The leaders in Sandusky’s Underground Railroad movement were freeborn black Sanduskians.

Rush R. Sloane - Erie County Ohio Historical Society

In fact, communities of free blacks across the United States were the most powerful force in aiding those escaping from slavery. According to Rush Sloane, who recorded more than thirty Underground Railroad stories after the Civil War, “before the year 1837, the fugitives who escaped through Sandusky were conducted and aided almost wholly by black men,” including at least 22 free men in Sandusky’s Black community.

The impressive white house on the corner belonged to Rush Sloane, a Sandusky attorney, abolitionist, and later on, Mayor of Sandusky.
• In 1853, Sloane bought a house, which still stands today, at 403 E. Adams St., from its first owner and builder, Samuel Torrey, according to the National Park Service. He conducted his legal services, advocating on behalf of slaves, from this residence.
• In 1855, Sloane became a probate court judge in Erie County. Six years later, he became an agent for the U.S. Post Office in Chicago. While in Chicago, Sloane became quite wealthy from his real estate investments.
• In 1865, he purchased Cedar Point and took the first steps to convert the site into a vacation spot.
• In 1867, Sloane became the president of the Sandusky, Dayton and Cincinnati Railroad.
• In 1879, he was elected mayor of Sandusky.
• In 1908, Sloane died.

In 1852, Black families escaping slavery stood on a Sandusky dock attempting to board the steamship Arrow. Kentucky slave owners dragged the families back to shore claiming them as runaway slaves.

They were hauled to the Mayor’s office to establish title. Rush Sloane was called to the Mayor’s office where a growing crowd of armed Sanduskians on both sides gathered. Sloane recounted, “I asked…”are there any papers or writs to show why they are held?” There was no reply. I then said: “I see no authority for detaining these persons.” And at this, John B. Lott, a Black man cried out in an excited voice, “Hustle them out.” With guns and knives in the hands of many people on both sides of the issue in the Mayor’s office, the crowd obeyed John B. Lott. The crowd hustled out the former slaves and they went on to freedom in Canada.

Sloane was taken to court in 1852 and was the defendant in this case involving runaways from slavery. He was found guilty in a federal court under the 1850 Fugitive Slave Act of helping families escape slavery and fined over $4,330.30. Friends and sympathizers made contributions to help him pay this astronomical fine. In appreciation of his efforts, local African-Americans presented him with a silver-headed cane.

THE RUSH R. SLOANE HOUSE RESTORATION – In November 2020 we received an invitation to attend the Grand Opening of the renovated Sloane House. This 1850 house was purchased by Rush R. Sloane in 1853 and was transformed into an Italianate Mansion post Civil War. The Reconstruction process revealed seven separate additions to the original house, bringing it to its present size of 10,000 square feet. It is listed on both the National Register of Historic Places and the Underground Railroad directories. The restoration was the result of Ruth Frost Parker’s dedication to the City of Sandusky who rescued it from demolition in 2012. The majority of the exterior rebuild was accomplished under her auspices. This home is offered for sale.
            The complete interior renovation was undertaken by Christopher Weidle in September 2015. Its use both as the Sandusky Business College and the Aheir Rest Home removed nearly all of the original interior amenities. Only two rooms retained their period woodwork and floors, and only five original doors remained. Care was taken to conceal the new HVAC, electric, insulation and plumbing. The 1880 era mansion is a breathtaking tribute to its history with period furnishings and fixtures. You can read all about the Sloane House Renovation and see some of the awesome pictures below.

THE LIONS – This led to a question about the lions that at one time graced the front steps. It took some detective work, but we found them at Lions Park. Ruth Parker had them removed from the front of the house after she started remodeling it.  Ultimately these lions were given to the city and placed with the main entrance sign at Lions Park on the city’s west side.