John P. Parker House

300 Front St.
Ripley , OH 45167

937-392-4188   |
Saturdays 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
Adult General Admission: $4, see website for discounts

The Life of John P. Parker: From Slave to Conductor

John P. Parker was a well-known abolitionist and participant in aiding runaway slaves along the Underground Railroad. His restored home along the Ohio River in Ripley is open for tours.

John P. Parker was born into slavery in Norfolk, Virginia, the son of a slave and a white plantation owner. During Parker’s early life he was bought and sold to different owners, being forced to travel from Richmond, Virginia to Mobile, Alabama by foot and in chains. In Alabama he was enslaved as a physician’s house servant, and during his time there, Parker learned to read and write. The doctor allowed Parker to become an apprentice in an iron foundry; with earnings from that work, Parker was able to buy his freedom in 1845. As a free man, Parker traveled through Indiana and Southern Ohio before settling permanently in Ripley where he opened the Phoenix Foundry. As a successful businessman, Parker invented several agricultural tools and secured patents for his inventions, one of the few African Americans to do so during the Antebellum period.

His entrepreneurial successes aside, Parker’s most notable accomplishments were his devotion to the antislavery movement and helping more hundreds of fugitive slaves escape along the Underground Railroad. Parker’s home on the banks of the Ohio River made it an opportune Underground Railroad station for those attempting to make their way north to freedom. He risked capture and re-enslavement, making numerous trips across the river into Kentucky to find and guide fugitive slaves. John Parker and other prominent conductors of Ripley’s Underground Railroad have influenced the town’s lasting abolitionist heritage that continues to be told through preserved and interpreted sites.

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Notes for Travelers

The John P. Parker House is listed as a National Historic Landmark and was restored and now owned by the John P. Parker Historical Society. The historical society offers tours of the structure every weekend from May to December, and by appointment. Its location on Front Street is within walking distance of the John Rankin House and Ripley’s First Presbyterian Church, which both have history rooted in the abolitionist movement. Travelers can venture out and explore town’s 55-acre historic district and enjoy the view along the Ohio River Scenic Byway.

Additional Resources

Battle Cry for Freedom: The Civil War Era, James McPherson.

His Promised Land: The Autobiography of John P. Parker, former slave and conductor of the Underground Railroad, Stuart Seely Sprague, ed.