Preble County Church Plays Role In Underground Railroad

Historic Hopewell Church, founded in 1808 in Preble County, Ohio.

Historic Hopewell Church, founded in 1808 in Preble County, Ohio.

If you visit the Preble County Library website, you will find a list of more than 50 churches in this county of about 40,000 — and at least one of these churches has been here for 200 hundred years.

It is possibly the most recognized historical church in Preble County — the Hopewell Church — near Hueston Woods. In 2008 the church celebrated its bicentennial. One of the defining marks of the church was its position on slavery — the church was established by some of Preble County’s first settlers, families from Kentucky and South Carolina, because of their opposition to slavery and the church openly encouraged worship by African Americans.

It was also part of the Underground Railroad network that operated in the southwest region of Ohio.

Bunker Hill HouseOne of its member, a free black man Gabriel Smith, known as ‘Old Gabe,’ lived in nearby Fairhaven in the Bunker Hill House. Gabe’s room at the Bunker Hill House was a small closet built underneath a stairwell in the summer kitchen. As a conductor on the route, Old Gabe would lead runaway slaves along Four Mile Creek until they reached Bunker Hill House where they would receive refuge until they could continue their journey north to Canada.

The Hopewell Church, which spawned four daughter churches, closed its doors in 1915, although it held annual meetings in the church building until 1958. When talks of demolition began in the mid-1960s, former members created an organization to save the building and started having services in the church. In 2000, the church was restored to its current condition.

Historic Hopewell Inc. the non-profit organization that maintains the church has posted several online photo albums showcases the church and the restoration project.

If you visit the area during the summer months, you can attend a Sunday morning church service.

The church also has a special Christmas service in December.

Underground Railroad

freedom-centerYou can learn more about the Underground Railroad by reading the words of the slaves that escaped in The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First-Hand Accounts (African American). If you are in the Cincinnati area, you can also visit the National Underground Railroad Museum Center to learn more about the region’s impact on freeing slaves.

Preble County Churches

>>View images of more churches throughout the county

Categories: 8th congressional district, American History, Preble County | Tags: ,

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