Merry was a builder who often employed those who had escaped from slavery until they were able to head to Canada. Fugitives from slavery faced life threatening challenges from slave owners, slavecatchers, hostile Northerners, and the elements.
The origin of the term “Underground Railroad” is connected to a man who eventually escaped through Sandusky. Rush Sloane recorded the story in 1888 in The Firelands Pioneer:
“’In the year 1831 a fugitive named Tice Davids came over the line and lived just back of Sandusky. He had come direct from Ripley, Ohio, where he crossed the Ohio River; he remained some time at Sandusky, and then went to Canada. It was told of him that he gave the name to the “Underground Road” in this way: When he was running away, his master, a Kentuckian, was in close pursuit and pressing him so hard that when the Ohio River was reached he had no alternative but to jump in and swim across. It took his master some time to secure a skiff in which he…followed the swimming fugitive keeping him in sight until he had landed. Once on shore…no one had seen him; and after a long and unsuccessful search the disappointed slave-master went into Ripley, and when inquired as to what had become of his slave, said he could not tell…and he thought [he] “must have gone off on an underground road.” This incident gave the name to the line. First the “Underground,” then [after the railroad was invented, the] “Underground Railroad.”’”