Joe Logan & the Fugitive Slave Experience in Southern Ohio

West Union, Ohio's Olde Wayside Inn and the Underground Railroad

The Olde Wayside Inn in West Union, Adams County, has gone by many names over its two-hundred plus years of existence. Originally known as Bradford's Tavern, for a while in the 1870s and 80s, area residents and visitors would have called it the Crawford House for its proprietor John Crawford, who had paid for an engraving of the inn to be included in J. A. Caldwell's "Illustrated Historical Atlas of Adams County" in 1880. Other proprietor names include Moore, Marlatt, Lafferty, Lawler, Haas, Mowery, and Hall.

While all of the owners of this Inn played their part in its history and preservation, it will forever be most associated with not only Gen. David Bradford, its original proprietor, but also with Joe Logan, a runaway slave from North Carolina who worked as the tavern' hostler in the 1820s.

David Bradford first came to Ohio in 1798, settling in the Village of Washington, at the mouth of Ohio Brush Creek, where the Adams County seat was briefly located. There, he opened his first tavern. However, the village failed when the county seat was relocated, ultimately to West Union. In 1804, Bradford purchased lot 66 on West Union's new Main Street and built a fine, two story log structure, designed for use as a public house and inn.

Bradford was a man of wealth and influence, who also served his fellow man in local government. He received his title of "General" from his appointment as the Quartermaster General of the Second Division of the Ohio Militia. Bradford served a term as an Adams Common Pleas Court Judge, and as County Treasurer from 1800 to 1832. In addition to his tavern, Bradford operated a stage coach business, which ran between Maysville, Kentucky, on the Ohio River and Chillicothe, to the northeast, along the Old Zane's Trace.

Gen. Bradford was also an early supporter of the abolition of slavery and played his part in the creation of the Underground Railroad, which ran through Adams County, with West Union serving as a major hub for the northbound traffic. Bradford belonged to the nearby West Union Presbyterian Church, where he attended the sermons of the Rev. William Williamson, a fellow abolitionist.

Sometime about the year 1822, Gen. Bradford hired Joe Logan, a known runaway slave, to work as a hostler at his Inn. Logan's wife, Jemima had recently been freed by the Williamson family. Jane Williamson, the Reverend's daughter, had come into a $300 inheritance, which she used to purchase the freedom of three slaves then living in North Carolina - a young woman and her two children. They would be emancipated and brought to a new life of freedom in Adams County, Ohio. Unfortunately, Jemima's husband and the father of her children, the said Joe Logan of our story, was owned by another master, who refused to part with his slave property.

As Emmons Stivers tells the story in his history of Adams County, Joe Logan made his escape, and after many dramatic encounters with slave hunters and their dogs, he eventually found his way to the Williamson's farm located in nearby Bentonville, where he was reunited with Jemima and his family.

After finding work with Gen. Bradford, Joe and Jemima acquired land on the north side of West Union, on what has long since been known as Logan's Lane, where they built a log cabin and operated a station of the Underground Railroad.

Joe Logan had enemies in and about West Union, who would write letters to his owner in North Carolina, offering to capture him and return him to slavery. On numerous occasions, however, Logan made it clear “that if any attempt were made to recapture him, he would kill as many of his captors as he could, and would die himself, before he would be retaken.” To further deter any such capture, according to Stivers telling, Logan “was in the habit of carrying a great club with him wherever he went, and it was well known that he would use it on dogs or men, as [the] occasion required.”

Joe and Jemima began telling people that they had purchased Joe's freedom for $200, one-hundred of their own and one-hundred raised by his friends in Ohio. Whether true or not, the story would certainly have dissuaded slave hunters from trying to re-enslave a legal, free resident of Ohio.

That Joe Logan stayed in Adams County, found work in Adams County, and purchased land in Adams County, suggests that fugitive slaves could establish a life of relative freedom in southern Ohio. Yet, a clear determination to fend off any attempt at capture and the protective patronage of influential white friends, such as a Gen. Bradford or a Rev. Williamson, may have been a necessity.

Visit Bradford's Olde Wayside Inn in West Union where Joe Logan fed and shoed the weary horses that made their way along Old Zane's Trace. Learn about the Underground Railroad in West Union, where antislavery whites and blacks worked together to help runaway slaves find freedom.


Nelson W. Evans and Emmons B. Stivers, A History of Adams County, Ohio: From Its Earliest Settlement to the Present Time (1900).

Andrew Lee Feight, "Joe & Jemima Logan: An Amazing Story from the Early Underground Railroad in Southern Ohio," The Twelfth Ohio Underground Railroad Summit, Shawnee State University, Portsmouth, Ohio (20 October 2007).

Andrew Lee Feight, "'The Good and the Just': Slavery and the Development of Evangelical Protestantism in the American South, 1700-1830," Ph.D. Dissertation (University of Kentucky, 2001).

Ann Hagedorn, Beyond the River The Untold Story of the Heroes of the Underground Railroad (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002).

Stephen Kelley, "Bradford filled many roles in county," in Lore, Legends & Landmarks of Old Adams, The People's Defender (West Union, Ohio).

Carleta Weyrich, "Olde West Union landmark under new management," The People's Defender (28 March 2012).

Williamson Family Papers, Adams County Genealogical Society, West Union, Ohio.