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Dr. Jesse Harvey ~ UGRR Conductor (November 26th, 1801 ~ May12th, 1848) ~ Difficulties Dealing with Slavery

The “Peaceable Kingdom” of Friends is not so “peaceable” due to controversies over  anti-slavery issues.

There is no known photograph or painting of Dr. Jesse Harvey. He probably was never photographs since he died in 1848. If you know of a painting of Dr. Harvey, please contact Karen Campbell at letthejourneysbegin@yahoo.com. Thank you.

Dr. Jesse Harvey was born November 26th, 1801 in Orange County, North Carolina. He was six when his parents, Caleb and Sarah Towel Harvey settled near Todd’s Fork in Clinton County, Ohio. On September 15, 1824 he married Elizabeth Burgess at the Fairfield Monthly Meeting meetinghouse near Leesburg, Ohio. Being naturally inquisitive and intelligent he decided to study medicine but encountered some resistance in the Quaker community since it was commonly believed at the time that higher education would lead one to be irreligious. However, at the age of 22 he became a student of Dr. Uriah Farquer of Wilmington, Ohio. He entered the Medical College of Ohio class of 1826-7, the first year that the school occupied its own building located at 6th Street between Vine and Race Streets in Cincinnati.  The Medical College of Ohio, the oldest medical school west of the Alleghenies, was incorporated in 1819 and organized in 1820.  He attained his license to practice medicine after completing the required five months course of education (See, “Report of the Medical College of Ohio,” Journal of the Senate of the State of Ohio, Vol. 25, Dec. 4, 1826 [Columbus: George Nashee, State Printer, 1827], p. 195).

Dr. Jesse Harvey settled and set out his shingle in the newly platted village of Harveysburgin 1830. He also erected a carding mill at Harveysburg. He was one of the founding members of the Lebanon Medical Society in 1837. Dr. Harvey was an extremely well read man and was knowledgeable about Law and many scientific subjects. His interest in education lead him to establish the Harveysburg High School (Academy) and Boarding House in 1837-8. Dr. Harvey was also the first person in Warren County, Ohio to take up the mantle of abolition and promote it. His children testified that Jesse and Elizabeth Harvey were conductors on the Underground Railroad in Harveysburg.

“My father (Dr. Jesse Harvey) was the first abolitionist in Clinton and Warren Counties, Ohio, who publicly advocated the abolition of slavery, and became one of the most prominent agents on the URGG in these two counties . . .” (Letter from William Foster Harvey, M.D. of Brightwood, Ind., June 6, 1898 to W. H. Siebert concerning his father Jesse Harvey (Siebert MIC 192, Roll #9, Rox 54, Vol. #, Item 61).

“My father’s house (Dr. Jesse Harvey) in Ohio was a special Depot for all who came and hundreds passed through our town, Harveysburgh, on the route from Cincinnati from Levi Coffin, and others, to and by way of our place” (Letter from William Foster Harvey of Brightwood, Indiana, 3-24, 1898 (Siebert MIC 192, Roll #11, Box 59, Vol. #11, Item 26).

Dr. Jesse‘s two sons, both physicians, Thomas B. Harvey and William Foster Harvey, would continue in UGRR work after they and their families had moved to Indiana in the 1850s (Letter from William F. Harvey of Brightwood, Indiana, 3-24, 1898 (Siebert MIC 192, Roll #11, Box 59, Vol. #11, Item 26).

Dr. Jesse Harvey erected the first academy building at the east end of the village of  Harveysburg and went to considerable expense to furnish it with competent teachers and equipment from the east. He initially paid for the school, which lasted through harsh economic times for eighth or nine years. He himself taught classes twice a week on history, languages and the natural sciences. Another noted teacher associated with the first Harveysburg Academy was Dr. David S. Burson, a graduate of Haverford College. After the Harveys moved out west to work at the Quaker Shawnee Mission in July of 1847, Wilson Hobbs, Israel Taylor, Oliver Nixon and William P. Nixon taught in the Academy, which had been relocated into a new building. All the teachers were Orthodox Friends (Quakers).

Dr. Jesse Harvey‘s academy (in effect, a high school) in Harveysburg had been a success during most of its existence.

“However, aside from financial failure the school succeeded, and Dr. Harvey had his dream realized to a great extent. He found help in his studies, indulged his inclinations to help others, and many remain today to testify to the good done during the short time the school existed. In the neighborhoods from which came students, and scattered throughout the States, are good, substantial citizens who remember with pleasure and gratitude the lessons and associations of the school” (1882 History of Clinton County, Ohio [Chicago: W. H. Beers & Co.], p. 660).

Because of his great interest in the natural sciences, Dr. Jesse Harvey also had a botanical garden, a good museum, and specimens of wild animals at his home. He had hoped to improve the mineral and medicinal springs located near Harveysburg, a recreational area known as the Fifty Springs along Caesar’s Creek. He was also a conductor on the Underground Railroad. Following in his father’s footsteps, Dr. Jesse was interested in educating Native Americans as well as African Americans and often visited the Quaker Mission and School for the Shawnee Indians in Wapakoneta, Ohio. In 1847 Dr. Jesse was appointed superintendent of the Friends School and Farm for the Shawnee Indians in the Kansas Territory. The entire family moved to Kansas and they were involved in this ministry. He died there on May 12, 1848 and was buried in the mission graveyard; see An Obituary of  Dr. Jesse Harvey.

Jesse’s and Elizabeth’s efforts with the Black School and the Academy had put them into considerable debt and so after a couple of years the doctor established The Harveysburg High School Company which eventually would consist of sixteen local citizens including himself. It was incorporated on the first Monday of May 1839 with the goal of providing “instruction in the usual branches of a sound practical and liberal education and in the languages arts and sciences.”  The first incorporators were: Jesse Harvey, Joseph H. Burgess, Thomas Evans, David S. Burson, Turner Welch, John Harvey, Jesse Burgess, and William Haughton (Acts of a General Nature Passed By the Thirty-Seventh General Assembly Of Ohio At Its First Session Held In The City Of Columbus And Commencing December 3 1838 In The Thirty Seventh Year Of Said State, Vol. XXXVII [Columbus: Samuel Medart, Printer To The State, 1839], pp.169-170).

The school had an excellent reputation and drew students from all over southwest Ohio. Continuing financial difficulties and strife over abolition would erode the Harveysburg Academy that Dr. Harvey founded.

The incorporation of the Academy, which initially saved it financially, also, unfortunately, opened up a hornet’s nest of conflicting feeling over the integration of the Academy. Wanting to accept African-American children, Dr. Jesse Harvey at his own expense had established a separate department for black students in the high school. A cadre of Harveysburgers severely criticized him for daring to allow African-Americans in the Academy whether segregated into a separate department or not.  Later, a  group of local radical abolitionists, many of whom were members of the Congregational/ Progressive Friends, who had split from Indiana Orthodox Yearly Meeting (Hicksite), and also were Underground Railroad conductors, criticized Dr. Harvey for segregating the black pupils from the white ones. Then when he united the blacks and the whites into classes together, many white folk took their children out of the school. The conflict was causing the enrollment in the school to go down drastically. Dr. Harvey decided to return to the previous policy of having a separate department for the African-American students. It was his compromise and concession to many of the local people who objected to the social mixing of the races. As we shall see, some of these people were unfortunately Orthodox Quakers.

Radical Friends like Valentine Nicholson and other local abolitionists whose anti-slavery ideals were Garrisonian in nature, severely criticized Dr. Harvey for his segregation ~ The Black School founded in 1831 by his wife, Elizabeth, with his help was segregated and his policy of separating the blacks and whites in the Harveysburg Academy reinforced their negative opinion. Consequently, Dr. Harvey was being denounced by both the anti-abolition and/or anti-black people and the radical abolitionists, many his co-UGRR conductors.

The conflict over African-American students in the Academy came to a head after the Harveys had left for Kansas and a much larger group of stockholders (fifty-six in all) built a new building for the Academy on the west end of Harveysburg. A highly controversial conflict centered upon the enrollment of an 18 year old girl by the name of Margaret Campbell during the principal-ship of Wilson Hobbs. This conflict was so severe that the enrollment of the school radically collapsed.

The black community that lived in and around Harveysburg were upset by the controversy. A black man, who once was a slave, wrote to the “Anti-Slavery Bugle” newspaper (February 25, 1848) the following comments on the situation:

“The abolitionist here, have often expressed strong desire to have the Black Laws of Ohio repealed. They have branded Dr. Harvey as anti-abolition, anti-Christian, etc. for putting us in a separate department of the school of which he was proprietor. I do not think they did Mr. Harvey injustice by such charge. Well, Harvey‘s school has come to naught! Another Seminary has been reared by those persons who spoke so hard against Mr. H. We thought when this building was being erected, an avenue was open through which we could ascend to the great field of intelligence. But, alas! What do we hear? No person that has one drop of African blood in him or her shall be permitted to enter this institution!

‘Why not?’ ~ was the question. ‘If we admit the person that has one drop, we shall have to admit the one with two; if we admit the one with 2 drops, we shall have to admit the right down Negro!’ ‘What does this prove?’ It proves what Liberty Party and Whig abolition is!”

Wilson Hobbs, an Orthodox Quaker and new principal of the Harveysburg Academy, refused to enroll a young woman, Margaret Campbell, into the school because it was suggested that she had some African-American blood.

“A young lady, Miss Margaret Campbell by name, the sister-in-law of W. L. Keyes resident in the town, of the most respectable character, made her appearance at the school and entered upon the regular discharge of her duties as a pupil. She is about 18 years of age, well education, of excellent abilities and of refined and tender sensibilities. By the laws of Ohio she is a free white person, and entitled to all the privileges of such, and there is not the slightest indication in her appearance to distinguish her from other young ladies of her age unless it be a fairer complexion” (Bugle, February 25, 1848).

The rumor was that several generations back in her genealogy that she was, on her maternal side, the daughter of a wealthy slave owner and one of his slaves. The correspondent claims that Wilson Hobbs  rather crassly expelled Margaret out of the school publicly.

Another letter in the Bugle dated March 4, 1848 defended Wilson Hobbs actions by explaining that he had not been so cruel and that Margaret had been privately told of the boards decision and why she could not enter. Also, the offer of home tutoring, instruction, and accompanying books was given her. The correspondent says that fifty out of fifty-six stockholders objected to her entry due to the impurity of her blood. In a letter dated March 10, 1848 in the “Bugle“, which had been written on February 15, 1848, it was stated that two members of the Methodist Church and one member of the United Brethren Church in Harveysburg were three of the stockholders who had protested. This reality illustrates that the abolition controversies crisscrossed through all churches and social groups. Consequently, it was not just the Quakers who were at odds with each other over how to respond to slavery and, specifically in this case, how to deal with education for blacks.

Valentine Nicholson, who was a local Harveysburger, a radical abolitionist and UGRR conductor, and member of the radical Congregational/Progressive Friends, wrote a very lengthy letter to the Bugle on June 2, 1848, explaining efforts made in support of Margaret Campbell:

“The principal teacher at the Waynesville Academy (a village four miles west of Harveysburg), who, by the way, is one of the first scholars our State affords (This was Dr. David Burson, who had moved to Waynesville to teach.), when he came to hear of the ridiculous and cruel treatment which this young lady had received at Harveysburg, expressed a desire to have her attend that institution, (and there being a Board of Trustees belonging to that school, a majority of them were spoken to and gave their full and free consent).”

Unfortunately, according to Nicholson, an Orthodox Friend, who lived just a few miles outside of Waynesville, came to the village and stirred up resistance to Margaret‘s enrollment in the Waynesville Academy. Valentine Nicholson then in his letter launches into a severe critique of Orthodox Quakerism and its hypocrisy concerning abolition ~ a willingness to promote an anti-slavery agenda but their “faith” is not lived “by works“. He points out that there are now only seven students starting the next term in the Academy due to the hypocrisy and immoral behavior of the stockholders.


The Second Harveysburg Academy
Founded to be an Integrated Educational Institution

This horrible situation must have been extremely disappointing to Valentine Nicholson and another Friend Isaiah Fallis who were in the fore front of organizing and building the new Harveysburg Academy. They both intended this second Harveysburg Academy to be fully integrated. In one of his letters to the editors of the “Bugle“, Nicholson admitted that he had misjudged Wilson Hobbs. Shortly before the controversy over Margaret Campbell began, the editors of the “Bugle” had gone on a tour of southwest Ohio and had visited Harveysburg and the school. One of the editors had told Nicholson that Wilson Hobbs would be a “fair weather friend to abolition” (Bugle, March 10, 1848).

According to Valentine Nicholson‘s obituary, this second Academy did for a short period of time fulfill its intended mission. However, the obituary does not give any details about the Margaret Campbell controversy:

“The need of a free town hall was at one time apparent to a few philanthropic people at Harveysburg, Ohio. The chief contributors to this movement were Isaiah Fallis and Valentine Nicholson. They built an academy, with a hall above, which they dedicated to free speech. In school and recitation rooms below there was to be no distinction of color. The tuition was to be the compensation for the teacher. Members of the Society of Friends were instructors. The late Dr. Wilson Hobbs was the first, then Dr. O. W. Nixon and his brother William Penn Nixon, also the late Israel Taylor of Indianapolis. The school was a success; the few colored pupils who availed themselves of its privileges became leading citizens in Oberlin and Washington” (Miami-Gazette newspaper of Waynesville, March 30th, 1904).

The second Harveysburg Academy would also double as a town hall where all people could debate the most controversial political issue of the day ~ abolition.  Because abolition was such a volatile subject, most churches and public buildings were closed to such gatherings.  Even Quakers, who were in general anti-slavery in sentiment, refused to allow their meetinghouses to be rented for such discussions or debates.   Consequently, abolitionists often built their own halls for discussion.

When Lane Seminary in Cincinnati hosted a series of heated debates about abolition and slavery in 1834, the consequences were so divisive that many of its students withdrew from Lane and moved to Oberlin College (a.k.a. the “Lane Rebellion”) and those who remained at Lane became involved in the UGRR but moved their radical meetings to “The Hall of Discussion,” which had been built in 1832 in Cumminsville north of Cincinnati  by James C. Ludlow, the son of Israel Ludlow and an abolitionist. It had been built to be a safe place for ministers, students, and any interested in politics to speak freely.  It was here the Lane students established a school for the blacks ofCincinnati and taught reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and where they also maintained a Sunday School.

A mere five miles away from Harveysburg over the county line in the small hamlet of Oakland, radical Garrisonian abolitionist Dr. Abram Brooke  built a large barn structure to use as a Hall of Discussion in 1842.  He named it “Liberty Hall” to provide a space for the abolitionists who came to Oakland to attend the 1842 annual meeting of the Ohio Anti-Slavery Society.   Now, in Harveysburg in 1849, the radical abolitionists wanted to re-organize the Academy as a integrated institution and also prolife a public hall for discussion.

The statement above concerning a few colored pupils who availed themselves of the privileges of the new Academy who became leading citizens in Oberlin and Washington refers to the children of Stephen Wall, a white plantation owner in North Carolina:  Orindatus  “Datis” S. B. Wall, Caroline Wall, Sarah Wall, Benjamin Franklin Wall,  John Wall, and Albert Wall.  The Wall children, depending on their age, received education in both the Black School (Elementary) and Dr. Harvey’s Harveysburg Academy.  They would directly experience the intensifying hostility over the segregation or integration of Dr. Harvey’s high school.  They would have attended the second Harveysburg Academy for a year or two before moving to Oberlin.  On January 21, 1880, Orindatus was called to testify before a Congressional Committee concerning the Exodus of African-Americans from North Carolina to Indiana in 1879. While being interrogated, he was asked whether he knew anyone in Indiana.  He said:
“ . . . I know persons there with whom I was raised; we were boys in the academy together . . .   Dr. Harvey’s sons.”  This comment seems to indicate that Orindatus kept in contact with the Harvey family. None-the-less, all the controversy was probably an inducement to the Wall children to move on to Oberlin, Ohio to gain an even greater education and opportunities hopefully in a more liberal environment.

In April of 1849 a new incorporation was made for the Harveysburg School Company:

“MINUTES OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE HARVEYSBURG SCHOOL COMPANY: Pursuant to previous notice, the stockholders of the Harveysburg Seminary met at said building on the 14th day of April 1849 at 2 P.M. for the purpose of organizing and availing themselves to the advantages of a law passed by the Legislature of the State of Ohio, March 10, 1845, authorizing Literary and other Societies to acquire corporate powers without applying to and obtaining letters of incorporation from the Legislature of the State. On motion Wm. Crow (a teacher from Illinois who was living directly east of Harveysburg) was called to the chair and John W. Scroggs (a physician in Harveysburg) appointed Clerk. The meeting then proceeded to and adopted a constitution and bylaws for the government of the company. On motion it was unanimously resolved that this society shall be called the Harveysburg School Company. The meeting then proceeded in conformity to the requisitions of the constitution to elect the permanent officers of the company which resulted in the election of R. B. Edwards for President (a judge), J. G. Stevenson (a coachmaker), Clerk, A. L. Antram (a merchant in Harveysburg), Hiram Yeo (a merchant in Harveysburg), and J. W. Scroggs, Trustees. On motion adjourned. J. W. Scroggs, Clerk” (This statement of incorporation can be found in the Archives of Probate Court at the Warren County, Ohio Courthouse in Lebanon, Ohio).

It appears that in the end the radical abolitions had won the struggle over the school. The above mentioned J. G. Stevenson also became the first president of the radical Anti-Slavery Society for Clinton and Warren Counties. By 1851, the second Harveysburg Academy building was being used freely by abolitionists. On December 19, 1851 it was reported in the Miami-Visitor newspaper of Waynesville that on November 30th a meeting was convened in the Academy in Harveysburg. The object was to organize an Anti-Slavery Society for Clinton and Warren Counties. J. G. Stevenson was the Chairman of this meeting and Valentine Nicholson was chosen secretary. They advocated the immediate and unconditional emancipation of slaves. The organization included both women and men and African-Americans and white people. The preamble of constitution was signed by: Dr. A. Brooke, Aaron Harvey, V. Nicholson, F. G. Birdsell, Abram Allen, Wm. F. Hilles, J. G. Stevenson, Asa Pratt (African-American), O. D. Wall (African-American), Wm. McCune, J. W. Scroggs, Sarah Allen, J. F. Crew, Lydia W. Vandeburg, Hannah Birdsell, Jane F. Nicholson, Deborah Lafettra, E. F. Varner, Mary B. Birdsell, Caroline Wall (African-American), Martha M. Dakin, Elijah Howe, W. H. Birdsell, A. Winslow (African-American), Sarah Wall (African-American), Jona. A. Ballard, T. D. Ryse, N. Doan, Jesse A. Ballard.

We know that Nathan Doan was the principal teacher at the new Harveysburg Academy from the fall of 1851 to March 1852. In the fall of 1852, Comly Jessop, became the teacher at the fading second Harveysburg Academy. (Comly went on to enter medical school and became a physician.)

The Miami-Visitor of Waynesville published advertisements for the second Harveysburg Academy: October 17, 1851, October 10th, 1851, September 12th, 1851, September 19th, 1851, April 9th, 1852, April 12th, 1852, March 5th, 1852 and September 29th 1852. After 1853, there are no more advertisements in the Miami-Visitor for the Harveysburg Academy. This is when, presumably, the private high school (academy) became a district public school.

The first Harveysburg Academy was located on East Main Street in a lot in front of the Black School, which Dr. Jesse Harvey helped his wife, Elizabeth Burgess Harvey, to establish in 1831. Although this wood framed building was used as The Zion Baptist African-American Church for many decades, it is no longer extant.

The second Harveysburg Academy was located on West Main Street where the 1886 district school building now stands empty. The second Harveysburg Academy building itself is no longer extant.


The History of Warren County, Ohio (Chicago: W. H. Beers & Co., 1882), pp. 307, 653-660.

See, “Dr. Jesse Harvey”, 1882 History of Warren County, Ohio, Part IV Township Histories, Massie Township by Hon. Thomas M. Wales: http://www.rootsweb.com/~ohwarren/Beers/IV/mst/0654.htm

Memories of Long Ago” by Jane F. (Wales) Nicholson (Originally published in the Western Star, Lebanon, Ohio in the December issues of 1885 and published again in the Miami Gazette, Waynesville, Ohio ca. 1905), p. 19.

History of Harveysburg and Massie Township by Lucy McCarren (Published by the Harveysburg Historical Society), pp. 3-9.

The Miami-Visitor, July 27th, 1859, “Fifty Springs Pic-Nic“.


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