When I was a little kid my parents took my brothers and me on a trip to Washington, D.C. and Colonial Williamsburg. Even at that age I loved the history that was unfolded before my eyes. I remember wishing we could live right there on the shores of the Potomac River next door to George and Martha Washington’s Mount Vernon.
Just within the past two weeks I’ve learned that today I do live next door to a site within which very significant history blossomed! Across the 22 years we’ve lived here in our humble Maineville home I’ve heard pieces of stories about a place called the Butterworth farm and its ties to the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was an American network of safe houses and clandestine routes used during the 1800’s by slaves of African descent to escape their slavery into northern free states or Canada. The system was dependent on abolitionist and allies who risked everything in the name of justice.
It was in talking with my friend Dr. Karen Dinsmore that pieces of this Butterfield puzzle were united into what for me now is not a finished, but much clearer picture. Benjamin Butterworth is perhaps the best known of the branches within this rather distinguished family tree. His grandfather had undergone a moving epiphany resulting in the sale of his Virginia farm and the freeing of all of his slaves in favor of 1500 acres of wooded wilderness along the Little Miami River in Ohio’s Warren County. By 1820 the stone farm house, still standing today, was built. It was there that Benjamin was born on October 22, 1837. Their story is one of leadership, faith, and love for humanity. According to Karen, they were an inspiring example, “always reaching out to others as their home was a haven for travelers, for new arrivals in the neighborhood, and countless runaway slaves. When there was a crisis or desperate need they stepped up to the plate. They donated land, water and helped with the building of the Little Miami Railroad which was financially strapped, they helped build the Maineville Academy so area children could go to high school as most one room schools only went up to 8th grade, they supported the building of a road between Foster and Loveland, and they took in hundreds of runaways and transported them to the next station.”
The fun news is that Karen has received permission from the State of Ohio to place a historical marker along the current bike trail at the site of the depot that once stood at the Butterworth Station stop along the Little Miami Railroad (photo on my blog). She currently is trying to raise money to pay for fabrication of the marker. Anyone making a tax deductible donation of $100 or more will be eligible to take part in a tour of the recently renovated stone Butterworth farmhouse and adjoining grounds. Make checks payable to “Warren County Foundation” earmarked to “Butterworth Station” and mail them to Warren County Foundation, 118 East Main St., Lebanon, OH 45036. Dedication of this, Hamilton Township’s first historical marker, will take place on June 6th and present day descendants of the Butterworth family are expected to be in attendance.
Who needs Mount Vernon when you’ve got significant history in your own back yard? Let’s get that marker paid for! See you at the farmhouse for the tour!