In the early 1800s, opposing attitudes existed in the separate communities of Putnam and Zanesville. Anti-slavery New Englanders settled Putnam while pro-slavery Virginians and Kentuckians settled Zanesville. The Emancipation Society of Putnam formed in June 1831. The Muskingum County Emancipation Society formed in Zanesville the following month, but only had a few members. In March 1835, noted abolitionist speaker Theodore D. Weld came to Zanesville to lecture but was turned away by pro-slavery sympathizers. When the Stone Academy in Putnam provided a room, the lecture was disrupted by a mob and Weld took refuge in the home of church Elder A.A. Guthrie. After seeking the Sheriff's and County Prosecutor's protection, the Muskingum County Emancipation Society invited the Abolitionist Society of Ohio to hold its convention in Putnam in April 1835. Again, a pro-slavery mob disrupted the proceedings. Eventually, hundreds signed petitions in favor of immediate emancipation. [continued on other side]
[continued from other side] By 1836, the Muskingum County Anti-Slavery Society, Female Anti-Slavery Society, and New Concord Society represented anti-slavery sentiments in Muskingum County, but tensions grew. Pro-slavery forces disrupted conventions and threatened the homes and property of Putnam residents H.C. Howell, Horace Nye, Levi Whipple, and Adam Francis. In response, the "Putnam Grays" formed using weapons from Harpers Ferry. Fugitive slaves traveling from Deavertown were hidden in the hollow abutment of the Third Street Muskingum River Bridge connecting Putnam and Zanesville. Fugitives were sent to the homes of Alexander Brown, Robert Folet, and William Speers at New Concord, and G.W. and Edward Adams at Trinway. Meanwhile Dr. J.M. Simpson, a noted African American abolitionist in Zanesville, wrote emancipation songs, essays, and newspaper articles that were circulated nationwide. In 1837, Harriet Beecher Stowe visited her brother Reverend William Beecher, a pastor at the Putnam Presbyterian Church where Frederick Douglass spoke in 1852.