Levi Coffin Fact Sheet: Who was Levi Coffin? The following short biography and fact sheet provides interesting facts about the life, times and history of Levi Coffin.
Levi Coffin Fact File Biography: Lifespan: 1798 – 1877 *** Full Name: Levi Coffin *** Occupation: American Quaker, Abolitionist and Businessman *** Date of Birth: Levi Coffin was born on October 28th 1798 *** Place of Birth: Levi Coffin was born in Guildford County, North Carolina, America *** Family background: His father was Levi Coffin Sr and his mother was Prudence. His father was a Quaker and born in Massachusetts moving to North Carolina to farm land. His father was largely influenced by John Woolman who strongly believed that owning slaves was unfair *** Early life and childhood: He grew up with six sisters and working on his father’s farm *** Education: Levi Coffin did not receive much in the way of an education ***
Levi Coffin Fact 1: Levi Coffin was born on October 28th 1798 and during the late 18th early 19th century period in history when significant developments were made in biology, science, physics, medicine and technology.
Levi Coffin Fact 2: He was very disturbed by the notion of slavery. He once asked a slave why he was shackled in a chain gang. The man told him it was to stop him from running away back to his wife and children. This had such a profound effect on a young Levi he feared his own father would be taken from him.
Levi Coffin Fact 3: By the time Levi was fifteen years of age he was already actively assisting his family in aiding escaped slaves to journey to safety. By the 1820’s North Caroline Quakers were regularly prosecuted not necessarily because they had actually be caught assisting black slaves flee but purely for being suspected of helping them.
Levi Coffin Fact 4: By 1821 many Quakers, sickened by the persecution of the slaves began to move to the Northwest Territories, here land was cheap and slavery was illegal and it was the Quaker communities that were largely responsible for the constitutional ban on slavery in Indiana and Ohio.
Levi Coffin Fact 5: Having visited Indiana with his brother-in-law he returned to North Carolina where he married Catherine White, his brother-in-law’s sister but the departure for Indiana was postponed as the pair were expecting their first child. After the birth of their son in 1825 the young family moved to Newport, Indiana in 1826.
Levi Coffin Fact 6: So prosperous was Indiana that within the first year of moving there having started to farm land initially he was able to open his own general store. In turn as the years passed he always said that being prosperous with the store enable him to be so heavily involved in the Underground Railroad.
Levi Coffin Fact 7: It was not until after he had bought his home that he became acquainted with the fact that his property was right on the underground railroad stops. Once aware of this and knowing that a nearby community of escaped slaves were often re-captured because there hiding places were common knowledge, he let it be known that he was happy and willing to take people into his own home to hid them until they could be moved on safely.
Levi Coffin Fact 9: The numbers of local residents offering safe haven increased to the extent that many slaves were being passed from stop to stop along the way until they were able to reach the safety of Canada. The amount of fugitives that passed through his him were so high in numbers that his home became referred to as “Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad.
Levi Coffin Fact 10: Very often his friends and family feared for his safety, the slave-hunters knew him well and frequently threatened him but her would not be deterred, in fact later he wrote of his fears “After listening quietly to these counselors, I told them that I felt no condemnation for anything that I had ever done for the fugitive slaves. If by doing my duty and endeavoring to fulfill the injunctions of the Bible, I injured my business, then let my business go. As to my safety, my life was in the hands of my Divine Master, and I felt that I had his approval. I had no fear of the danger that seemed to threaten my life or my business. If I was faithful to duty, and honest and industrious, I felt that I would be preserved, and that I could make enough to support my family.”
Levi Coffin Fact 11: With the influx of immigrants into Indiana and largely of anti-slavery feelings Coffin’s business prospered to the extent he was able to build a mill and produced linseed oil from the flax he grew on his own property. He invested in the Bank of Indiana as well as being able to provide a new home in the form of a brick built two story structure for his family that he designed to incorporate hidden spaces to accommodate upwards of fourteen people.
Levi Coffin Fact 12: By the 1840’s the Quaker leaders began to steer their Friends away from assisting fugitives to seeking legal emancipation being the better course going forward.
Levi Coffin Fact 13: Coffin would, the following year, be expelled from his group as he refused to stop assisting people who needed his help when fewer and fewer people were offering assistances.
Levi Coffin Fact 14: Increasing help was difficult to come by, his neighbors no longer willing to risk offering shelter. Catherine, in an effort to help, organized the sewing society and they would make clothes that would help the cause.
Levi Coffin Fact 15: What he did come to find was that produce he was buying for his store was the product of slave labor and so he made it his mission to source goods that were not a byproduct of such labor but he was in turn making little if any profit from doing so.
Levi Coffin Fact 16: The Salem Free Produce Association members approached Coffin to head up a new organization in the west to be known as the Western Free Produce Association but he initially refused for lack of funds and he loathed the idea of moving into the city. Reluctantly, he finally accepted when he was convinced by their argument that there was no one better qualified to accept the position. His only condition was that he would do it for five years only, in which time he would train another person to take over.
Levi Coffin Fact 17: He moved to Cincinnati to over the operation leaving his business in capable hands and his home still to be used to harbor fugitives as he had every intention of returning to his home.
Levi Coffin Fact 18: Eventually, he bought a large new house and continued to offer safe haven for fugitive slaves. His home also doubled as a boarding house and with his wife making costumes such as for a butler, maid and cooks, even an outfit for a Quaker women that would cover the female from head to toe making them unrecognizable.
Levi Coffin Fact 19: As war approached, although he was a Quaker and against violence he nevertheless was prepared to help those that would be injured and needing care. As life in the South changed for slaves and slave owners alike it was Coffin’s society that gathered for and clothing to help. He also began to organize education facilities and business opportunities for ex-slaves to make new lives.
Levi Coffin Fact 20: After the war and the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment and with slavery illegal his mission in life was largely complete. Able at last to retire he wrote a book about his life and the Underground Railroad which become hailed as one of the best accounts of the activities that went on at the time.
Levi Coffin Fact 21: Levi Coffin died on September 16th 1877 in his home in Avondale, Ohio. His body laid to rest in the Spring Grove Cemetery.
Influence and Legacy: His legacy was the untold number of black American slaves he helped by providing shelter, food, clothing and further passage in assisting them reach the safety of Canada where they could begin new lives without fear.
Short Facts about Levi Coffin for Kids
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