Good morning and welcome to another #WheelingGauntWednesday!
This post will be the first in a series of blog posts sharing the known history of Wheeling Gaunt and telling of his legacy within the Village of Yellow Springs.
In this post we will begin a brief history of what we think that we know about Wheeling Gaunt:
While the birthdate of Wheeling Gaunt remains a topic of question, we do know that he was born a slave in Kentucky. In 1838 Gaunt married another slave by the name of Amanda Smith Knight and through Gaunt's own wit and will her was able to eventually purchase his own freedom before eventually purchasing Amanda's freedom as well. Once free, the couple eventually made their way across the Kentucky boarder into Ohio as many freed and runaway slaves did during chattel slavery in the United States. The Gaunts' are documented as having moved to Yellow Springs (in Southern Ohio) around the year of 1864 according to tax records in the area.
The Gaunt's tale of migration was a familiar one to those who had lived under the institution of chattel slavery in the United States. While Ohio might not have been the utopia that many had hoped it would be, the state still offered a security that they would not have had in slave states. Ohio and the Ohio River were often seen as a beacon of hope, a milestone that held the promise of better life, a chance for freedom. In a quote from Henry Bibb who was a fugitive Kentucky slave in 1849, we can catch a glimpse of how those who had survived slavery might have viewed the Ohio River in their own eyes:
"Sometimes standing on the Ohio River bluff, looking over on a free State, and as far north as my eyes could see, I have eagerly gazed upon the blue sky of the free North… . that I might soar away to where there is no slavery; no clinking of chains, no captives, no lacerating of backs, no parting of husbands and wives; and where man ceases to be the property of his fellow man."
Keep an eye out for our following #WheelingGauntWednesdays on social media, to keep up with the progress if the Wheeling Gaunt Bronze Sculpture Project as well as the following posts about Gaunt's history and legacy in Yellow Springs and beyond!
**The history of Wheeling Gaunt has been provided by accumulative sources, such as S.Deal, P. Adams, D. Bailey, Thomas Gaunt, P. Jackson, P. Matthews, R. & S. Parker, and S. Sanders.**