Published December 23, 2003

   
Historical Plaque Dedicated

    

In 1837 a runaway slave named Augustus West arrived in the Greenfield area and along with local farmer Alexander Beatty, authored a story that has become a part of both the area's and the nation's history. To raise money to purchase his own land, West and Beatty devised a scheme to travel back south, sell West back into slavery, help him escape and then split the profits. On at least three documented occasions the two employed this money making scam and their story became the basis for a 1971 Hollywood film, The Skin Game, starring James Gardner and Louis Gossett, Jr. 

West used his profits to purchase land near the intersection of Bonner and Barrett Roads in Fayette County. Some distance from the road he built a "mansion" and the dirt road leading up to his front door became known as Abolition Lane. 

In the years that followed, at least twelve cabins were constructed on West's land and these became temporary residences for other runaway slaves who needed a place to live and work as they stole their way further north to freedom. 

Some of these folks chose to remain in the area thus adding the very familiar surnames of Ford, Rickman, Cannon and others to our community's list of historical families. According to a descendent of August West, Joyce Saulsberry-Dennis (jsd9angel@aol.com), the Cannon family married into the West family and today it is the Cannons who remain Greenfield's connection to this part of our history. 

Much of what we know today about the property of August West came as the result of the work of Washington Court House history teacher, Paul LaRue and many of his  students. For a number of years LaRue and his students have been conducting archeological surveys of the property and tracing the involvement of it and other properties in the area's Underground Railroad activities. They have also been successful in getting the federal government involved and an even more in-depth study is underway.

In 2003 the Ohio Bicentennial Committee was looking for twenty instances of Ohio's involvement in the Underground Railroad to honor with an official historical marker. The story and efforts of August West was chosen to be honored and with the coordination of the Greenfield Historical Society and the City of Greenfield, a site next to the Chapel in the Greenfield Cemetery was selected.

On Saturday, December 20, 2003 members of the community, the historical society and the Cannon family met to unveil and dedicate the marker honoring August West. Following the unveiling a ceremony was held at the Traveler's Rest where Judge James Cannon, Paul LaRue, Jim Beatty and Mayor Lanny Bryant thanked all those involved in making this acknowledgement and dedication a reality.

AUGUSTUS WEST MARKER DEDICATION
December 20, 2003

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L-R: Marvin Cannon, Monday Cannon, Anita Cannon, Judge James F. Cannon, Rev. Ruth Ames, Bernice Mitchell, Pam Anderson, Shane Anderson

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Members of the Cannon family participate in the unveiling.
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Visitors and members of the Historical Society

Paul LaRue and Students

Judge James Cannon

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Greenfield Mayor Lanny Bryant

Marker text telling the story of Augustus West.