The Lathrop House, originally at 5362 Main St., was moved to Harroun Park after it was acquired by the city of Sylvania in 2004.
Elkanah Briggs built the original portion of this home in 1835 on a 40-acre parcel that he purchased on Main Street. His name appears in all of the earliest area records, voting in elections and serving in several elected positions while living in Sylvania. Many of the original legal descriptions measured surrounding properties using Briggs’ 40 acres that he had purchased.
In 1847, several years after the death of Briggs, Lucian Lathrop purchased 20 acres of his original property, which included the Briggs home. Lathrop had lost his first wife in 1844, the mother of all six of his children.
In 1846 he married Larissa Titus from Rochester/Brighton, New York. Those communities were huge anti-slavery communities where famous abolitionist people lived and preached the anti-slavery cause, including Frederick Douglass.
While part of this home had been built in 1835, the significant portion is the two story colonial section added by the Lathrop family by 1850. It was in that part of the home that Lucian and Larissa Lathrop secretly built a hidden room in the basement that could only be accessed through a door disguised as an oven. Here they hid fugitive slaves temporarily as they traveled through Sylvania toward Canada, to their freedom. This process had nothing to do with a railroad, but it had become known as the Underground Railroad, because of the secret methods used to help slaves travel to freedom.
The Lathrops were very religious and believed in “a God who embraced everyone.” They were willing to risk fines and even the loss of their own freedom to help in this cause.
Lathrop was well-known throughout Lucas County and the state of Ohio, serving as a county commissioner and Ohio State Representative, as well as serving as a Universalist minister. During his 1851-1852 term in the state house, he gave many speeches that told the story of his deep religious beliefs against slavery and against capital punishment.
After the Civil War had ended Larissa Lathrop’s nephew, Col. John Klinck, was involved with the government in helping thousands of now freed slaves find homes throughout the United States. Many of these families were brought to Sylvania through the Freedman’s Act enacted after the Civil War had ended. These families too were assisted by the Lathrops.
This article is repeated with permission and is from ‘Gayleen Gindy, Looking Back’ in Sylvania AdVantage’s First February, 2022 issue.