Side A: Some of the main Ohio Underground Railroad lines that fugitive slaves used on their way from the Ohio River toward Canada and freedom followed the Muskingum River. These lines, however, were not easy. Under the 1793 and 1850 fugitive slave laws, runaway slaves could be captured and returned to their owners. Therefore fugitives traveling this route were led by “railroad conductors” in a zig-zag pattern to elude the bounty hunters. And because it was so dangerous and difficult many of the early runaways were young men. Conductors hid slaves in caves, barns, and secret places at or near the Underground Railroad. And many people helped their friends and neighbors involved in these activities. Various routes connected the Muskingum River from Belpre on what is today State Route 339 to Waterford and Little Hocking via State Route 555 to Putnam in Muskingum County.
Side B: The main route of the Underground Railroad through Morgan County followed the old Lancaster Road through Chesterhill, Pennsville, Rosseau, Morganville, and Deavertown, a swathe of land about twenty-five miles long and sixteen wide along the Muskingum River. One of the most interesting Underground Railroad conductors on the route was a man named Rial Cheadle. He was born in Stockport, was involved in stations in several places in Morgan County, and worked with an Abolitionist society in Big Bottom. He was a carpenter, button maker, and later a teacher. Acting as a witless man and singing silly songs, Cheadle fooled slave catchers who thought him incapable of helping fugitives. Other people from Morgan County included members of the Quaker community at Chesterhill, William Cope at Pennsville, and the Thomas Gray family and Affallia, and Reuben Deaver at Deavertown. All were instrumental in doing everything possible to help former slaves to freedom.