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Wooster Digital History Project

Thomas Battles

The start of the western trail through Wayne County began in Shreve, Ohio, at the home of Thomas Battles. Somewhere along the west side of modern route 266 used to stand a log cabin where Battles received escaping slaves brought up from Holmes County. One story, told by Thomas Battles’ granddaughter Mrs. Blaybough of Wooster, tells of an incident when an entire family of slaves were in the home and two United States Marshals arrived unexpectedly. The two men had been tracking the escaped slaves, but arrived at the house to find nothing. Little did they know that over their heads, the entire family had been crammed into the loft, including a baby. Throughout the entire exchange the baby didn’t make a sound, and after the marshals left, the group was quickly transported up towards Wooster. Hidden under burlap sacks to resemble wheat, the slaves were driven in a horse and wagon by Thomas Battles son, William Battles. On their journey they passed the same two officers on a street corner but they were not stopped.[1]

Thomas Battles was not the only Underground Railroad operator in the area, but oversaw the stations near Shreve and Millbrook. In his efforts he was reportedly aided by Charity Bell, Dr. Joseph Deyarmon, Absolom Swords, Elizabeth Kauffman, John Kauffman, Daniel and Joseph May, Charles Oldroyd, and Samuel Seibert.  Among those that sheltered slaves seeking freedom there were also those that helped in other ways. One example of this is Jacob A. Keister, a wealthy landowner from Millbrook. While Keister did not actively engage in the transport of slaves, he gave Battles 700 dollars to “carry on his business” helping to help pay for food, clothing, and other provisions.[2]


[1] Arick, Ola. "The Slave Traffic" The Daily Record, February 2, 1946.

[2] Hauenstien, E.H. "Prominent Citizens in Pre-Civil War Days Aided Escaping Slaves." The Daily Record, February 9, 1952.