One of the most noticeable things in Ripley, besides the Ohio River, is a house that sits on a hill behind the town. It can be seen from a great distance, and all children who live in the area are taught its significance to Ripley's history.
I don't know when I was first told the story of the Rankin House, but it seems that it has always been a part of my Ripley repertoire of knowledge. As a child I knew that slaves had crossed the Ohio River, headed toward a light in a window on the hill, where the Rankin family would hide them in their house, just one stop on their way north to freedom. As I progressed in school and learned of the Underground Railroad, the pieces came together and I understood the part that Ripley had played in our country's history.
Part of the Rankin House story includes the one hundred wooden steps that led from the town to what became known as Liberty Hill. When my mother was a young girl, my grandparents purchased a house on Fourth Street just up from St. Michael's Catholic Church. The backyard of the house led into woods and the bottom of those steps. My grandmother claimed that her great - grandfather, Joseph Montgomery, helped build the steps. I have never found any proof of that claim, and, in fact, the Montgomery's did not actually live in Ripley before the Civil War, but they did live in Brown County so maybe it is possible that my grandmother's story is true. I would like to think, anyway, that maybe part of my family was involved in the abolitionist effort.
If you are interested in the history of the Rankin House and Ripley's part in the Underground Railroad, there are many web sites that you can view. You will find links to a few of them at the bottom of this post. There are also books that have been written on the subject that deserve a spot of their own which will be my next posting.
Rankin House Links