Levi Coffin was a well-known abolitionist, and a very important individual to the success of the Underground Railroad. Dictionary.com describes an abolitionist as a person who tries to stop or get rid of any law or practice that is harmful to the society (“Abolitionist”). Levi Coffin was that and much more. He and most of the people involved in the Quaker religion believed that all men were equal and it was his divine purpose to do everything in his power to help. Levi took it a bit further than most. He was exposed to slavery at a young age and was taught by his family not to support it; he took those teachings and applied them to various stages of his life; including his young adulthood, marriage and retirement (Ludwig).
Levi Coffin was born, the only boy of seven children, in Greensboro, North Carolina on October the 28, 1798, to Levi Coffin and Prudence Williams Coffin (“Levi Coffin”). As a child growing up in North Carolina, Levi was continually surrounded by slavery, although his family did not join in this practice. Their family had taken the philosophies of John Woolman to heart; he had very strong opinions about slavery. Because the family did not engage in supporting slavery, Coffin was required to labor on his father’s farm; therefore he received little formal education. “According to his own account, he became an abolitionist at age seven when he asked a slave who was in a chain gang why he was bound.”(“Levi Coffin”, Wikipedia). An experience by the side of the road brought to pass Levi’s sympathy and strong hatred to any injustice (Ludwig). Levi was only about the age of 15 when he became passionately involved in the Underground Railroad. He did not have any large roles, but all people begin from somewhere. Levi Coffins was taking food to those slaves that his family was helping to escape. (“Levi Coffin,” Wikipedia) By 1821 Coffin and his cousin Vestal Coffin had organized a school where slaves could be taught, from the Bible, on Sunday afternoons with permission from their masters. Later the masters of the slaves, that were attending, began to oppose the school and it was then liquidated (Powell). Shortly after in 1822 Levi followed his brother-in-law Benjamin White to Indiana. The persecution of Quakers had become unbearable in the Southern Territories. He lived with Mr. White for about a year and then returned to North Carolina. “He was convinced that Quakers and slavery could not coexist and decided that he himself would move to Indiana” (“Levi Coffin”, Wikipedia).
Fig. 1. “Levi Coffin.” Wikipedia Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation Inc. 8 Dec 2011. Web. 16 Jan 2012.
In 1824, Coffin married Catherine White at the Hopewell Church in Guildford County. Four years later in 1826 they moved to Newport, Indiana, which is now Fountain city (Powell). The couple’s move to Indiana was postponed when Catherine became pregnant with their first child, Jesse, the first of six children to come. The Coffins opened a general store and Levi...