Paynes Crossing, Ohio

From Ohio History Central

During much of the nineteenth century, Paynes Crossing, Ohio was a predominantly African-American community on the border of Perry County and Hocking County.

Founded in the 1830s, most early residents were freed or runaway slaves from the South, especially from Virginia. The community was never incorporated as a town. Rather, it was a small hamlet, consisting of several farmsteads. Many of the African-American residents established successful lives, accumulating sizable amounts of personal wealth. The community was named for the Payne family, which did not arrive in the area until the 1860s. Several residents served in the United States Colored Troops during and after the American Civil War. By the twentieth century, no remnants of Paynes Crossing survived except for the community cemetery. Coal companies had purchased the surrounding land and destroyed the community as their workers excavated the coal. The cemetery is currently preserved and viewable in the Wayne National Forest.

The community of Paynes Crossing illustrates the prejudice that existed in Ohio during the years before the American Civil War. Ohio was a state that did not allow slavery. Nevertheless, that did not mean that whites were open to granting African Americans equal rights. Free blacks found that it was difficult to get fair treatment, and they often formed their own communities away from whites for protection.

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