The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 prompted an expansion of the "Underground Railroad," and as the state spanning the shortest distance between the Ohio River and Canada, Ohio saw heavy traffic in escaping slaves in the decades before the Civil War. Hancock County was home to many sympathetic residents who defied fugitive slave laws to help conduct slaves to freedom. "Stationmasters" offered safe havens, "conductors" accompanied fugitives through the county, and "stockholders" provided financial support and misled pursuers. Known stations were located mainly along the Perrysburg Road, now U.S. Highway 68.
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David Adams, a free black barber in Findlay, watched his father and grandfather assist fugitive slaves as a child in Urbana. In the 1850s he conducted scores of "passengers" northward from Findlay. Other Hancock County stations included the farms of John Woods, John King, and Judge Robert Strother; other conductors included Robert Hurd and Joel Markle. Other local participants in America's first struggle for civil rights: William Baldwin; Francis Bartley; Dr. Belizur Beach; Henry and P.D. Bigelow; Ezra Brown; Job Chamberlin; David J. Cory; C.A. Croninger; William McCaughey; Hugh Newell; Charles O'Neal; Jonathan Parker; Henry Porch; Bass Rawson; James Spaythe; William Taylor; Jesse Wheeler; James Woods. Because of its secrecy, the extent of the local Underground Railroad may never be known.