This fall, Valley residents can rediscover the history of Northeast Ohio.
Ashtabula County will be host to several annual special events: The Underground Railroad Pilgrimage, A Quilt Show at the Hubbard House Museum and the Ashtabula County Covered Bridge Festival.
Pilgrimage: The 22nd annual Underground Railroad Pilgrimage will begin at 9 a.m. Oct. 6. The event starts at Hubbard House, one of several Underground Railroad stations in Ashtabula County. The morning itinerary will include era music and a self-guided tour of the early 19th century home near Lake Erie.
At 10:15 a.m. attendees will be given a bag of "travelin' food" much like what was supplied to fugitive slaves as they were sent to the boats along Lake Erie and the promise of freedom in Canada. A "conductor" will lead the group to various stations, or homes, as well as significant cemeteries around Ashtabula County. The purpose of the pilgrimage is to help travelers understand the challenges of the former slaves who risked their life in search of freedom in the North.
The pilgrimage concludes with lunch around 12:30 p.m. at a historic restaurant in the Ashtabula area.
Each year different sites along area Underground Railroad stations are toured. Although individuals will drive themselves to each site, Hubbard House director Debra Laveck requests interested individuals to call for reservations.
Hubbard House: Even if you can't make it to the pilgrimage, a visit to Hubbard House is worth the one-hour drive north of Youngstown.
The house was known under the code name Mother Hubbard's Cupboard and The Great Emporium. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The house is open to the public on weekends Memorial Day through Labor Day and by appointment for individuals and groups during the fall and winter months. The house tour gives the history of the Underground Railroad movement and offers a glimpse of life in the mid-1800s through period furniture and keepsakes.
William and Catharine Hubbard built the house, which served as a northern end point of the Underground Railroad. Slaves hid in area houses in northern Ohio before continuing their north-bound journey.
As we walked through each of the rooms, Laveck pointed out original pieces from the Hubbard family as well as collected pieces displayed to reflect household items of the mid-1800s.
In the parlor, a portrait of Nehemiah Hubbard is on the west wall. Laveck explained that Hubbard owned a large portion of land, along with 38 others who had formed the Connecticut Land Company. His nephews, including the original homeowner, William Hubbard, came to the Ashtabula area to farm and oversee the property. Historians estimate the Greek Revival brick home was built around 1841.
According to Laveck, a fugitive slave named "Uncle Jake," was the brick mason on part of the job.
Abolition of slavery was a family passion. The Hubbards' oldest daughter, Catharine Maria, married Orramel Fitch, who started the Abolitionist newspaper called the Ashtabula Sentinel. Copies are exhibited in the parlor.
The formal dining room displays a 1775 highboy built for the Hubbard family. A rope bed and cornhusk mattress are exhibited upstairs. Other second floor rooms have rotating exhibits related to the Underground Railroad.
Quilts: Currently an interactive exhibit on quilts keeps hands as well as minds thinking about the era. Laveck explains in a brochure, "for slaves, reading, writing and even speaking to each other were illegal. They found ways around these rules. One method of communication involved quilts."
For example the "Money Wrench" pattern warned those planning to escape to gather up their tools and the items they would need most on the trip. "Drunkard's Path" meant don't travel in a straight line because it's too easy to be captured.
Children can try to interpret the quilts or create their own pattern at the exhibit.
Another large display on Harriet Tubman, a well-known "conductor of the Underground Railroad" is sure to keep the interest of schoolchildren. Clothing and other memorabilia of the movement are shown in glass-enclosed exhibitions.
A show of more than 50 quilts from a private collection will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Nov.17 and 18 at the museum. Admission is $4 for adults and $2 for children.
Bridges: For an autumn outdoor adventure, join hundreds of others on a self-guided tour of Ashtabula County's 16 covered bridges. From 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 13 and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Oct. 14, visit the annual Covered Bridge Festival held at the Jefferson County fairgrounds. The festival features crafts, entertainment, historic vehicles, a farmers market, quilt show and parade.
Before the covered bridge tour, be sure to contact the Covered Bridge Festival Information Center. They will provide detailed maps, directions and descriptions of several tour options. The information is also available on line.
Visitors can opt for a tour of 11 covered bridge for a total of 69 miles, or five covered bridges, which covers 66 miles.