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Wooster Digital History Project

Robert and William Taggart

The next stop on the western path through Wayne County was Wooster. Wooster was an especially important stop because of its role as the county seat and because of the construction of a turnpike road from Wooster to Cleveland in 1824.  The turnpike was a better manner for the city’s citizens to transport their farm goods to the larger market centers of the state. It became possible to transfer much larger loads of goods in much less time[1].From 1830 to 1860 there were two different homes that accepted fleeing slaves. The first belonged to Robert Taggart, who owned a farm one mile west of Wooster. Robert was aided by his brother William Taggart, affectionately referred to as Uncle William Taggart[2],who, to the best of our knowledge, was in charge of the transportation of the slaves. Robert was the treasurer for the Anti-Slavery Society in Wayne County and a well-known abolitionist. Unfortunately this attracted un-wanted attention. According to letters written to Ohio State University Professor William Siebert, Robert Taggart’s barn was burned down in 1850 by his proslavery neighbors. This type of response was only one of the dangers faced by those who chose to help slaves attain freedom. After the enactment of the fugitive slave law, which allowed slave-hunters to seize alleged fugitive slaves without due process of law, it became punishable by law to aid escaping fugitives. Those that were found aiding escaping slaves were subject to a fine up to 1,000 dollars, the equivalent of around 30,000 dollars today, and six months in jail. After Robert Taggart’s house was burned down it is said, “he left for the West in disgust”. 

[1] History of Wayne County, Ohio. Vol. 1. Indianapolis, Indiana: B.F. Bowen, 1910. 

[2] "Jessie E. Pocock Letters to Wilbur Siebert." Ohio Memory, a Product of the Ohio Historical Society and the State Library of Ohio. September 21, 1948.