they had aimed to vindicate.
He was followed by John Watson, who spoke with much earnestness, declaring his firm determination to aid the oppressed slave on every occasion and under all circumstances.
Professor Monroe said it might be interesting to learn how the writs of Habeas Corpus were not served in Lorain, and called on R.G. Horr, Esq., of Elyria, who gave a very amusing account of the tribulations of the officers and their Kentucky friends, in attempting to surrender them to the Lorain County officers.
Wm. E. Lincoln and John H. Scott were next called upon, who responded briefly, after which Henry Evans spoke with much apparent emotion, of the necessity of vigilant action, in guarding the citadel of Liberty from the incursions of its enemies.
He was followed by R. Windsor, who thanked his friends for their hearty welcome, after which A.W. Lyman spoke with much earnestness in justification of their conduct, and made a stiffing appeal to the friends of Republicanism, to bear unsullied the standard placed in their hands.
Loud calls were made for Sheriff Burr, who was fairly forced upon the stand, and who responded briefly, explaining his connection with the kidnappers and their official friends, in Elyria.
Sheriff Wightman, of Cuyahoga, was loudly called for, and in response, spoke at some length of his connection with the persons under his care, paying them the highest complements for the uniform and almost fatherly kindness with which he had ever been treated by them. He should ever remember them as friends, whose acquaintance, formed under circumstances of affliction contributing to their comfort, and many feelings of sympathy while listening to a recital of their wrongs. He cordially invited them and their friends to make his house their home when they pleased, assuring them that he had the deepest sympathy with the cause of the slaves and the oppressed everywhere.
Geo. G. Washburn, Esq., of the Elyria Democrat, was next called to the stand. He was present at the great Convention of freemen, in Buffalo, in 1848, and heard the eloquent Chas. B. Sedgwick, as he gazed over the vast multitude, exclaim, “My friends, my eyes in their wildest dreams of fancy had never hoped to look upon a scene like this!” With truth, he could adopt the language of the eloquent orator. He had watched with deep solicitude, the events connected with the prosecutions, which had just been abandoned by the government, and, although at times, the future looked dark and gloomy, he had come here to rejoice that a glorious day had dawned upon our cause. He felt it was well the blow had fallen where it did – upon a community who had the boldness to meet it, the fortitude to endure it, and the discretion to act in such a manner as to result in the triumph they had met to rejoice over. He urged the friends of the slave to make a city of refuge for the oppressed, in every township, and to permit no slave hunter to enter it in pursuit of his victim.
At the conclusion of Mr. Washburn’s speech, Prof. Monroe happily alluded to the fact that they had been addressed by honest men of various pursuits. There was an honest Carpenter, Shoemaker, Printer, Professor in College, Editor, (strange as it may seem, and Lawyer, (still more wonderful,) but a stranger man than all was before them – an honest Post Master! – He therefore introduced Mr. John Smith, Jailor at Cleveland, and Postmaster for the rescue prisoners.
Mr. Smith took the stand and explained in a very happy manner, the connection he had with the Post Office Department, saying if his services had been of any value to the prisoners in visiting the post office for them, they had afforded him much sincere pleasure in being able to contribute to their aid and comfort.
Father Gillett, who was long since sent home, because the Government was ashamed to prosecute so venerable a patriot, was called out and made a speech, which was received with unbounded enthusiasm.
During the evening a collection was taken up for the relief of the prisoners, and the choir sung with thrilling effect, The Marseilles.
Several of the speakers alluded to their fellow prisoner Bushnell, who still had a few days to remain in jail, and promised him a hearty welcome when he returned again to his home.
It was now a quarter to twelve, and still the immense audience, filling the church to its utmost capacity, remained without the appearance of fatigue. A prayer was then offered by Prof. Morgan, and the meeting closed by singing the Doxology, in which all the congregation joined.
Our sketch of the proceedings is necessarily brief, but what we lack in printing was made up in enthusiasm, which welcomed every speaker during the evening.