Oberlin, Ohio

From Ohio History Central

John Shipherd, a Presbyterian minister, and Philo Stewart founded Oberlin, Ohio, in 1833. The town was named after Reverend John Frederic Oberlin, a famous minister in Alsace who had died in 1826. Oberlin College was established at the same time as the community. The town soon earned a reputation for its commitment to reform, in part because of its association with the college. In its early years, most of the residents were Presbyterians or Congregationalists. As the town grew in size, other denominations built churches as well.

When many students from Lane Theological Seminary arrived at the college in 1835, the community became known for its abolitionist sentiment. Oberlin soon became firmly associated with the American Antislavery Society. Some residents participated in helping slaves escape along the Underground Railroad. A number of the community's residents participated in the Oberlin-Wellington Rescue Case in 1858. A federal marshal had captured a fugitive slave and was attempting to return him to the South. Oberlin and Wellington residents helped the slave to escape once again. Thirty-seven people were indicted for violating the Fugitive Slave Law of 1850, but only two were convicted and served any time in jail.

Oberlin residents were involved in a number of other reform movements as well. Throughout the nineteenth century, Oberlin was associated with temperance campaigns and then the later Prohibition Movement. In 1893, prohibition advocates in Oberlin helped establish the Ohio Anti-Saloon League. This organization soon became a leader in the national reform effort. In addition, a number of the women graduates of Oberlin College participated in the Women's Rights Movement in the mid-to-late 1800s.

Throughout its history, Oberlin has grown at a slow pace. The community's population in 1880 was 3,242, with approximately twelve hundred college students. The students and the college have remained an important part of the city throughout the twentieth century. Oberlin has a great amount of pride in its association with Oberlin College and benefits from the many cultural attractions that the school offers. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has located its Air Route Traffic Control Center in Oberlin. This facility controls air traffic between New York and Chicago. Oberlin's population today is approximately 8,300 people.

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