Former Prison Becomes Museum Honoring the Underground Railroad
In 1849, an inmate in the Lawrence County Prison burnt the log building to the ground. The jail was located in Burlington, the county seat, but the town faced competition for county headquarters from the burgeoning river town of Ironton.
The jail was rebuilt as a stone structure in 1951, but a year later it was rendered useless after county government buildings were transferred to Ironton.
It has since served briefly as a home and changed owners many times, but for the most part the building was left abandoned.
Today, 150 years later, a group is focused on preserving the only government office remaining in Burlington and repurposing the building.
In 2001, a group Burlington residents called the Historical Jail Committee teamed up to purchase the building. The chairman of the group is Dave Milem, a pillar of the Lawrence County community who is involved with a number of other projects within the area. The vice-chairman is Betty Burcham and the secretary treasurer is Virginia Bryant.
The three have a vision of turning the building into a museum honoring the Underground Railroad. According to the lawrencecountyohio.org, one route of the Underground Railroad “ran from the banks of the Ohio River, through Macedonia Church, up through Poke Patch, and onto Northern Ohio.”
The website also says that the goal of the museum is to serve as a “historical and cultural attraction for individuals, families, school, civic and church groups, as well as other organizations.”
The committee has already received pledges of multiple different pieces of art.
Funding for the museum is completely by donation and it has been difficult to secure enough money to complete the museum. But the group remains focused on commemorating a piece of historical Burlington.