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