Historical Markers in Oberlin

Ohio Historical Markers identify, commemorate, and honor the important people, places, and events that have contributed to Ohio's rich history.  The Ohio Historcal Markers Program is administered by the Ohio Historical Society, which partners with local organizations and sponsors to produce historical markers.  There are six Ohio Historical Markers in Oberlin, which can be seen below.  To view all of the current Ohio Historical Markers in Ohio, go to www.remarkableohio.org.

Oberlin also has a marker which was erected by the Friends of Freedom Society / Ohio Underground Railroad Association at the northeast corner of North Main and East Lorain Streets which commemorates Oberlin’s role in the Underground Railroad. 
 

"Charles M. Hall and Frank M. Jewett"

Location: Jewett House
73 South Professor Street

Dedicated: 2003

Sponsors: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, Oberlin Heritage Center/O.H.I.O., The International Paper Company, Foundation, and The Ohio Historical Society

Side A : "Charles M. Hall and Frank F. Jewett"

Aluminum pioneer Charles Martin Hall was born in 1863 in Thompson, Ohio (Geauga County), and moved with his family to Oberlin in 1873. Hall graduated from Oberlin College in 1885, studying chemistry under Professor Frank Fanning Jewett (1844-1926). Jewett, who lived in this house from 1884 to 1923, encouraged Hall's interest in chemistry and aluminum, then a semi-precious metal. Hall discovered an electrochemical reduction process for producing metallic aluminum from aluminum oxide dissolved in molten cryolite in his woodshed laboratory at his family's home at 64 East College Street on February 23, 1886. This process, the culmination of research with Jewett, became the basis for the aluminum industry in America. In 1888 Hall co-founded the Pittsburgh Reduction Company, later the Aluminum Company of America (ALCOA). Upon his death in 1914, Hall left one-third of his estate to Oberlin College.


Side B : Same 


"Downtown Oberlin Historic District"

Location: SW Corner of Main & College Streets

Dedicated: 2008

Sponsors: City of Oberlin Historic Preservation Commission, Oberlin Heritage Center, and The Ohio Historical Society
 

Side A : "Downtown Oberlin Historic District"

The intersection of Main and College streets has been the center of Oberlin since the town and college were founded in 1833. The first downtown buildings were made of wood and were destroyed by a series of spectacular fires. The first college building, Oberlin Hall, stood on the southwest corner of College and Main and included recitation rooms, a dining hall, chapel, offices, and lodging. In 1887, Akron architect Frank Weary designed the large brick building at numbers 5 to 13 West College. Number 23 West College (Gibson Block) once housed a silent movie theater on the second floor. East College Street's historic buildings include the Apollo Theater, which showed Oberlin's first talking movie on May 11, 1928. From 1897 to 1929, an interurban streetcar line connected Oberlin's downtown to Cleveland. Oberlin's downtown historic district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.
 

Side B:

Oberlin's historic downtown buildings are typical of American commercial architecture from the 1860s to the 1930s. The southeast corner block is the first commercial building in Oberlin with an iron frame. It was designed by Cleveland architect Walter Blythe in 1882 and has housed a bank since 1904. At 39 South Main Street is the Union School (now the New Union Center for the Arts), also designed by Blythe and built in 1874 of local red brick. Beyond it at 69 South Main is the old Town Hall, built in 1919. Across the street is the Post Office, designed in neoclassical style by Toledo architect Alfred Hahn and dedicated in 1933. At numbers 24 and 18 South Main Street were two African American businesses, Marie DeFrance's Millinery Shop and the Pettiford family's popular bakery.


"Oberlin College and Community - Founded 1833 / Abolitionism in Oberlin"

Location: Oberlin Heritage Center Grounds
73 1/2 S. Professor Street

Dedicated: 2003

Sponsors: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, The Longaberger Company, Oberlin Heritage Center/O.H.I.O., and The Ohio Historical Society
 

 

Side A : "Oberlin College and Community-Founded in 1833"

Reverend John Jay Shipherd and Philo Penfield Stewart envisioned an educational institution and colony dedicated to the glory of God and named in honor of John Frederick Oberlin, a pastor in the Alsace-Lorraine region of France. Early colonists signed a covenant pledging themselves to the plainest living and highest thinking. Oberlin (known as the Oberlin Collegiate Institute until 1850 when it was renamed Oberlin College) was the first coeducational institution to grant bachelor's degrees to women and historically has been a leader in the education of African Americans. In fact, African American and white children studied together in the town's one-room schoolhouse, in defiance of Ohio's "Black laws" forbidding this practice. The schoolhouse, built 1836-1837, is part of the Oberlin Heritage Center.
 

Side B : "Abolitionism in Oberlin"

Oberlin became an abolitionist hotbed and a major stopover on the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. Abolitionists here held a range of opinions; some believed prayer could end slavery; others pursued political measures; and a few embraced violence. Oberlin also was active in reform movements, including women's rights, suffrage, temperance, and village improvement. Behind this marker is the home of Giles Shurtleff, an abolitionist, professor, and army general who led the first African American regiment from Ohio to serve in the Civil War. The home's second owner was James Monroe, Oberlin's best-known political abolitionist. Monroe was a professor, a U.S. Congressman, and the U.S. consul in Brazil during the Civil War. He lived here with his wife, Julia, a daughter of Oberlin's great religious leader, Charles Grandison Finney.


"The Burrell-King House"

Location: 315 E. College Street

Dedicated: 2002

Sponsors: Ohio Bicentennial Commission, The Longaberger Company, Oberlin Heritage Center/O.H.I.O., and The Ohio Historical Society

 

Side A : "The Burrell-King House"

Jabez Lyman Burrell (1806-1900), originally from Massachusetts, built this house in 1852. Burrell made his living as a cattleman and farmer, but devoted much of his time serving the cause of abolitionism, helping slaves, who had escaped the South, get to Sheffield and from there to Lorain and across Lake Erie to Canada. He was also devoted to equal education for all, providing funding to a freedmen's school in Selma, Alabama, and serving as a trustee of the Oberlin Collegiate Institute, well known for educating African Americans and women. From 1884 to 1934, this was the home of Henry Churchill King (1858-1934), who was the president of Oberlin College from 1902-1927. The Kings added the porches and rear wing and made their home a social center for the college and community. The house is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a City of Oberlin Historic Landmark.
 

Side B : Same


"Westwood Cemetery"

Location: Westwood Cemetery, Morgan Street
Southwest edge of Oberlin 

Dedicated: 2005

Sponsors: City of Oberlin, Oberlin Heritage Center/O.H.I.O., and The Ohio Historical Society

 

Side A : "Westwood Cemetery"

Shortly after Oberlin Colony was established in 1833, a two-acre burying ground was set aside south of Plum Creek in the area bounded by Main, Morgan, and Professor streets. By 1861, however, with the town and Oberlin College growing and the Civil War escalating, the need for a larger cemetery became clear. After an extensive search, 27.5 acres of land belonging to Henry Safford were acquired one mile west of the center of Oberlin. H.B. Allen was hired to create a design in the style of the Rural Cemetery Movement, and in July 1864 Westwood Cemetery was formally dedicated. Burials in Westwood had actually begun in August 1863, and over the next few years hundreds of remains were reinterred from Oberlin's "Old Cemetery" and from burying grounds in surrounding communities. In the mid-1860s the cemetery was enlarged to its present 47 acres, and in 2004 burials and memorials were estimated to number almost ten thousand. (continued on other side)
 

Side B :

(continued from other side) Even though H.B. Allen's design was not fully implemented, Westwood Cemetery reflects the basic goal of the Rural Cemetery Movement; that is, to provide a serene, parklike setting in which the living could enjoy a respite from daily pressures and become informed and inspired by memorials to the dead. The grave markers in Westwood bear testimony to Oberlin's early and continued commitment to major national moral and social issues, chief among them abolition of slavery, higher education for all regardless of race or gender, defense of democracy, missionary activity, temperance, suffrage for all, and civil rights. Westwood's first visitors came by horse and carriage, but today strollers and joggers, bird watchers and dog walkers, and genealogists and historians enjoy the peace and beauty of the cemetery. Westwood Cemetery is a City of Oberlin Historic Landmark and is part of the National Park Service's National Underground Railroad Network to Freedom program.


"Willard Van Orman Quine"

Location: King Building
10 North Professor Street

Dedicated: 2008

Sponsors: Philosophy Department, Oberlin College, Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, Youngstown State University, and The Ohio Historical Society

 

Side A : "Willard Van Orman Quine"

Willard Van Orman Quine was one of the greatest philosophers and logicians of the 20th century. Born in Akron on June 25, 1908, Quine studied philosophy and logic at Oberlin College (B.A. 1930). He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Harvard University in 1932 and spent his entire career on the Harvard faculty, from 1956 to 1978 as Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy. Quine's early research in logic led to his New Foundations system of set theory and to the Quine-McCluskey algorithm, used in computer science. His textbook Methods of Logic established the standards for undergraduate logic instruction. [continued on other side]
 

Side B :

[continued from other side] Willard Quine's work in logic broadened into philosophy. He articulated a deeply systematic scientific world view which rejects non-empirical knowledge and maintains that philosophy itself is continuous with natural science. His essay "Two Dogmas of Empriricism" (1951) and book Word and Object (1960) are classics of 20th century philosophy. Quine's achievements brought him many honors, including honorary degrees from seventeen universities in seven countries, the Rolf Schock Prize in 1993 and Kyoto Prize in 1996. Quine died on December 25, 2000.
 

 
"Oberlin and the Underground Railroad"

Location: Northeast corner of Main (State Route 58) and Lorain Streets (Hwy 511)

Sponsors: Friends of Freedom Society / Ohio Underground Railroad Association

 

Side A : "Oberlin and the Underground Railroad"

A key junction on the Underground Railroad in Oberlin, Ohio connected at least five routes that led from slavery to freedom.  No fugitive in Oberlin was ever returned to bondage.  Freedom seekers lived openly in the town, and were supported by its vibrant African American community and Oberlin College.  All students have been welcomed to Oberlin College regardless of color since 1835.  Faculty and students, both black and white, worked together to assure safe passage on the Underground Railroad, proclaiming their loyalty to "a higher law."  In 1858, town residents rescued John Price from slave catchers who had taken him to nearby Wellington in their efforts to return him to enslavement.  Due to the incident, Oberlin was heralded as "the town that started the Civil War.  [continued on other side]


Side B :

[continued from other side] In 1859, Oberlin's African American lawyer and activist, John Mercer Langston recruited two of the town's prominent young men of color, John A. Copeland and Lewis Sheridan Leary into John Brown's band of twenty-one raiders.  They attacked the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia.  Leary was killed during the unsuccessful attempt to bring about emancipation through a slave insurrection.  Before his hanging in Charleston, Virginia on December 19, 1859, Copeland wrote to his family in Oberlin: "how dear brother could I die for a more noble cause?"  Oberlinites memorialized these two martyrs and co-conspirator, Shields Green, with the only monument erected for any of the five African Americans who fought with John Brown.  The monument stands in Oberlin's Martin Luther King Park.


 

 

"Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) and First Church in Oberlin"

Location: 106 North Main Street

Sponsors: The First Church in Oberlin, United Church of Christ, Oberlin Heritage Center, and the Ohio History Connection

 

Side A : "Antoinette Brown Blackwell (1825-1921) and First Church in Oberlin"

First Church was built by the Oberlin Community in 1842-1844 for the great evangelist Charles Grandison Finney (1792-1875). He was its pastor, headed Oberlin College's Theology Department, and later became College president. In the mid-19th century this Congregational church had one of the largest congregations and auditoriums west of the Alleghenies. Eminent speakers such as Margaret Atwood, Angela Davis, Frederick Douglass, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Mark Twain, and Woodrow Wilson have addressed the community in its Meeting House. Antoinette Brown graduated from the College's Ladies' Department in 1847 and then completed three years of study under Finney, in the all male Theology Department. She worshipped and led women's prayer meetings at First Church. The College denied her the Theology certificate since women were not deemed suitable to be ordained. [continued on other side]


Side B :

[continued from other side] In 1853, Brown was called to serve the Congregational church in South Butler, New York, becoming the first woman since New Testament times ordained as a Christian minister. Soon conflicted by the rigid orthodoxy of her church, she resigned in 1854. Married to Samuel Blackwell in 1856, she relished her role as wife and mother to her five daughters while continuing her work as a popular orator and reformer for women's rights, suffrage, and antislavery. In 1878, she became a Unitarian and preached in Unitarian churches. She wrote numerous books that examined her deeply held belief in sexual equality within the new evolutionary science pioneered by Charles Darwin. Oberlin College awarded her an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree in 1908. The United Church of Christ established the Antoinette Brown Award for outstanding clergywomen in her honor in 1975.