Historical Society concerned about sale of former building on the Underground Railroad

COLUMBUS (WCMH) – A funeral home in Clintonville is up for sale, but it has the Historical Society concerned about what might happen to the Clinton Chapel inside of it.

The chapel was a stop on the Underground Railroad in the 1800’s and residents are hoping to preserve it.

“You can pretty clearly see the peaked roof of the chapel building,” said Clintonville Historical Society President Mary Rogers. “It is totally surrounded by additions that have been made over the years.”

The chapel is depicted in the mural on East North Broadway as a “safe house.”

“Anyone who is trying to leave slavery in the south has free passage through this part of Ohio,” said Rogers. “Jason Bull is a known conductor on the underground railroad and he used this chapel to hide fugitive slaves. Some people say as many as 300.”

She said the chapel was built in 1838 as a result of the last will and testament of a settler of the area, Thomas Bull.

“It’s built of brick that was cast out of the clay from the Walhalla ravine. Its foundation is said to be glacier boulders and its beams are actually primeval forest from this area,” said Rogers.

His three sons were abolitionists and they used the chapel to help slaves get to freedom.

But, she said the building might be sold and the historical society is worried what might happen to it.

“We’ve lost several historic buildings to development over the last probably six years,” said Rogers. “At a minimum, we want to work with the new owner to try to gather those nuggets of story that we want to continue to live on and at maximum, we’d love to have that chapel building be here for another 100 years.”

The structure was the first church in Clinton Township.

“It was provided for by the original settler of this area. His sons go on to actually establish the village of Clintonville which is now the neighborhood of Clintonville,” said Rogers.

She said it stayed a church until 1910 and then became a private residence, until the Southwick family bought it in 1938 and turned it into a funeral home.

“The thing that of course concerns us is now going through its next transition,” said Rogers. “We just want to make sure that its future is with us because it is probably the most significant historical building here in Clintonville.”

She said they don’t want to lose the building

“But if we are going to lose this building to re-development, then it will be important that we at least try to gather up whatever trail of the story we can so that we can keep that story alive,” said Rogers. “I think it’s really important that we understand our past so that we don’t make the same mistakes that might’ve been made in the past, but also so we honor that past.”

She said they’d like to work with the new owner to map the site.

“We’d like to use ground-penetrating radar or other techniques to try to get an understanding of whether or not there’s still portions of a cemetery on hand,” said Rogers.

She said they’d also like to bring in archaeologist and volunteers to investigate the chapel.

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