Historical society scrambles as piece of history hits the auction block

Saving an Underground Railroad site in Rising Sun

OHIO COUNTY, Ind. (FOX19) - A piece of history is on the auction block, and an organization is racing to save it.

The Barkshire home sits less than a quarter-mile from the Ohio River, tucked away at the corner of North Poplar and Fourth Streets in Rising Sun, Indiana.

Director of the Ohio County Historical Society Cliff Thies says, like many Cincinnati-area historic sites, the Barkshire home played a vital role in the Underground Railroad.

“Being a border town on the river next to a state that condoned slavery,” Thies explained, “it was very dangerous to start delving into that.”

Samuel Barkshire reportedly bought his freedom from Nancy Hawkins of Boone County and came to Rising Sun to work as a barrel maker. Behind the scenes, though, he, his wife and their six children all participated in hiding and helping runaway slaves who found their way north through Kentucky.

One-and-a-half centuries later, the property sits as a state landmark. But that does not protect it, says Thies.

He says the historical society was blindsided when they discovered the landmark’s owner had placed it on the auction block.

Now the society is considering placing a bid on the property, but Thies acknowledges it doesn’t have a lot of resources.

He says his biggest fear is that any new owner may be tempted to sell to a developer who is building new condos down the street.

“It’s in the hands of a finance company in Utah, and it’s up to how the gavel falls on the auction block, and it ends tomorrow at the end of business,” Thies said. “And what do you want people to do? Well, if anybody out there has got some money and they want to help with this, help preserve this piece of African American history, we could certainly use your help.”

If you would like to join the Ohio County Historical Society in their effort to secure this property you can give them a call at (812) 438-4915.

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