John Rankin House

Admission to the John Rankin House is $8/adult and $5/child.

  • Open: early April through October from Wednesday through Sunday from 10am – 5pm (Sunday 12-5). Tours on the hour.
  • Location: (Map It) 6152 Rankin Hill Road in Ripley, Ohio
  • Phone: 800-752-2705
  • Web: Click here

The John Rankin House in Ripley, Ohio, is a National Historic Landmark and a famous station on the Underground Railroad.

The brick home was built in 1825 by Reverand John Rankin and sits high atop Freedom Hill overlooking the small river town of Ripley, Ohio. It features extraordinary tales of bravery and fantastic views of the Ohio River and its meandering bends between the Appalachian foothills of southern Ohio and northern Kentucky.

Rankin began his 44-year ministry at Ripley’s Presbyterian church in 1822. He and his wife and 13 children were ardent abolitionists. They dedicated their lives to helping their fellow human beings. Reverend John Rankin was one of the most active “conductors” of the Underground Railroad. His family never lost a “passenger” along their trek of the line. Over the years, more than 2,000 “passengers” stayed at the Rankin House. At times, up to a dozen runaway slaves lived in the humble brick home in addition to the 15 family members. It only took one encounter for slave owners and hunters to learn not to try and seize escaped slaves from the Rankins. Family members always stood armed and watchful.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin cites a true story of a lady pushing her child across the thin ice on the Ohio River, desperate to cross to the Rankin House. When a slave hunter met her on the other side, he was so moved by watching her determination that he let her pass through to the home on the hill, shining its candle in the window at night to guide her and so many other escaped slaves to potential freedom.

Merely crossing the Ohio River didn’t bring freedom, even though Ohio was a free state. The Fugitive Slave Law of 1850 meant runaway slaves could be apprehended in free states and returned to slavery. The Underground Railroad had to get its “passengers” into Canada. Making it to the Rankin House was a milestone, to be sure, but the final trek from southern Ohio to northern Ohio and ultimately out of the United States still had many obstacles to maneuver.

The modest home has received more than $1 million in renovations to return it to an authentic representation of how it was when the Rankin family lived there. It is quite a time capsule.

The floorboards are original and in great shape. Several original family items, such as the family’s Bible, remain. Well-informed guides give tours. They learn vital information to share but are encouraged to do some research to develop additional points of interest to further make the Rankin House story come alive for its visitors. In her research, a young tour guide named Niya found that her fourth-generation grandfather was at the Rankin’s house in the 1840s.

This little place in the middle of nowhere attracts many visitors and has a large parking lot. The tour takes about 30 minutes. Another 30 minutes can be spent taking in the incredible scenery of the forested hills and Ohio River stretching east and west as far as the eyes can see.

The John Rankin House is one of those little stops you always remember.