Wilbur H. Siebert was a well-respected historian from Columbus Ohio, born on August 30, 1866. Siebert was married on August 16, 1893 to Annie Ware Sabine. Annie’s mother was a senator, and pushed Annie to become very educated. Annie had a Bachelor of Science from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, as well as a masters degree from Ohio State. Wilbur and Annie adopted two foster children and both lived long lives (Wilbur lived to be 95).
He was given a Bachelor of Arts degree from Ohio State, as well as a masters degree and another bachelors degree at Harvard. Siebert began his research on the Underground Railroad in 1893 when he became assistant professor in history at OSU. He continued to research the Underground Railroad for much of his life afterwards. Siebert is mostly known for the Wilbur H. Siebert Collection, which is a compilation of the information gathered by Siebert himself. Siebert was very dedicated to researching the Underground Railroad, and gathered his information in many ways. One way that Siebert got information was through the students in his classes. Many of his students gave Siebert names and addresses of people who were likely to have knowledge about the Underground Railroad. Also, during his vacations, Siebert would go along Underground Railroad routes. There are many other ways he gained his vast array of information. Eventually, Siebert gathered all of his findings and organized them by geographic location. Those findings are now known as the Wilbur H. Siebert Collection, and is owned by the Ohio Historical Society.
This collection can be used by our class in a plethora of ways. For starters, there are six autobiographical sketches and autobiographies that could help us find other “Conductors” and allow us to paint a better picture of the Underground Railroad. There were 58 matches for biographies and excerpts from biographies that can be used similarly. 3 obituaries are included in the collection as well. There are names of slaves, for example on the top of page 51, it states, “[Fugitive Slaves in Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan]. The names of these slaves could be useful in case any of them had previously tried to escape to Connecticut at any point, or if they had been mentioned in any of our other findings it would be useful to know. From reading the caption I have discovered that Robert Purvis was the president of the Underground Railroad in Philadelphia (found on page 62). I was not under the impression that the Underground Railroad had a single person who was considered a president. There is a wide variety as to the kind of information that is in the collection, but a majority of it is potentially useful.
There are 142 pages of the collection on this link, and this page does not show any of the full information, just titles of the documents. This means that there is nearly an endless supply of information at our disposal. Unfortunately, however, we are unable to see any of the full documents easily. We would have to contact the Ohio Historical Society and request access. I believe that if we picked out a few titles of documents that could be potential leads, and e-mailed the Ohio Historical Society a well written e-mail explaining how we would be using the information, that they would grant us some access. Regardless of this, Siebert wrote two books, The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom, and The Mysteries of Ohio’s Underground Railroads. Future classes should read at least one of these books for Siebert’s insight, and to see how in depth historians must go to uncover truths.
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