Monday, October 12, 2009

He Gave Up 17 Years To Free Slaves

Calvin Fairbank who spent over seventeen years in prison for abolitionist activities died on October 12th 1898.

Calvin Fairbank was born November 3rd 1816 in Pike, Wyoming, New York. During a Methodist meeting as a child he heard stories told by escaped slaves, of their lives and he became a strong abolitionist. In 1837 he began a career of freeing slaves, ferrying a slave across the Ohio river on a lumber raft. Fairbank became a Methodist minister in 1842. Planning to increase his education he enrolled in Oberlin College in 1844. Oberlin was a hot bed of anti-slavery belief.

In response to an appeal by escaped slave, Gilson Berry for someone to bring his wife and children to freedom, Fairbank set off for Lexington Kentucky. He linked up with Delia Webster, a teacher from Vermont who was going to assist with the escape. When Berry’s family failed to arrive at the meeting point, Fairbank and Webster helped the Lewis Hayden family to get safely to freedom across the Ohio River.

Fairbank returned to Kentucky were he arrested for helping the runaway slaves. He was tried in 1845 and sent to jail for fifteen years. He was given a pardon in 1849 only after the grateful Hayden raised money to pay off his former master. Then 1851 while helping a slave named Tamar to freedom in Indiana, the sheriff of Clark County Indiana and the Governor, helped marshals from Kentucky arrest Fairbank and transport him back to Kentucky for trail. He was sentenced to fifteen years of hard labor in the Kentucky penitentiary. It wasn’t until three years into the Civil War that the then acting Governor Richard T Jacob had Fairbank released.

After being freed from prison he married Mandana Tileston from Williamsburg Massachusetts. They had been engaged in 1851, and she had moved to Oxford Ohio to be close to Fairbank while he was in prison. She worked hard for Fairbank’s pardon with the Governor of Kentucky. Their only child a son was born in 1868.

The years spent in prison wrecked Fairbank’s health. He was not able to support his family even with jobs from missionary societies. In 1890 he wrote a book about his life called, “Rev. Calvin Fairbank During Slavery Times: How He "Fought the Good Fight" to Prepare "the Way”. The book didn’t make much money and he died in poverty October 12th 1898 in Angelica New York. He is buried in the Until the Day Dawn Cemetery there. Fairbank is credited with helping forty-seven slaves find their way to freedom.

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