If you read enough historical documents you inevitably come across some small item that gets your attention. This is one of those lose threads that I could not resist pulling.
Recently, while reading late 19th century accounts of people who assisted with the Underground Railroad in Ohio, I came across a brief mention in the story of a free black man named George W.S. Lucas (1833-1899) who had helped transport runaway slaves through eastern Ohio during the 1850s. Lucas was interviewed in 1892 by historian Wilbur H. Siebert for his 1898 book The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom. Lucas’ own life story is worth reading, but what caught my eye was this sentence: “I was sent to New Philadelphia to the Valentines I think.” No one named Valentine was included in Seibert’s appendix of the names of Tuscarawas County conductors and so naturally I wanted to see if it could be determined who this Valentine was.
First though, it is worthwhile to explore the background of George W.S. Lucas as it provides some hints as to the possible identity of Valentine. When Lucas was interviewed by Wilbur Seibert he stated that he was born a free man in Columbiana County, Ohio in 1833; however, later census records and family information give his birthplace as Virginia. During the first two years of the 1850s, Lucas stated that he aided in the transportation of runaway slaves from Wellsville, Ohio along the Ohio River, then north to Cadiz (where he had family), through Tuscarawas County and then north through Columbiana County and ultimately to Painesville, Ohio. Lucas’ occupation was recorded at the time as being that of a bricklayer and mason. It was during this period that he interacted with the Valentines of Tuscarawas County.
Lucas lived an exciting decade from 1850 until the start of the Civil War, and travelled all over the Midwest and Great Plains. He claimed to have been captured by the Black Feet and Sioux nations in 1854 before returning to Ohio and continuing his Underground Railroad work. Lucas then stated that he went to Kansas where he rode with John Brown in his efforts to liberate slaves there before once again returning to Ohio by 1860. Whether or not Lucas served in the Civil War is still a question, but is worthy of further research. Lucas married, twice, and eventually settled in Columbiana County until his death in 1899. It is worth noting that, despite Lucas’ very active role in the Underground Railroad and that Siebert was able to corroborate his story, he is given only a passing mention in Siebert’s book.
So who was Valentine that helped Lucas conduct runaway slaves through Tuscarawas County in the early 1850s? An examination of census records for the 1840s through 1860s record only one family residing in Tuscarawas County that had the surname Valentine. That family was headed by a man named William Valentine (1814-1862) and his wife Rebecca Tucker (1815-1912) who were married in Tuscarawas County in 1836. Genealogies of the Valentine family record William’s father as having been a Pennsylvania Quaker named Abner Valentine (1777-1881) and it is well documented that Quakers played a large role in the abolitionist movement and the Underground Railroad.
The Valentines lived in the Stillwater area of Rush Township, though William’s occupation as a bricklayer and stonemason found him working in (and occasionally staying in) New Philadelphia and Cadiz. William and Rebecca’s family ultimately included eight children, seven daughters and a son, though in 1850 there were only five children in the home. The exact location of the Valentine residence in Rush Township is unknown, but it likely served as a station on the Underground Railroad throughout the 1850s.
Despite his advanced age, he was nearly 50 when the Civil War began, William Valentine enlisted in Company I of the 80th Ohio Volunteer Infantry Regiment in October 1861. The regiment was sent to the south to campaign in Tennessee and Mississippi, but it was not long before William’s advanced age and camp life took its toll on him. William, suffering from a severe case of diarrhea common among soldiers at the time, was transferred in late summer 1862 to the Union hospital at Benton Barracks in St. Louis, Missouri. He died there 2 months later on October 1, 1862 and is buried in the Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery. Rebecca moved with two of her daughters to Uhrichsville, received a pension for her husband’s service and sacrifice, and lived to be 94 years old.
Given the above information, and what is known about George W.S. Lucas, it would seem that William Valentine is likely the Valentine mentioned by Lucas as being a Tuscarawas County conductor of the Underground Railroad. William Valentine is not mentioned in Siebert’s book on the Underground Railroad nor is the location of his home in Rush Township determined. Nonetheless, both he and George W.S. Lucas’ activities as part of the Underground Railroad in Tuscarawas County are worthy of remembrance.
© Noel B. Poirier, 2022.