1838-1839 Winter in Ripley, Ohio

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Ulysses Grant attended the Presbyterian academy in Ripley, Ohio superintended by Rev. William Taylor. John Rankin was the Presbyterian minister in Ripley, and Rankin’s son mentioned he attended classes with Ulysses in Ripley. Although there is no proof that we know of, we speculate that it was John Rankin’s school that Ulysses Grant attended in the winter of 1838-1839, as commonly thought.

John Rankin and his family were leaders in the anti-slavery movement, and their home was one of the first locations of the Underground Railroad for slaves fleeing Kentucky. Ulysses’s uncle Peter Grant, from across the Ohio river in Maysville Kentucky, had been a friend and supporter of John Rankin.

When not studying, he and his school mates would spend a good deal of time on the Ohio River in little boats. They also wrestled and skated.

While attending school in Ripley, Ulysses Grant boarded with R. Marion Johnson, a resident there, and tanner.

Right Click and “Save Target As…” for “Letters on Slavery” by John Rankin, reprinted in 1838, the year Ulysses attended Rankin’s academy.

Grant Family & Anti-Slavery

Connections with the secessionist and anti-slavery movements and the Grant family may have germinated within Ulysses’s father as early as 1808 when Jesse Grant lived with the family of Judge George Tod, Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.

Ulysses Grant’s father, Jesse Grant, lived and worked in the household of future radical abolitionist John Brown when John was a boy, and Jesse was an apprentice with John’s father, Owen Brown of Deerfield, Ohio.

Jesse then worked in the tannery of his older half-brother, Peter Grant, friend and supporter of anti-slavery preacher John Rankin, to whose Presbyterian Academy Jesse in 1838-1839 sent his son Ulysses.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was inspired by John Rankin, and pulled a real-life story from Rankin’s Underground Railroad for her famous book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin The Beechers lived nearby in Cincinnati, and Hannah and Jesse Grant’s free-black servant, Minty Obanion, later worked for Harriet’s father, Lyman Beecher. Minty also worked for the families of abolitionist Senator Thomas Morris, and James G. Birney, Cincinnati abolitionist and editor.

Upon Ulysses’s father leaving Peter Grant’s tannery in Maysville, Kentucky, Jesse Grant is quoted as saying he left there “because he hated slavery.” He moved back to Deerfield, then Ravenna, Ohio, both places where the Browns had business.

Since Jesse Grant was a teenager, he contributed articles and editorials to local newspapers. He was known as a highly-vocal supporter of anti-slavery.

Ulysses Grant’s mother, Hannah Simpson Grant, also had a connection to a political family connected with the anti-slavery movement. Circa 1820, before Ulysses was born, Hannah was a bridesmaid to Julia Morris Rogers, daughter of abolitionist Senator Thomas Morris.

The marriage of Julia Morris was to Dr John Rogers, who was later first President of Clermont County Anti-Slavery Society. It was this Dr. John Rogers who assisted in the birth of Ulysses Grant on April 27, 1822.


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