It was a stop on the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves seeking refuge in Canada, then it was transformed into a rural neighborhood populated by African-Americans and, soon after, it became a resort of sorts for Columbus’ African-American community.
Now the Lucy Depp Park Community, located in Concord Township just north of Shawnee Hills, will be recognized for its historical importance by Ohio History Connection, formerly the Ohio Historical Society.
The now diversified neighborhood will unveil its own Ohio Historical Marker on Labor Day.
“We’ve been working on this historical marker for quite a few years. We always say it’s sacred land because it’s been passed down from generation to generation,” said Theresa Hopkins-Dearing, president of the community’s civic association.
The story of Lucy Depp Park Community begins with Abram Depp, a freed Virginia slave who moved to Ohio to ply his trade as a blacksmith. He made his home on nearly 400 acres of Concord Township land he purchased, making it into the county’s first farm owned by an African-American.
He and his family turned the land into a small community, one that was used to help usher escaped slaves to freedom. The escaped slaves hid in limestone caves along the river before continuing north under the cover of darkness.
Legend has it that, despite the Fugitive Slave Act, which allowed runaway slaves in free states to be returned to their owners, none that traveled through the Depp’s Underground Railroad stop were ever returned to bondage.
In the 1920s, Depp’s daughter, Lucy, for whom the community is named, sold a portion of the property to nephew Robert Goode, who had his sights set on establishing an African-American neighborhood on the land.
Goode, in 1928, established Lucy Depp Park as a 102-acre subdivision with 720 lots, some of which sold for as little as $50.
It was not long before the peace and tranquility the area offered turned Lucy Depp Park into something of a summer resort for African-Americans from Columbus and elsewhere, once hosting world heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis and, from time to time, musicians traveling through the area.
“This area was established as kind of like a retreat,” said Hopkins-Dearing, who is married to a direct descendant of Abram Depp.
“They began to market a lot through black congregations in Columbus,” said Gwyn Stetler, who lives in the Goode house, which at one time faced possible demolition.
The historical marker, located at the intersection of Harriott Road and Frabell Drive, will be unveiled at 6 p.m. Monday. Prior to the ceremony, a picnic will be held at 4 p.m. Participants are asked to bring their own picnic basket meal and one item that can be shared with others. Musical performances will occur throughout the day.
The community, which is now about 50 percent white, has gathered for an annual Labor Day picnic since the 1970s. This year’s version takes on added meaning with the dedication of the historical marker, which was years in the making.
“For us, this is about honoring sacred tradition, but it’s also as much about contemporary community building,” said Stetler.