John Rankin is reputed to have been one of Ohio's first and most active "conductors" on the Underground Railroad. From 1822 to the 1860s, Rankin, along with his wife and children, assisted hundreds of escaped slaves in their trek to freedom.
Located on the Ohio River, Rankin's home (today a National Historic Landmark), and Ripley, Ohio in general, were considered one of the first stations on this route of the Underground Railroad.
John Parker, a Ripley abolitionist and former slave who was active in the Underground Railroad, wrote of Rankin, "At times attacked on all sides by masters seeking their slaves, [John Rankin and his sons] beat back their assailant, and held its threshold unsullied.
A lighted candle stood as a beacon which could be seen from across the river, and like the North Star was the guide to the fleeing slave."
Visitors can climb a reconstructed staircase, modeled after the one John Rankin built. The original staircase, which consisted of one hundred steps, helped many slaves climb Liberty Hill.
John Rankin wrote his Letters on Slavery after learning his brother in Virginia had purchased slaves.
Of the approximately 2,000 slaves that sheltered at the Rankin House none was ever recaptured there.