John Stone House
Backstory and Context
John Stone and David Putnam, Jr. corresponded with each other through ambiguous messages that referred to the number of runaway slaves they were helping. The notes used a simple number followed by a series of initials indicating where the slaves were picked up and where the next stop on the Underground Railroad was. One of the pair's greatest resources was Aunt Jenny. “At Belpre, Colonel Stone’s most useful spy was a resident of the town across the river, a slave woman known as Aunt Jenny. Aunt Jenny was a Parkersburg “bell ringer” at the landing there.”1 The established network between Stone, Putnam, and Aunt Jenny allowed for Underground Railroad operations to get runaway slaves out of Virginia and farther north towards Canada.
Stone paid attention to the activities of slavers, becoming familiar with their search patterns. Runaway slaves would hide in his large corn field, and Stone would signal them when the slavers were gone. The large field of crops was known as Stone’s Bottom, many runaway slaves hid there, or in one of the nearby barns. When helping slaves get to the next station on the Underground Railroad in Belpre, Stone and Putnam used a series of bird calls to signal each other that it was safe to pass on the runaway slaves. Stone worked with Putnam and Aunt Jenny throughout much of the antebellum period up to the Civil War. In a newspaper interview from the Marietta Weekly, March 9, 1886, John Stone discussed his involvement with the Underground Railroad. Not only did Stone discuss his participation in the Underground Railroad, he talked about other people in Washington County, Ohio who helped form a network allowing hundreds of runaway slaves escape to freedom.