Archive for March 17, 2009

FREEDOM’S LIGHT, Pt. 1- Kelly Sagert

freedomlight Source
Freedom’s Light: A Stop Along the Underground Railroad. Part 1 by Kelly Boyer Sagert

This past year, I wrote my first play, titled Freedom’s Light: A Stop Along the Underground Railroad. This play was commissioned by the Lorain County Metro Parks and will be produced by TrueNorth Cultural Arts in May 2009. Ticket information is at the end of this post.

Freedom’s Light is set in 1859, an exquisitely dangerous time in American history, as a whole, but particularly for Lorain County.

In retrospect, the year 1850 was a pivotal point in our nation’s history. By that time, there were clearly defined “slave states” in the United States, in which slavery was legal, and clearly defined “free states,” where slavery was forbidden. By 1850, the raw tensions between people who believed in slavery and those who wanted to see slavery abolished (the abolitionists) were nearing their breaking point.

During this excruciating difficult time, the United States Congress passed a law that revised the Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 – strengthening both the rights of the slave owners and increasing the punishments for people who attempted to help fugitive slaves. Under the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, anyone suspected of providing aid to a runaway slave – meaning food or shelter or any other type of assistance – could receive six months in prison and a $1,000 fine.

What made this law especially unbearable to people who were against slavery was two-fold. This law:

•gave slave owners permission to send slave catchers and bounty hunters anywhere in the United States to retrieve runaways – including in free states such as Ohio

•required (required!) private citizens to assist in the capture of runaway slaves – even in free states such as Ohio

Some people were frightened away by the criminal penalties associated with this law and they stopped helping runaways. Others became even more outraged and they continued to defy both the federal government and slave owners. A “hot spot” for this defiance was Lorain County – and, on September 13, 1858, an event occurred that put Lorain County in the national spotlight.

Before I share what happened, here is what author Nat Brandt had to say in his outstanding book, The Town that Started the Civil War.

“This is a story about courage–about physical courage and moral courage . . . when a relative newcomer, an escaped slave, was trapped and spirited away, they left their shops, their homes, and their classrooms without hesi¬tation, without debate, without regard to consequences, to rescue a man whom most of them did not even know.”

This story began in the city of Oberlin. An escaped slave named John Price had traveled north as far as Oberlin, where he decided to settle down and do odd jobs to earn a living. In September 1858, two slave catchers tricked Price into entering their carriage by promising him a job of picking potatoes. They planned to take Price to a hotel in Wellington (located where the Wellington Public Library is today) and then catch a morning train back to Kentucky where they would collect their reward for retrieving and returning Price.

They made it to the hotel safely – but, once ensconced inside, they found themselves surrounded by outraged people, both black and white, who were not going to allow the slave catchers to return Price to his master. When peaceful negotiations failed, the mob stormed the hotel and freed Price; they then hid Price until it was safe for him to safely travel to Canada. Energized by the success of the rescue, Oberlin residents paraded back from Wellington, “shouting, singing, rejoicing in the glad results.”

Retribution swiftly fell in Lorain County, however, as 37 men were indicted on charges of helping a slave and 20 of them were jailed for what became known as the Oberlin-Wellington Slave Rescue. Post-rescue, even the federal government was keeping a close eye on people suspected of assisting fugitive slaves in Lorain County.

In the spring of 1859, one of the leaders of the rescue, Simeon Bushnell, was preparing to go on trial; he had backed down not one bit, writing that, “They may do their worst, and when I am again out, I will rescue the first slave I get a chance to rescue.”

In Lorain County, this was an explosive time of passion and fury and danger – and this is also the time in which my play, Freedom’s Light, is set. Historical characters include Robbins and Eliza Burrell, who lived in Sheffield Lake – and who refused to stop helping slaves, no matter how high the stakes and no matter how severe the consequences. Federal marshals would raid their home multiple times in hopes of catching the couple breaking the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 . . . but, they never could.

If you’re interested in discovering how we think the Burrells succeeded in their mission of compassion in the most treacherous of times, Freedom’s Light will run the following dates and times at French Creek:

•Friday, May 1 at 7:30 p.m.
•Saturday, May 2 at 7:30 p.m.
•Sunday, May 3 at 3:00 p.m.

•Thursday, May 7 at 7:30 p.m.
•Friday, May 8 at 7:30 p.m.
•Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m.
•Sunday, May 10 at 3:00 p.m.

•Thursday, May 14 at 7:30 p.m.
•Friday, May 15 at 7:30 p.m.
•Saturday, May 16 at 7:30 p.m.
•Sunday, May 17 at 3:00 p.m.

ED NOTE: click on the TrueNorth Cultural Arts link up top and then scroll down, you’ll see where you can pre-order tickets.

March 17, 2009 at 11:03 pm 11 comments

Paula’s Perspective _ Lorain City Council March 16th

How not to have a meeting:

Administration photo from previous council meeting

•Post the start time of the meeting, then make everyone wait 1 ½ hrs before you begin

•Make everyone wait that 1 ½ hrs in a 90 degree room, in uncomfortable chairs without beverages or food

•Take a 47 page budget and go over each department of that budget and ask 11 members what their feelings are

• 5 ½ hrs after the meeting was to begin you ask the public (that is still there and awake, I’d say 16 of 100+ they began with) if they want to speak

I left at 11:35 PM I believe they may continue into St. Patrick’s Day.

I’ve always suggested citizens must attend to see it for themselves. After tonight, I’m not sure I’d want anyone to have to sit through that.

Why can’t everyone get a copy of a detailed agenda (after Administration has CAREFULLY communicated with all departments)Then read, make notes, ask for clarification BEFORE the meeting

This meeting would have gone on until next St. Patrick’s day if everyone’s pet project was debated.

March 17, 2009 at 12:04 pm 8 comments



The Morning Journal apparently wasn’t ready to accept the Notorious Opponents of Exactitude Award 🙂

and have corrected the HEADLINE in question
Tuesday, March 17, 2009 1:18 AM EDT

The secondary headline on Monday’s story “Uses for CRA fees debated” was incorrect. That headline should have said, “Some on City Council call tax break fee excesive, want money returned”

Of course poor old Journal their keyboards must be having problems with their “S” too!
“Where the HEL is the l”

March 17, 2009 at 11:43 am Leave a comment

Lorain City Council – Notes-

City of Lorain

Paula was on vacation but returned just before tonight’s meeting which at 9:15 is still ongoing WHEW!!! Since visitors to this blog expect Council Notes after the meeting we have some ( way after the meeting)

The first election for township officers was held at the house ……

John S. Reid, a native of New Jersey, who came to Black River in the spring of 1810. His original cabin was a double block house – a stately structure for the time. It was used for many years by Mr. Reid as a dwelling, tavern, post office and justice’s office combined. It was located near the foot of Elyria St., which would be near 1st St. and Broadway.

……of John S. Reid, April 17, 1817. John S. Reid was called to the chair,

and Chilial Smith and Edmund Gillmore appointed judges of election.

Township officers were elected as follows : Daniel Perry, clerk ;

Adoniram Webb, Quartus Gillmore and Joseph Quigley,trustees ;

Chilial Smith and Edmund Gillmore, overseers of the poor ;

George Kelso and Stephen Cable, fence viewers ;

Orrin Gillmore and James Webster, appraisers of property ;

William Martin, Ralph Lyons, Chilial Smith and Reuben Webb, supervisors of highways ;

John S. Reid, treasurer.

At the election in Black River, for State and county officers, October 14, 1817, there were cast, according to the poll list in the handwriting of Daniel Perry, clerk, seventeen votes, as follows : John S. Reid, Daniel T. Baldwin, Jacob Shupe, Joseph Quigley, Quartus Gillmore, A. Webb, Reuben Webb, S. Cable, Daniel Perry, John Morrell, Chilial Smith, Fred Onstine, Daniel —, Samuel Cable, Henry Onstme, James O’Neal, George Kelso.

From a double Block House to the home of Jones/ Stang… to today’s Lorain City Hall

Capt Wm. Jones ( a leading shipbuilder erected the most pretentious residence in the village”

“Lorain In Retrospect: An Address to the Lorain Real Estate Board” by J.J. Meyer January 4th 1926


John Stang

He expired in 1899 ( in the room now occupied by the City Auditor) having purchased the property after the demise of William Jones

( Meyer)





ED Note :it has been stated that the “first area designated for burial for the little settlement was also on that corner before the Charleston Pioneer Cemetery was designated – are we being haunted by history ? 🙂

March 17, 2009 at 1:13 am 5 comments



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March 2009