Ditcher, James

James Ditcher's Tombstone in Woodland    This famous Irontonian was a major conductor of the Underground Railroad. His part of the railroad stretched for sixty-five miles. He took people along the Ohio River, through neighboring woods, and on old Indian trails. His usual destination was Poke Patch near present day Blackfork, Ohio. During his career as a conductor on the Underground Railroad, he assisted over 300 slaves to freedom in Canada. For his efforts, he was given the nicknames the “Sly Fox” or “Red Fox” of the Underground Railroad.
    The last time he helped escaped slaves, Tom and Julia. These two siblings were taken to Poke Patch. After Poke Patch, they were taken to the Washington Switch of the Hocking Valley Line. Unfortunately for the siblings, the group was stopped by a Marshall. Julia and Tom were returned to their master in Floyd County, Kentucky. Ditcher escaped capture, but did not return to the Underground Railroad.
    On June 16, 1864 at the age of forty, James Ditcher joined the Union Army and became a civil war veteran. He served with the United States Colored Troops, Company 1 27th Infantry, and 23rd Infantry Regiment Ohio. 
    Some records state Ditcher was colored and others state he was mulatto. Considering anyone having dark skin was called colored, he probably was a mulatto, but it was not documented at that time. 
    After the civil war, Ditcher returned to Ironton. He became very well known and respected. On February 16, 1872, he married Levinda Smith. 
    Ditcher’s luck was not good and he had many financial difficulties. At the end of his life, he asked a widow permission to sleep in her barn. She offered him the empty house. It was in this house he spent his last days.
    In honor of his efforts before and during the war, James Ditcher was buried in the Grand Army of the Republic section of Woodland on June 22, 1888.
 


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