Now on the road to freedom, Peter bade his family good-bye and promised to return for them. Setting out for Cincinnati, Ohio, Friedman made arrangements with his brother Levi to assist them.
Since the passage of the Northwest Ordinance Ohio, which prohibited the expansion of slavery, Ohio became the designated state for abolitionist activities such as issuing of Certificates of Freedom and the establishments of settlements for emancipated slaves.
Peter was no longer a piece of property. In Ohio, he was a free man. After forty years of enslavement, he was free. He was joyous – at least until he learned of the Ohio Black Laws which were designed to re-enslave freed blacks. Southern Ohio was a dangerous place for free blacks; they were threatened with fines, arrest and/or re- enslavement for vagrancy, assembling in groups of more than seven, traveling at night without a pass, traveling during the day without a contract of labor or license from the police, breaking curfew, being absent from work, seditious speech, insulting gestures or acts.
One of the first and largest settlements in Ohio, The Gist Settlements, were established by Samuel Gist a former indenture servant and wealthy Englishman. He established the Gist Settlements in 1810 near Ripley Ohio. The catalyst for his action was a desire to free slaves from his estranged daughter, Mary Anderson, an heiress and wealthy Virginia planter. The legal war culminated when Mr. Gist threatened, in his will, to bequeath Mary a mere shilling if she did not honor his wishes and emancipate her slaves. In addition to emancipation, Gist stipulated that settlements include churches and schools. He ordered that she give each a plot of land.
His will was met with political resistance which prompted Samuel Gist to wage the most publicized legal war against slavery prior to Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation. In 1804, Gist hired the most learnt dream team of his day, led by William Wickham, (known for representing Aaron Burr, Alexander Hamilton's murderer). Executing Samuel Gist's will, Wickham purchased over 2000 acres of land in Brown and Highland Counties. At the time, this represented the largest recorded transaction dedicated to slave emancipation. The Gist Settlements proved vital in the development and operation of the Underground Railroad. This large haven for free African Americans attracted fugitives seeking temporary asylum on their journey to freedom.
To Learn more about Peter's Journey listen to Dot Wilsey, director of The Abolitionist Hall Of Fame, located in Peterboro,NY. Peter traveled to Peterboro and met with abolitionist and philanthropist Gerrit Smith. Mr. Smith helped Peter raise the money to purchase his family.