Underground Railroad - Kelton House


Underground Railroad - Kelton House


Underground Railroad


Marker Text: When Fernando Cortez and Sophia Stone Kelton built this house in 1852, it was the last residence on East Town Street and was surrounded by pastureland. Ardent abolitionists, the Keltons were members of the local antislavery society. Family tradition states that runaways were hidden in the barn at the back of the house, in the 300-barrel cistern just east of the house, or sometimes in the servants' quarters. No one knows for certain how many fugitive slaves passed through this house on his or her way to freedom.

One documented story is that of a 10-year old runaway named Martha Hartway. Born a slave in September 1854 on a plantation near Richmond in Powhattan County, Virginia, Martha, along with her sister Pearl, fled the plantation. They left at their mother's urging when she was told the girls would be sent to work at the Big House. Kelton family tradition states that Sophia found the girls under a shrub next to the house. Too ill to move, Martha was taken in by the Keltons and remained for ten years. Pearl continued north to Wisconsin because she felt Ohio wasn't safe. In 1874, Martha married Thomas Lawrence in the front parlor of this house. The son of free-black parents, Thomas was employed by the Keltons as a cabinet-maker. The Lawrence family named their children after Martha's Kelton family playmates. The Kelton House was restored and is maintained by the Junior League of Columbus, Inc.




“Underground Railroad - Kelton House,” Teaching Columbus Historic Places, accessed June 13, 2024, https://teachingcolumbus.omeka.net/items/show/126.