What Is the History Behind The Levi Coffin House?

February 24, 2024

Levi Coffin was an American Quaker and abolitionist. Born In North Carolina on October 28, 1798, he was an active leader in the Underground Railroad in Ohio and Indiana. Born into a Quaker family, Levi was raised to oppose slavery. In 1826 he moved with his wife Catharine and their children to Indiana to help further avoid slaveholders persecution of Quakers. In Indiana Levi became a farmer and a merchant. He became financially successful and gained good standing in the community. This allowed him to help provide food and clothing to fugitive slaves in the Underground Railroad. It wasn't until 1847 where the Coffin family moved south to the to be closer to the Ohio River to continue to be of service to the cause. Levi ran a warehouse that only sold free labor goods. The Coffins also continued to help hundreds of runaway slaves coming to Ohio via the Kentucky river. With such an amazing history, check more on the Levi Coffin House below.

Credit: Google Earth

Grand Central Station

The Levi Coffin House, also known simply as Coffin House, is a historic home located in Wayne County, Indiana. In 1966 it became a National Historic Landmark, becoming the first property in the state of Indiana to be added to the National Register of Historic Places. The next year, in 1967 the governor acquired the home and then leased it to the Wayne County Historical Society. For the next few years the Himelick Construction of Fountain City restored the home, and had it appear as it once did during the 1840s. In 1970 the home was officially opened to the public, and operates tours from 10am to 5pm. This is a Federal-style, red brick home with a total of eight rooms inside. With two separate entrances, this home has a long and important history. The Coffin House was also known as the "Grand Central Station'' of the Underground Railroad. Despite this title, no slaves were ever caught in the home. Levi would demand to see a warrant and slave ownership papers from anyone coming to the front door. The searchers were then forced to head to the center of town to acquire the documentation, and by the time they returned the hidden slaves were moved along to another hiding spot along the Railroad. 

Credit: Google Earth

History of Levi Coffin's House

The Coffin family lived in Indiana from 1826 to 1847. During that time they helped as many as 2,000 slaves escape to the North and to Canada. They began sheltering fugitive slaves very early on in their move to Indiana, and their home became one of the several stops along the Underground Railroad. It has been assumed that the fictional couple Simeon and Rachael Halliday in Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, were based off of Levi and Catharine. While Harriet wrote the famous book, she was living in Cincinnati and had become friendly with the Coffins. The novel was published in 1852, and the Coffins had left Indiana in 1847 to move to Cincinnati., when they met Harriet.

Credit: elycefeliz

The Coffin House Post Slavery

In the late 19th century, the Coffin House was turned into a hotel. Around 1911 it was once again transformed, this time into an apartment building. Luckily during this time the home was kept in fairly good condition, even preserving the original windowpanes and woodwork. This was very helpful during the 1960s restoration.

 

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Conclusion: Happy History

It’s nice to read about a historical house that has such a great history, instead of a dark one. I love that this house is still standing and able to be toured. If you enjoyed reading about Levi Coffin’s house, take a look at the Darwin Martin House here.

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Julie Bowes
Meet Julie, the creative Head of Content at Urban Splatter. Since her move from the East Coast to Los Angeles in 2017, she's been bringing the world of celebrity real estate to life through her engaging articles. Julie has honed her passion for storytelling into a thriving full-time career, producing innovative content ideas and contributing to multiple websites. With a self-published book and several novels to her name, she's continuously expanding her horizons in the freelance writing sphere.

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