More than 240 years ago, our great nation declared its independence, severing its ties to Great Britain. But the road towards stability was fraught with discord. In 1861, a bitter divide between the north and the south plunged the United States of America into Civil War. And this couldn’t have come at a worse time for the city of Neverland; our town had only been in existence for two short years. Neverland was so nascent it was even money whether or not it was even going to survive, and suddenly our entire nation was torn asunder!
Only two minor battles were fought on Ohio soil, but that didn’t mean that our proud State was about to stand on the sidelines. The State of Ohio distinguished itself in a number of ways during the War Between the States. For one thing, Ulysses S. Grant, General-in-Chief of the Union army, was, himself, Ohio-born. What’s more, some 320,000 Buckeyes enlisted in the Union Army, making Ohio third behind only New York and Pennsylvania in total manpower contributed to the Northern war effort.
But Ohio, and Neverland specifically, made another indelible mark on our nation’s history, in the years leading up to the war and beyond; it was a haven for runaway slaves. The one-time pirates that founded Neverland with J.M. Barrie built a shelter that came to be called the Underground Home, which was, as the name suggested, literally underground. Former pirate Samuel Hook, ancestor to Neverland’s own Jas Hook, and a fairy by the name of Liberty Bell were the driving force behind our town’s involvement in the Underground Railroad. Liberty and her fairy friends acted as beacons, leading runaway slaves to their underground haven.
Of course ultimately, our town and our nation endured. But I’m going to take today to remember just how hard fought our independence really was, and how close we came to letting it all slip away. Our state’s significant contribution during the Civil War is just one more reason why I am, as ever, proud to be an Ohioan.