Home » Great Lakes States Directory » Ohio Social Topics

Social Conditions in Ohio Past & Present – Free Books and Articles

Social Conditions in Ohio Past & Present - Free Books and Articles

This webpage has links to free books and articles on Social Conditions in Ohio, Past & Present, including:

African-American experience
Women in Ohio history
Immigration experience
Ethnic groups, with works on Slovaks, Czechs, Welsh, Scots, Poles, Irish, Lithuanians, Italians, & Hungarians
Organized crime
Pioneer experience
Anti-Slave movement & the Underground Railroad
Natural disasters
Utopian communities
Rural life
Temperance movement

The African-American Experience in Ohio 1850-1920

Ohio Historical Society

An online digital collection that includes manuscript collections, newspaper articles, serials, photographs and pamphlets.

See the Menu at the top of every page for Directories of Free Online Fiction and NonFiction Books, Magazines, and more, on 400 pages like this at Century Past

Condition of the People of Color in the State of Ohio. With Interesting Anecdotes

Boston: Knapp 1839

About half of this 24-page document is a report for the Ohio Anti-Slavery Convention, held at Putnam, Ohio in April 1835 by a Committee assigned to investigate. The Committee estimated there were 7,500 colored people (African-Americans) in Ohio; about 2,500 in Cincinnati, 700 in two settlements in Brown county, and the remaining 4,300 “scattered in the principal towns in this state.” “A majority of the adults it is supposed were born in slavery. Many of them have gained their freedom by paying for themselves the market value.”

Details are provided about some of the ways in which the African-Americans in Cincinnati were discriminated against, both informally and by law. For example, they were not allowed to attend public schools, even though they paid taxes. They were informally barred from nearly all skilled trades. In 1830, “the President of the Mechanical Association was publicly tried by the Society for the crime of assisting a colored young man to learn a trade.”

One section of the report contains a number of examples of free African-Americans in Ohio buying in installments the freedom of relatives still enslaved. It includes the amounts in dollars that had been paid. There are brief life-stories of former slaves. Packaged with the report in this document is a “Report on the Laws of Ohio”, a long anti-slavery letter addressed to “the Presbyterians of Missouri who hold slaves” published in the St. Louis Observor, and several pages of “Anecdotes” about slavery, collected from various publications.

Josiah Warren, The First American Anarchist, A Sociological Study

Baillie, William
Boston: Small & Mayynard 1906

Josiah Warren (1798-1874) was a musician when he moved from Boston to Cincinnati at age 20, where he worked as a music teacher and orchestra leader and also manufactured a lamp he invented. He moved his family to New Harmony, IN in the mid-1820s to participate in Robert Owens’ communitarian experiment, but left within two years, rejecting Owens’ views on the ideal society. Warren developed his own philosophy on a principle of the “sovereignty of the individual”, and society without a state.

The author of this small book began with a long essay on the philosophy of anarchism. In addition to a biography of Warren, and explanations of his philosophical ideas, there are extended descriptions of the anarchist communities that he founded.

A useful reference work is: Bliss, D. P., The New Encyclopedia of Social Reform (1908) in Policy Issues

Contested Terrain: African American Women Migrate from the South to Cincinnati, Ohio, 1900-1950

Bunch-Lyons, Beverly A.
NY: Routledge 2002

“A richly textured and illuminating study of black migration through the lens of race, class, and gender. Bunch-Lyons admirably reveals the interplay between social conditions and interior desire that propelled so many African-American women’s migration to Cincinnati.” – Review excerpt on book cover.

“Oberlin’s Part in the Slavery Conflict”

Ohio History XX, July 1911/Number 3, 269-334

Burroughs, Wilbur G.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The author opens this article with the statement, “Little did the Rev. John J. Shipherd, pastor of the Presbyterian Church at Elyria, Ohio, realize that in the founding of Oberlin he was to change the destiny of a nation.” In this 65-page article, this Oberlin resident traces the development of the Oberlin anti-slavery movement and its many activities, initiated by religious figures such as Dr. Lyman Beecher and students at the theological seminary in the early 1830s.

For books on the issue of slavery in Indiana and Illinois, see: Anti-Slavery before the Civil War

Irish Americans and their Communities of Cleveland

Callahan, Nelson J. and Hickey, William F.
Cleveland: Cleveland State University 1978

The Magyars of Cleveland

with a Brief Sketch of their Historical, Political and Social Backgrounds

Cook, Huldah F.
Cleveland: Cleveland Americanization Committee 1919

The Italians of Cleveland

Coulter, Charles Wellsley
Cleveland: Cleveland Americanization Committee 1919

The Lithuanians of Cleveland

Coulter, Charles Wellsley
Cleveland: Cleveland Americanization Committee 1919

The Poles of Cleveland – Ohio Social Conditions

Coulter, Charles Wellsley
Cleveland: Cleveland Americanization Committee 1919

History of Freemasonry in Ohio from 1791 to 1912. 3 Volumes …

Vol. 1 The History of the Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Free and Accepted Masons of the State of Ohio and its Pioneer Lodges from 1808 to 1844 Inclusive

Cunningham, W. M. and Reeves, John G.
Cincinnati: Bromwell 1914

Cunningham is listed as the “Past Grand Master F.&A M., P.G.H.P. of Royal Arch Masons etc. This appears to be the Freemasons’ official history.

Murder Will Out. The First Step in Crime Leads to the Gallows. The Horrors of the Queen City …

Being an account of the two soldiers who were executed at old Fort Washington; and the trials and executions of John May; Philip Lewis, (colored); John Cowan, the Murderer of his Family; Washburn, and his Associates, Davis and Hoover, the Butchers of over 30 Persons; Byron Cooley, who killed John Rambo; Henry LeCount; Patrick McHugh, the Murderer of his own Wife; and a careful history of the Hughes Murderes, with a precise account of the murder of John Brasher, the Watchman; the Summons Massacre; Arrison and the Infernal Machine; Mrs. Howard, who Avenged her own Wrongs; Nancy Farrer, the Child Poisoner; with a correct detail of over a Hundred other Murders which have taken place in this City and County.

DeBeck, William L.
Cincinnati: 1867

The author wrote that his aim was to provide a “short sketch of the more prominent homicides which have taken place here [Cincinnati], with a list of every person who has suffered the extreme penalty of the law in this county.” The first incident described, that of two soldiers shot for desertion, occurred in 1789. The last was the murder of James Hughes in 1867, and is covered here in a long newspaper article.

A Discourse on Intemperance; Delivered at Cincinnati, March 1, 1828 …

before the Agricultural Society of Hamilton County and Subsequently Pronounced, by Request, to a Popular Audience

Drake, Daniel. M.D.
Cincinnati: Looker & Reynolds 1828

See the other entry on this page for a book by Dr. Daniel Drake for biographies of him. This 25-page address is divided into the following chapters:

-Of the Chemical Nature of Ardent Spirits -Of the Operation and Effects -Of the Necessity for their Use -Of the Causes of their Abuse -Of the Diseases which they occasion -Of their Desolating effects, on Character, Fortune and Family -Of the Correctives of Intemperance, both Moral and Physical

-Alcohol and its Combinations -Combustion of the living bodies of habitual drunkards -Mental Alienation occasioned by Intemperance -Physical remedies for Drunkenness -Society in Cincinnati for the Promotion of Temperance

Websites with links to Century Past

Akron’s “Better Half”: Women, Their Clubs, and the Humanization of the City, 1825-1925

Endres, Kathleen L.
Akron, OH: University of Akron 2006

“While the men of Akron busied themselves laying the economic, legal, and industrial foundations, their mothers, wives, sisters and daughters were equally busy weaving the benevolent and cultural fabric of the growing city. This book looks at how women brought much-needed services to the city, created health institutions that continue today, and built Akron’s cultural and literary foundations. Akron women seldom acted alone; they preferred to work with like-minded women through clubs, organizations, and societies, some of which still survive today.” – Book cover

“The Scotch-Irish in Central Ohio”

Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 57 (April 1948): 111-25

Fisk, William L. Jr.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The ethnic group called “Scotch-Irish” were initially Scottish Presbyterians who were enabled by the English Monarchy in the early 1600s to settle in Ulster, Ireland; playing a key role in England’s colonization of Ireland. In general they maintained communities that were separate from the native Catholic Irish, although these communities seem to have also absorbed co-religionists of other nationalities. By the 1700s English policy in Ireland favored members of the established Anglican church over Presbyterians, so many of these “Scotch-Irish” left for Scotland or America. Upon arrival in America they tended to head for the western frontier areas. Large numbers of Scotch-Irish were found on the cutting edge of the Appalachian frontier in the late 18th century and soon afterward in the Northwest Territory.

For works about immigration of various ethnic groups, see:
Indiana Social History
Illinois Ohio Social History (Norwegians);
Michigan Social History (Dutch, Jews and Armenians);
Wisconsin Social History (Czechs, Danish, Cornish, Germans, Norwegians, Dutch, Swiss, Belgians, Greeks and Icelanders)

“Women on the Ohio Frontier: The Marietta Area”

Ohio History 90 (Winter 1981) 55-73

Fry, Mildred Covey
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The first settlers in Marietta, Ohio were men from the Ohio Company who arrived from New England in early 1788, but they were followed within months by a second group that included the wives and children of a number of those pioneers. The author draws upon letters and journals to reconstruct the experiences of these family members during their 800-mile journey and afterward, as they struggled to survive and build a community in the wilderness.

This was an award winning paper in a 1981 contest by the Ohio Historical Society.

For memoirs and biographies of life on the frontier in the Old Northwest, see:
Biographies & Memoirs in Ohio History
Biographies & Memoirs in Indiana History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Illinois History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Michigan History;
Biographies & Memoirs in Wisconsin History

“New England and the Western Reserve”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol VI, 1912-1913, 62-78

Geiser, Karl F.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

“The Western Reserve in the Anti-Slavery Movement, 1840-1860”

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol V, 1911-1912, 73-98

Geiser, Karl F.
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

Black Ohio and the Color Line, 1860-1915

Gerber, David A.
University of Illinois 1976

Wild Turkeys and Tallow Candles

Hayes, Ellen
Boston: Four Seas 1920

Life in the early days in Licking county. Description of Ohio pioneer life.

The Negro in Ohio, 1802-1870

Hickok, Charles Thomas
Cleveland: Williams 1896

A PhD dissertation in the department of History and Economics at Western Reserve University. Chapter headings are:

1. The Slavery Clause in the Ordinance of 1787
2. The Struggle for Political Equality from the Formation of the State to the Ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment
3. Educational and Industrial Opportunities enjoyed by the Negro
4. Observations on the Slavery Sentiment in the State

“Mrs. Trollope in Porkopolis”

Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 58 (January 1949) 35-51

Hildreth, William H.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

Frances Trollope, a well-to-do Englishwoman accompanied by three of her children, arrived in Cincinnati (‘Porkopolis’) in 1828 determined to go into business by opening a shop. She had $20,000 and plenty of self-confidence, although she had never before been in business or worked for a living. By the end of 1829 her shop had been foreclosed and sold, and she was broke and supported by friends. In 1830 she returned to England and published a very caustic, critical book about Americans, especially the residents of Cincinnati, called Domestic Manners of the Americans in Great Lakes Explorers and Travelers. It was a best-seller in England but, not surprisingly, was received angrily in America.

In her book, Trollope didn’t mention her failed business attempt or many other details of her stay in Cincinnati. This lively article provides the story behind her story.

Our Cousins in Ohio; From the Diary of an American Mother

Howitt, Anna M.
New York: Collins and Brother 1849

The author, Mary Howitt, was a poet and popular novelist in England. She wrote in the preface that this story for children about a family in Ohio was entirely true.

The Squirrel Hunters of Ohio; or, Glimpses of Pioneer Life

Jones, N. E.
Cincinnati: Clarke 1898

“Welsh Settlements in Ohio” – Ohio Social Conditions

Ohio History XVI, April 1907/Number 2, 194-227

Jones, William H.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The author identifies and describes the earliest Welsh settlements in Ohio and provides details about the settlers, and where in the U.S. they migrated from. He also includes life stories for many of the early Welsh settlers.

A Woman’s Place: The Life History of a Rural Ohio Grandmother

Joyce, Rosemary O.
Ohio State University 1983

The Czechs of Cleveland

Ledbetter, Eleanor E.
Publisher Year

The Jugoslavs of Cleveland

with a Brief Sketch of the Historical and Political Backgrounds

Ledbetter, Eleanor E.
Cleveland: Cleveland Americanization Committee 1919

The Slovaks of Cleveland

with some General Information on the Race

Ledbetter, Eleanor E.
Cleveland: Cleveland Americanization Committee 1919

See our True Crime Books Free PDF Download

A Ghetto takes Shape: Black Cleveland, 1870-1930

Kusmer, Kenneth L.
University of Illinois 1976

New Englanders on the Ohio Frontier: The Migration and Settlement of Worthington, Ohio

McCormick, Virginia E.
Kent, OH: Kent State University 1998

“In New Englanders on the Ohio Frontier, Virginia and Robert McCormick examine the founding and development of Worthington to show how it reflects New England culture transplanted and reshaped by the western frontier. Despite Indian alarms during the War of 1812, failure to secure the seat of the state capital, and the economic depression that followed the banking collapse of 1819, Worthington prospered and grew. This case study of one community provides a perspective from which historians can better understand the process of westward migration and frontier settlement.” -Publisher

The Education of Negroes in Ohio

McGinnis, Frederick Alphonso
Wilberforce, OH: 1962

“A Guide to Communistic Communities of Ohio”

Ohio Archeological and Historical Quarterly XLVI (1937): 1- 15

McKinley, Kenneth William
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

The author wrote that the purpose of this 15-page article was “to make available a classification of those Ohio communities which have been founded with the idea of common ownership of property as one of the basic principles in their operation.” The article also provides bibliographic entries for numerous other sources of information for the communities identified.

-Union Village, near Lebanon, Warren County, OH. Began 1805.
-Watervliet (AKA Beaver Creek and Beulah) near Dayton, Montgomery Co. Began 1805.
-Whitewater, near Preston, Hamilton Co. Began 1824.
-North Union, Cleveland. Began 1822.
-West Union, Knox Co. IN, began in Adams Co., OH. Began 1805.
-Darby Plains, Union Co. Began 1820.

-Separatist Society of Zoar, Zoar, Tuscarawas Co. Began 1817.

-Kirtland, Lake Co. Began 1826.

-Spiritualistic Community, Franklin Township, Clermont Co.

-Moravian Mission Settlements in the Tuscarawas Valley
(Schoenbrunn, Gnadenhutten, Lichtenau, Salem)

-Yellow Springs Community, Yellow Springs, Greene Co. 1825-1827.
-Kendal Community, near Canton, Stark Co. Began 1826

-Clermont Phalanx, on Ohio River about 30 miles up from Cincinnati, Clermont Co. Began 1844.
-Columbian Phalanx, Franklin Co.
-Ohio Phalanx (AKA American Phalanx), Belmont Co.
-Prairie Home Community, near West Liberty, Logan Co. Began 1843.
-Trumbull Phalanx, Braceville, Trumbull Co. Began 1844.
-Integral Phalanx, Butler Co. Began 1845.
-Beverly Association, Morgan Co.
-Brooke’s Experiment (location unknown)
-Marlboro Association, Clinton Co. Began 1841.

-Memnonia Institute, yellow springs, Green Co. Began 1856.
-Utopia, Franklin Township, Clermont Co. Began 1847.
-Point Hope Community, Berlin Heights, Erie Co.
-Berea Community, Middleburg Township, Cuyahoga Co. Began 1836.
-Oberlin Colony, Russia Township, Lorain Co. Began 1833.
-Equity, Clermont Co. Began 1830.

See also: Hinds, W: A., American Communities and Nordhoff, Charles, The Communistic Societies of the United States – from Personal Visit and Observation in Utopias

Women in Cleveland: An Illustrated History

Morton, Marian J.
Bloomington, IN: Indiana University 1995

An Encyclopedia of Cleveland history project. This book, by a university historian, covers the 19th and 20th century and contains many historic photos.

Zoar, An Ohio Experiment in Communalism

Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society
Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society 1952

Border Life: Experience and Memory in the Revolutionary Ohio Valley

Perkins, Elizabeth A.
University of North Carolina 1998

“The Separatist Society of Zoar: An Experiment in Communism – From its Commencement to its Conclusion”

Ohio Archaeology and Historical Society Publications 8 (July 1899) 1-105

Randall, E. O.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

Emilius Randall was a professor of Law and the Secretary of the Ohio Historical Society. In this 100+ page history, Randall traces the origins of the Separatist religious sect to Wurttemburg, German in the 1700s, and explains some of the beliefs and behavior that led them to be persecuted by local authorities there. The 300-person group that came to Zoar, which was not the first to emigrate to the U.S., left Wurttemburg in 1817 under the leadership of Joseph M. Baumler (AKA Bimeler). Randall goes on to narrate the entire history of the colony, including documents of sale of their property in 1898. One of the documents lists the names of all the members of the Society of Separatists at Zoar at that time.

See also: Hinds, W: A., American Communities and Nordhoff, Charles, The Communistic Societies of the United States – from Personal Visit and Observation in Utopias

Creating a Perfect World: Religious and Secular Utopias in Nineteenth-century Ohio

Rokicky, Catherine M.
Athens, OH: Ohio University 2002

“Between 1787 and 1919, approximately 270 utopian communities existed in the U.S. Due to its unique location on the young nation’s frontier, Ohio was the site of much of this activity. This book examines Ohio’s utopian movements, both religious and secular. The author profiles these communities and explores their ideals, how and why they were established, their leaders’ and members’ reasons for joining and sometimes leaving.” – Book cover

Story of the Great Flood and Cyclone Disasters: America’s Greatest Calamity

A complete and authentic account of the awful flood of 1913 in the rich and fertile valleys of Ohio and Indiana. President Wilson’s appeal for aid and the country’s noble response. Thrilling accounts of miraculous escapes from the death dealing deluge, as told by the survivors and rescuers. The Omaha Tornado: Graphic and tragic story of the terrible tornado that struck Omaha and vicinity, killing many people and destroying hundreds of homes

Russell, Thomas H. ed.
Publisher unknown 1913

Shocking Stories of the Cleveland Mob

Schwarz, Ted
Charleston, SC: History Press 2010

A collection of profiles and stories about infamous mob members and their various activities.

“The Settlement of the John Randolph Slaves in Ohio” – Ohio Social Conditions

Proceedings of the Mississippi Valley Historical Association Vol V, 1911-12, 39-59

Sherwood, Henry Noble
Cedar Rapids, Iowa: Mississippi Valley Historical Association

John Randolph (1773-1833) of Roanoke, VA, a prominent Virginian who served as Congressman and U.S. Senator, provided in his will that all of his slaves (about 380) would be given their freedom, and settled in a state where slavery was prohibited. Litigation of the will delayed action until 1845, when the executor identified a location in Mercer county, OH for settlement. The author narrates the various attempts to settle these freed slaves and others in Ohio, and the resistance of Ohio communities to allowing black people to reside nearby.

“A Quaker Section of the Underground Railroad in Northern Ohio”

Ohio History XXXIX, July 1930/Number 3, 479-502

Siebert, Wilbur H.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

This local history of the activities of the Underground Railroad before the Civil War covers the “section of trunk line of the Underground Railroad extending from Columbus to Lake Erie.” The author visited many of the homes. He names the families along the route that harbored escaped slaves, provides details about where the escapees were hidden and how they were moved, includes anecdotes, and provides photos of a number of the homes.

For books on the issue of slavery in Indiana and Illinois, see: Anti-Slavery before the Civil War

Ohio Rural Life Survey. Northwestern Ohio

Stockbridge, Arthur O. and others
NY: Presbyterian Dept of Church and Country Life 1913(?)

Ohio Rural Life Survey. Southeastern Ohio

Stockbridge, Arthur O. and others
NY: Presbyterian Dept of Church and Country Life 1913(?)

“The Role of Women in the Settlement of the Western Reserve, 1796-1815”

Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Quarterly 46 (January 1937) 51-67

Sugar, Hermina
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

In this 15-page article the author pays homage to the women who were among the first settlers in the Western Reserve, from about 1805 to 1820. Most came from New England and were often descendants of puritans. The author describes the roles these women pioneers played in establishing churches, educating the young, hosting travelers, maintaining relations with Indians, raising children, organizing social gatherings, making clothes, maintaining homes, providing and cooking food, protecting the family, and nursing the sick.

Debate at the Lane Seminary, Cincinnati: Speech of James A. Thome, of Kentucky …

delivered at the annual meeting of the American Anti-slavery Society, May 6, 1834. Letter of the Rev. Dr. Samuel H. Cox, against the American Colonization Society

Thome, James A.
Boston: Garrison & Knapp 1834

This pamphlet was produced by an anti-slavery society, containing the three documents listed in the title; all from the early 1830s on the subject of slavery. Two of them are largely about the pros and cons of ‘colonization’; the then-popular project to settle freed slaves in Liberia, Africa.

Lane seminary, the site of the 1834 debate described in the first letter, was near Cincinnati. The two questions debated there were: “Ought the people of the Slaveholding States to abolish Slavery immediately?” and “Are the doctrines, tendencies, and measures of the American Colonization Society, and the influence of its principal supporters, such as render it worthy of the Christian Public?”

The speech by James Thome, a delegate of the Lane Seminary to the Anti-Slavery Society in New York, describes his own experience as a member of a slave-holding family in Kentucky and gives an insiders’ view of the institution of slavery. The last document, a letter by Reverend Cox, addresses colonization. He had been a strong advocate in favor of it, but had eventually changed his mind. In this letter he explains why he came to oppose colonization.

A Rural Survey in Southwestern Ohio

Vogt, Paul L.
Oxford, OH: Miami University 1913

The author was a professor of Sociology at Miami University. Chapter headings:

1. Introduction 2. Economic Conditions 3. Social Conditions, General 4. The Church 5. Rural Schools 6. Ownership and Tenantry 7. Conclusions

“Land and Community in Rural Nineteenth Century America: Claridon Township, 1810-1870” – Ohio Social Conditions

Ohio History 97 (Summer/Autumn 1983) 101-21

Wheeler, Robert A.
Columbus: Ohio Historical Society

In this 1983 article the author, a history professor at Cleveland State University, makes a demographic study of Claridon Township in Geauga County in the Western Reserve. He found that even though the origins of most settlers were ethnically and religiously homogenous (protestant New England Yankees), the township divided by the 1840s into two distinct groups that interacted very little.

“The Negro in Early Ohio”

Ohio Archeological and Historical Quarterly XXXIX (1930) 717-68

Columbus: Ohio Historical Society
Wilson, C. J.

This was a prize-winning essay and Master’s thesis in 1929 that attempts to trace the change in attitude of the people of Ohio toward African-Americans from 1787 to 1815. One of the author’s conclusions was that, regardless of any particular settler’s views toward ‘the negro’ at the time he arrived in Ohio, he would in time adopt an attitude in common with other Ohioans.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top