UPPER ARLINGTON, OH (WCMH) — Two local authors are spreading the word about Upper Arlington’s hidden history.
Upper Arlington was founded in the early 1900s, by real estate developers Ben and King Thompson. But years before, Diane Kelly Runyon and Kim Shoemaker Starr say the area was home to former slave Pleasant Litchford.
“It was amazing to find the story,” said Starr. “Amazing to bring this out because Pleasant Litchford was an amazing, wonderful, talented, kind, loving man.”
After years of research, Starr and Runyon’s wrote “Secrets Under the Parking Lot,” a book detailing the story of Litchford, a freed slave from Virginia, who moved to Columbus in the 1820s with his wife and four children.
The family settled in Perry Township, or what is now considered to be the City of Upper Arlington. Litchford became a respected blacksmith, and amassed a fortune over his lifetime.
“He was the fourth largest land owner when he passed away,” said Starr. Part of that land included half an acre for a burial plot, that now lies under a parking lot.
“So I was looking up all this information,” said Starr, “And I found a paragraph that said, ‘A negro family cemetery was on the land they built the Upper Arlington High School.'”
Starr said research shows that in order to make room for the school, the bodies in Litchford’s plot were uprooted and moved to unmarked graves in either Union or Greenlawn Cemeteries in the 1950’s.
All of this, information Starr and Runyon believe should be incorporated into local history lessons.
“There was a very rich black history in Perry Township, which has kind of been glossed over,” said Runyon. “And it’s really important that we see people as they are, and the contributions they have made. We just don’t want the history to be erased.”