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Underground Railroad Research Forum

Re: Piatt of Ohio
In Response To: Re: Piatt of Ohio ()

Thanks again for your help. I believe that the Elizabeth Piatt story took hold in 1951 after Siebert's final book on Ohio came out. It may have been a story that the Piatt family itself was promoting at that time, but it seems terribly fanciful to me. The Barett's may have been anti-slavery, but it would seem difficult for Mrs. Piatt, with a house full of children, grandchildren perhaps, and a staff, to keep such activities a secret. Two of the Piatt sons fought for the Union, but that doesn't mean they were UGRR sympathizers. Many Maryland slaveholders fought for the Union.

Siebert's original interviews clearly indicate a UGRR route through West Liberty and the region, and clearly those letters and interviews indicate a very significant African American network. Some of that info ends up in his 1898 book, but not all. The next question is, why do all vestiges of that information disappear by 1951. This is suspicious and puzzling. Perhaps Siebert had developed a friendship with the Piatts in the intervening 50+ years from 1898 to 1951. Who knows. All I know is that he got awfully sloppy with his work.

Your contention that no documentation exists for that site (that you know of) fits with all other resources I have checked. I don't think it can even be called a local oral story - it is most likely a family story that ends up surviving and overshadowing the oral stories of the mostly black and a few white participants in that region. As we know, this is often the sad result of the obscuring and obliteration of black history.

Aside from the high improbability of the Piatts or Elizabeth Piatt being an agent, the issue of the statue continues. There is no possible way that a lawn jockey figure sat in front of their house and was used as a signal. Those statues did not exist until after the Civil War.

I have contacted the Blockson Collection and asked for the documentation that Mr. Blockson claims he has supporting this story. Two years ago I asked him for copies of the documentation and he never sent anything to me. Several days ago I contacted the curator and librarian of the collection to ask their help in getting copies of this documentation, and have not received a response from them. Mr. Blockson is often quoted in articles about the Lawn Jockey as an UGRR signal, so that documentation should be readily available to anyone asking for it. If it turns out that Siebert is Mr. Blcokson's source, then there is a real concern that the documentation then is faulty and inaccurate.

It is a shame that there is a sign outside of the Piatt residence crediting the family with UGRR activity. Didn't the folks who put the sign up read any of Siebert's original work? This is deeply troubling.

Best regards,

18 Dec 2002 :: 14 Nov 2008
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