George W. Adams was born in Virginia in 1799 on a large plantation. When his grandfather died, George's father freed the family's slaves and sold the plantation. In 1808, he moved his family to Ohio, a free state where slavery was illegal. Twenty years later, George and his brother Edward built a large flouring mill. They met great success in this industry and soon had 2 prospering flour mills. George used his wealth to help develop the town of Dresden. He financed many infrastructure projects, including bridges and a canal that connected Dresden with the Ohio-Erie Canal. Soon, he was the largest employer in the region.
But it wasn't all about wealth for George, who was a renegade for social justice. The mills provided grain to the local residents, but they also served as safe houses for runaway slaves on their journey to freedom. George didn't just allow slaves to rest in his mills during their escape from the South. This staunch abolitionist also smuggled slaves out of the South on flatboats during business trips to New Orleans.
George W. Adams had his Greek revival mansion built at Prospect Place in 1856. This stately home had 29 rooms in 9,500 square feet. However, before the family could even move in, an arsonist torched the house. The family constructed a barn on the remains of the first mansion that could be used as a living quarters for the ranch hands as well as stables for horses and carriages.
Then they set to work building a new mansion that would be the first in the state to have an indoor well and plumbing. It also had a cupola on top of the house where a light shone brightly as a sign to traveling slaves that this was a safe house. The house became a spot where slaves could rest and eat before continuing on their journey north. It was a key location on the Underground Railroad.
Although Ohio was a free state, this didn't mean the slaves were safe here as they passed through. The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it legal for bounty hunters to capture runaway slaves here and return them to the South. It was also illegal to harbor slaves, a risk that George Adams was willing to take every time he opened his home to fleeing slaves.
In the late 1850s, an angry bounty hunter came to the house and demanded that George release the slaves he harbored on his land. George's ranch hands came to protect their boss and the bounty hunter skulked away. According to family legend, these same loyal ranch hands followed the bounty hunter to his camp and abducted him. They brought him back to the barn and hung him there for his crimes against freedom and humanity. Today his angry spirit lurks in the barn, occasionally lashing out at visitors when provoked.
The slaves who came to Prospect Place were dodging dangerous bounty hunters and many were injured when they arrived. Some of these slaves died from shotgun blasts or wounds from animal attacks. Their journey to freedom was cut short in the safe haven of George's basement, and their spirits still haunt the place today.
A Squandered Estate
George W. Adams lived to see success in his true life's work -- he saw slavery abolished before he passed away in 1879. He left his vast estate to his children. Sadly, the family squandered their inheritance and by the mid-1950s, this once stately home was abandoned. Recently the great-great grandson of George W. Adams purchased the property and is working to restore the mansion to its former glory. However, his efforts are sometimes thwarted by the ghosts that remain at Prospect Place. The phantom footsteps, whispering voices and dark shadows show that the battle of good and evil will never be over for the sad and angry spirits that remain.