Chesterton Tribune

'Father of all us abolitionists' lies in neglected grave in Jackson Township

Back to Front Page
 

 

 
 

 

 

A jumble of broken gravestones and a commemorative boulder missing its plaque are all that mark the grave of early 19th Century abolitionist Charles Osborn.   (Tribune photo by Margaret Willis)

 

By DAVID CANRIGHT

150 years ago today secessionists fired on the United States flag at Ft. Sumter and launched what loyal Americans would call “The War of the Rebellion,” paving the way for the final abolition of slavery in the U.S.

In a neglected country cemetery in Jackson Township there is a vandalized memorial to a man who spent his life fighting to end slavery and helped inspire the generation of abolitionists we now read about in our history books.

The cemetery is on the north side of U.S. 6 at about 600W just east, and across from, the entrance to Jackson Farms subdivision. The casual visitor’s first impression is of a quiet country graveyard, which someone still visits with flowers from time to time.

On second look it becomes obvious that vandals have been busy. Headstones are tipped over, some broken.

At the back the visitor will find a reddish colored boulder, with a rectangular space for a missing plaque.

This is the grave of Charles Osborn, (1775 - 1850) Quaker abolitionist.

Osborn was born in North Carolina but moved west to Tennessee in 1794 where he began a ministry in the Friends (Quaker) church.

In 1814 he established the Tennessee Manumission Society to work for the emancipation of southern slaves.

In 1816 he moved to Mount Pleasant, Ohio, where, in 1817, he published The Philanthropist, the first anti-slavery newspaper in the United States.

He was credited by former Indiana Republican Congressman George W. Julian and others with not only launching the first abolitionist newspaper, but being the first American to call for unconditional, immediate, emancipation of slaves.

Osborn’s doctrines appealed directly to the conscience of the slave owner. He believed that slavery was inherently sinful and that the only proper course was immediate emancipation.

Among noted abolitionists of the younger generation inspired by Osborn were Benjamin Lundy, who wrote for The Philanthropist and later founded and worked at other anti-slavery publications. In 1830 Lundy worked with abolitionist editor William Lloyd Garrison on the Genius of Universal Emancipation.

In 1847 Garrison is reported to have said that Osborn was “the father of all us Abolitionists.”

Everywhere Osborn went he found himself at odds with other Quakers over slavery. He was ousted from a Wayne County Friends meeting (church) for his anti-slavery views which led to an Anti-Slavery split in the Quakers’ 1842 Indiana Yearly Meeting.

In 1843 Osborn was selected Indiana’s delegate to the World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, England.

In 1844 he moved again, this time to Porter County, where he was a member of Birch Lake Monthly Meeting. He was disowned by that meeting in 1844 for joining the Anti-Slavery Friends.

His response was to become a leading member in the Clear Lake Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends.

He also lived for a time in Cass County, Michigan, where he is believed to been involved in the Underground Railroad helping escaped slaves get north to Canada.

He died in 1850 just as his views were gaining wider acceptance throughout the abolitionist movement in the free north.

His gravestone is in the Porter County History Museum. As of April 12, 2011 his grave is unmarked.

The memorial plaque placed more than 40 years ago through the efforts of Norris Coambs of the Duneland Historical Society is also gone.

According to notes made by this reporter in the 1970s it once read in part: “The full enjoyment of Liberty is the right of all without any conditions.”

 

 

Posted 4/12/2011