Dense with forest and rich in game, Richmond, Indiana was proclaimed "The Land of Promise" by North Carolina Quakers seeking a new home free from the moral chains of slavery. The first settler, Jeremiah Cox, set about "building up a virtuous community" in 1806 by welcoming fellow Quakers to his paradise. His influence shaped Richmond as diverse groups of settlers sought the peaceful and prosperous lifestyle of the Friends. Quakers owned mills and foundries along the Whitewater River, and Quaker Charles Starr further influenced Richmond's destiny as he donated land to the railroad, stipulating that it be used for a depot.
With access to rail transportation, more industrialists chose to locate in Richmond and during the late nineteenth century the city of 20,000 was home to no less than 47 millionaires. The Quakers established intellectual growth with the founding of Earlham College in 1847 and one of the nation's first public libraries in 1864.
Eastern Indiana and western Ohio represented one important route to Canada and freedom for escaped slaves. Inside, you can learn about the history behind the site in an orientation video and browse informative displays that tell about the Coffins’ role in helping slaves escape to freedom. Next door, enjoy a guided tour of the actual home where the Coffins housed many of the freedom seekers, lay your head in a mock false-bottom wagon, peek inside hidden doors and grasp just how much effort went into planning freedom for so many.
The Coffins were just one of many households that protected and assisted the runaways. What makes the Coffins unique is that in 1876, Levi Coffin published his “Reminiscences,” in which he described how and why the Underground Railroad operated.
Levi also passed along stories of some of the people he and Catharine helped – their decision to escape, their life on the run, and what happened after they found freedom.
“This site is the public way for people to interact with that history,” Hahn said.
The Coffins moved on to Cincinnati in 1847, but they left a permanent stamp on the history of our state.