From Ohio History Central
Nicholas Fernando De Vore was a businessman and an abolitionist in Brown County, Ohio.
De Vore's birth date and birthplace remain unknown, but his parents were born in New Jersey. At twenty years of age, De Vore became a peddler, selling clocks in both the South and in the Midwest. He soon accumulated enough money to purchase several boats. He used the vessels to transport crops for farmers who lived along the Mississippi River and its tributaries in the Deep South.
On October 18, 1832, De Vore married Hestor West, who resided near Decatur, Illinois. The couple moved to Russelville, Ohio, where Nicholas De Vore continued to earn his living shipping goods by boat. He transported products between Portsmouth, Ohio and Cincinnati, Ohio at this time. De Vore also opened a tavern and eventually became a farmer. In 1846, the De Vore family purchased a farm near Ripley, Ohio. De Vore also operated a ferry across the Ohio River at Ripley. In addition to these exploits, De Vore also invested in two turnpikes that passed through and operated two banks in Ripley. De Vore also established the town of Hestoria, Ohio, which he named in his wife's honor.
Besides his numerous economic pursuits, De Vore was also active on the Underground Railroad. He commonly transported fugitive slaves across the Ohio River on his various ferryboats. De Vore typically sent his charges to John Rankin, who was, perhaps, Ripley's most famous abolitionist. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, abolitionists who assisted fugitive slaves in attaining freedom faced heavy fines and jail time for their actions. To avoid these penalties, De Vore began to transport fewer runaways across the Ohio River. He, however, commonly left food on his front porch for hungry fugitives, allowing him to claim that the runaways stole the food and that he was not helping them gain their freedom.
De Vore died on April 19, 1884.
De Vore represents the growing tensions over slavery between Northerners and Southerners during the early nineteenth century. While many Northern states had provisions outlawing slavery, runaway slaves did not necessarily gain their freedom upon arriving in a free state. Federal law permitted slaveowners to reclaim their runaway slaves. Some slaves managed to escape their owners on their own, while others sometimes received assistance from sympathetic Northerners, such as De Vore.
- "Alma DeVore Letter to Wilbur Siebert, Aug. 27, 1948." The Wilbur H. Siebert Underground Railroad Collection. The Ohio Historical Society. Columbus, OH. (http://cdm267401.cdmhost.com/cdm4/document.php?CISOROOT=/siebert&CISOPTR=5942&REC=11)