Pendleton County Presentation

On Tuesday March 21st Dr. Brian Hackett, Dr. Bill Landon, Dr. Sharyn Jones, and undergraduate student Sage Boyers gave a presentation on the Parker Academy at the Pendleton County Public Library. Our team was hosted by Kelly Zumwalt, Adults’ Programming and Media Services librarian, and the Pendleton County Historical & Genealogical Society. We had a wonderful opportunity to share the Parker legacy following the exhibit featured at the library back in October-December (

Photo by Kelly Zumwalt

Dr. Landon opened the presentation with an overview of the academy: how the project began and when and why the academy first opened their doors. Adding to the discussion of the historical aspects of the project, Dr. Hackett shared many inspiring, chilling, and striking stories generated by the archival collection from the academy (which is temporarily housed at NKU). He explained the story of the Parker family and some of the work they were able to accomplish with their network of collaborators in the past. Dr. Jones provided updates on the process and scope of the archaeological work at the academy. She also discussed the importance of artifact collection, community engagement, and the significance of having students in the field. Ms. Boyers shared her experience working in the lab with the artifacts from the academy and the role of artifact analysis in overall project interpretation and explanation. Ms. Boyers is currently working on comparing data generated from the artifacts with the archival information.

Photo by Kelly Zumwalt

Although each presentation was unique and covered different aspects of the project, an emphasis on transdisciplinary research was evident as this project seamlessly conjoins history, public history, anthropology, and archaeology. Following the presentation the floor was opened to questions from the audience. The audience provided many thought-provoking questions and the team continued to learn from our interactions with the public.

Special thanks to the Pendleton County Public Library, Kelly Zumwalt, The Pendleton County Historical & Genealogical Society, and others who attended.

Photo by Kelly Zumwalt

Also thanks to the Pendleton County Historical & Genealogical Society for the lovely refreshments and beautiful display!

Photo by Kelly Zumwalt


Also, check out our updates on Instagram:



Honoring Black History Month: General Henry Corbin

In honor of Black History Month we are writing about an Academy graduate that made an impact on social perceptions and the prevailing worldview in the mid-late 1800s. The Parker Academy hosted many students over the years no matter ones race or gender. Several students in particular were involved in the Civil War where they fought for freedom and social justice. While some of the Academy’s graduates became involved in careers in law, education, and craft making, one notable student went off to lead troops into victory that was Henry C. Corbin.

Photo from Library of Congress

Born on September 15, 1842 in Clermont County Ohio (the location of the Parker Academy), Henry Corbin grew up on a farm and attended Parker Academy as a preparatory school for eventually studying law elsewhere. As a student he learned that all people are created equal, including all races and genders.

During the Civil War Corbin, a white man, was made an officer in a Black regiment. At the time all Black units had white officers. It is significant that Henry was blind to racial boundaries and overlooked segregation, because his views would shape the American army into the future. Henry Corbin worked his way from the rank of private at the beginning of the war, to head General of the Army at the time of the Spanish American War. Because of his influence and important leadership positions Corbin’s opinions of black troops likely had an impact on the development of an integrated army.

After the Civil war, Corbin stayed in the army and served in many areas of the country. He led the Buffalo Soldiers, African American regiments, in Texas and Arizona. He eventually became an advisor to President Garfield and was with the President when he was shot in Cleveland. He also served as a virtual Chief of Staff for William McKinley. Finally, Corbin was the Adjutant General of the United States from 1898 to 1904. Henry Corbin passed way on September 8th, 1909 in Washington D.C., and his grave can be found in the Arlington cemetery in Virginia.


Text by Sage Boyers and Dr. Brian Hackett

Sources & Extra Links


New Exhibit at the Pendleton County Public Library!

The Pendleton County Public Library in Falmouth is displaying artifacts from Parker Academy now until mid-December! This very exciting exhibit created by Dr. Brian Hackett, Dr. William Landon, Dr. Sharyn Jones, Sage Boyers, and Peggy Brunache, features artifacts and photos from the site, as well as a collection of books organized by the library.


These artifacts show the daily life of students who attended the Parker Academy. These artifacts include ceramics, marbles, buttons, doll pieces, and more. There is a lot to learn about these items, not only what they are composed of, but also how they are used, what they symbolize and possibly where they originated from. This exhibit is a great way to learn not only about the items found, but how they relate to the students personally and their contribution to the resistance movement.

Book Display

The books, thoughtfully collected and organized by library staff, are for all ages and correlate to the themes of the project, such as the Underground Railroad, slavery, freedom and resistance. This is a great opportunity to learn more about the Underground Railroad while learning and seeing evidence from the site.

Dr. Sharyn Jones setting up the exhibit

Thank you Pendleton County Public Library for this wonderful opportunity to share the Parker Academy project and incorporating literature for more insight on this time period. Visit for more information about the library and upcoming events. Also, check out our updates on Instagram:

Parker Academy at the 2016 Underground Railroad Conference!

(Left to Right) Dr. Peggy Brunache, Dr. William Landon, Sage Boyers, Jeremy Shea, Dr. Sharyn Jones, and Dr. Brian Hackett

On Saturday October 1st, Drs.’ Sharyn Jones, Brian Hackett, William Landon, Peggy Brunache and NKU students Jeremy Shea and Sage Boyers presented at the 2016 Underground Railroad conference hosted by the Ohio River National Freedom Corridor in Maysville, Kentucky. Presenting Mapping Historical Activism: The Parker Academy Project, each panelist shared experiences working on and off site. Dr. Landon opened the presentation discussing how the project started. Asking thought provoking questions and sharing the significance of the school, he set the stage for the panel. Dr. Hackett shared the evolvement of the Parker Academy while laying out the geographical site. He shared intriguing stories from the school and historical background on New Richmond, Ohio, which gave a wonderful visual image for the academy. Jeremy discussed his involvement with the archives and shovel tests conducted on site. He shared the archaeological map of the site and how units were gridded and excavated, while discussing possible future research objectives. Expanding on strategic excavation and public outreach, Dr. Jones discussed the archaeological side of the work being done at Parker, and the information discovered from artifacts and features found. Not only learning from the site and items found, she also learns from the students studying on site and how this can be used for future public outreach. Sage went over her work in the lab, cleaning and organizing the artifacts found, while creating the database and finding production date ranges for these items. Dr. Brunache tied all of these aspects and experiences together to demonstrate the impact and importance of this academy. She expanded the findings from the site to other findings from around the world, and the connections they may have had during this time period. Followed by a Q&A from the attendees, the lessons from Parker Academy carry on further as more become inspired and excited to learn more. There is a lot to be said about this incredible institution; not only about the students, school and history, but also what it means to be human.


Special thanks to the Ohio River National Freedom Corridor and affiliates, and Maysville Community & Technical College


Visit for more information. Also, check out our updates on Instagram:

Parker Academy Project is Currently Featured at New Richmond Library



The Clermont County library in New Richmond Ohio is featuring an exhibit from the Parker Academy! On September 20th, Drs. Brian Hackett, Peggy Brunache, and Sharyn Jones gave a presentation over the findings and significance of the Parker Academy. They provided insight to the legacy of the Parker family and their students by sharing stories from journals kept by the students and through discussion of a variety of artifacts.


The exhibit displays many artifacts, including pictures from the archives, buttons, marbles, doll fragments, and more. These items offer a glimpse into the daily life of students and how they created a space of resistance and freedom. We can use these explore the students’ identity as a whole. This is an opportunity for the community to learn more about the students and different materials found at the schoolhouse and dormitory. There is so much to be said about how accepting, inviting, and all around free this academy was—we are excited to share this legacy.

We welcome feedback, comments, and questions. The exhibit will be open for the public at the New Richmond branch of the Clermont County Library for one month.

Visit for more information about location and hours. Also, check out our updates on Instagram:


My Journey Begins!

As a recipient of the 2016-2017 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, I’ve made my way to my host institution NKU to begin my research. At the top of my list was the need to establish greater geographic and historical context and better situate myself within the project. Dr. Hackett, Dr. Jones and I spent a little time on the Parker Academy site and surrounding areas. I could now visually connect the present location of Daniel Parker’s home, James K. Parker’s residence, the shared country private driveways, with that I saw in the archives and in historic maps.


During this trip, I was also fortunate enough to become reacquainted with personnel from the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (NURFC) in Cincinnati and the property guardian and current owner of James K. Parker’s home, Greg Roberts. NURFC and Mr. Roberts’ interest and commitment to aid us in facilitating opportunities to learn and teach about the school and the Parker family could not make us happier! Having willing partners to help disseminate this fascinating history is a dream of historical archaeologists in my position!

Primarily framed within a three-year timeline, the Parker Academy Project is conceptualized to be revolutionary on several levels: 1-it is inherently a multidisciplinary endeavor between anthropologists (archaeology and ethnography), historians (of Public History and philology) and geographers (GIS and remote sensing). 2- We as collaborators visualize this project as transdisciplinary in that scholars of differing disciplines come together to create intellectual property that is beyond our disciplinary perspectives. But more importantly, how can our research influence positive change in the real world? How can our contributions to public history, public archaeology, and heritage benefit contemporary cultures?

These questions of social activism were inspired by the writings of Daniel and Priscilla Parker, husband and wife co-founders of the Parker Academy school. In Daniel’s autobiography, he clearly admits that it was Priscilla’s idea (and perhaps, insistence) to establish a school that would be open to all students regardless of gender, race, or religious affiliation. The matriculation of white boys and girls was rare for that time, but to include racial integration at the grammar school level was unprecedented. For historical context: Kentucky was a slave-holding state during the antebellum period, while just across the narrow Ohio river, Ohio was not. Although, slavery was illegal in Ohio, it was not a sympathetic haven for African Americans and policies were developed to hinder black migration and the settlement of free African Americans (Middleton 2005). During the first three decades of the 19th century, racial tensions were becoming more volatile over black and white competition for jobs and general white fears over the rapid increase of free and fugitive blacks in Ohio cities. Cincinnati race riots of 1829 and 1836 violent mobs racially terrorized blacks resulting in death, destruction of black owned property or driving them out of town (Taylor 2005). Twenty-two miles east of the “Queen City”, rural communities in Clermont County may not have been as dire with many citizens openly embracing the abolitionist movement. But in general, anti-black sentiment was still prevalent and black civil rights was never a focus.

As it was in states like New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania, education for blacks in Ohio were either segregated or non-existent. The establishment of a public school system in the 1830s excluded the funding of for black students or black-only schools (McGinnis 1962; Tillman 2009). Our analysis of Parker family archives shows us with incontestable deduction that education and anti-racist ideology was as deeply entrenched to the Parkers’ beliefs as their Christian faith. While friends, neighbors, and like-minded members of the community sent their white children to be educated alongside blacks, many deeply opposed their radical ideas and thus lost potential financial supporters. However, this never hampered or hindered their undertaking. The Parker’s historical activism to transcend racism and sexist systems went beyond contemporary strategies of abolitionism by rethinking society’s long-held trends of social stratification based on inequalities. Priscilla, in an 1847 letter to members of her Baptist community, passionately implores them to take up the fight of anti-slavery resistance.
Note these two passages as an example:
…I, as a humble member, think it right to speak of these things and try to have a coming up to the standard of our holy religion there are great and flagrant sins… We have declared before the world that we are Christ’s people, and that He has made our spirits free from the bondage of sin and death. Then why should we fear to make an expression against this vile bondage that subjugates thousands of our poor brethren and sisters soul and body to the evil dominion of a fellow mortal.
…I feel that I have not done all my duty heretofore, and I cannot rest without making one more attempt knowing that our position is of great importance as maintaining the purity of religion or otherwise this deep stain of slavery is upon many of the churches if they are without an Association. I feel pained that any professing the same religion should be thus guilty and I believe that lukewarmness on such a subject renders us guilty we ought to be busy, it is our Christian labor, in most earnest labors to drive the disgraceful practice not only from the churches but from the face of the earth.

Priscilla Parker 1847 letter sample

The Parkers were contrarians! The historical activism of this remarkable family compels me to consider how do I move from the usual underlying goal of public archaeology that merely promotes stewardship and increase public support for the preservation of archaeological sites to contemporary activism for social justice.
The journey begins!

Post written by Peggy Brunache, 2016-2017 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow


Selected Bibliography
McGinnis, Frederick Alphonso
1962 The Education of Negroes in Ohio. Curliss Printing Co., Blanchester, Ohio.

Middleton, Stephen
2005 The Black Laws: Race and the Legal Process in Early Ohio. Ohio University Press, Athens, OH.

Taylor, Nikki
2005 Frontiers of Freedom. Cincinnati’s Black Community, 1802-1868. Ohio University Press, Athens, OH.

Tillman, Linda C.
2009 The SAGE Handbook of African American Education. Sage Publications, Thousand Oaks, California.

The Donaldson Family, Friends of Freedom, Friends of the Parkers

Slavery was, and continues to be part of the modern world; from 19th century plantations in the American South, to sex trafficking, which is only one of slavery’s many recent manifestations.  Yet, there are, and always have always been people, moved by their belief in the equality of all people, who have fought against slavery and those who perpetuate and profit from it.  In our own region, the Greater Cincinnati area, there are many such people, and we can find them by exploring local abolitionist efforts and free black communities of the past. These histories have potential to inform and bring inspiration to the struggle for social justice in the contemporary society.

The village of New Richmond, Ohio is becoming well known for the work of the Parker family, the Academy which they founded, the enlightened students who they trained, and the surrounding community that was full of like-minded people. For example, the Underground Railroad network was alive and well in and around New Richmond in the mid-1800s, and the Parkers were a part of it.

The Parker family’s abolitionist kinship network included another local family that was active in its support of the Underground Railroad; and that family contributed a great deal to the fight for human equality. Their efforts aimed to bring an end to slavery—and we know them as the Donaldsons.

property and Donaldson House - 17
An old photo with a view of the Donaldson home and property, the Ohio River can be seen in the background.

The Donaldson home in New Richmond still stands and it is a landmark for antebellum resistance efforts.  Mr. Thomas Donaldson (1805-1894), a Welsh immigrant, a business owner, and a resident of New Richmond married Susanna Parker, the daughter of Daniel and Priscilla (Pollitt 2012). Their union and friendships brought these two abolitionist families together.

outdoor fire place Donaldson House - 24
Original Donaldson-era fireplace from an outbuilding near the main house.

Specifically, Thomas Donaldson helped to facilitate the publication of the antislavery newspaper, The Philanthropist in New Richmond. Moreover as an owner of a mercantile business, he made efforts to sell only free labor goods. While he ultimately gave up on this due to the cost and difficulty of obtaining what we would now call “fair trade items,” Thomas Donaldson continued to organize and support an extensive and successful underground railroad operation.

view of Ohio River and KY Donaldson House - 11
A view of the Ohio River and Kentucky from the Donaldson home. This is where Thomas Donaldson would signal people on the KY to cross the river to freedom, according to family records.

Some of the Parker Academy Research team (including faculty and students) were invited to visit the Donaldson family home by its current owner. The photos below act as a window into the past, and they illustrate how the Donaldson’s and Parker’s legacies live on in the present…

The photo on the left shows the original Donaldson fire place in the living room. This feature is still in tact in the Donaldson home.

winter kitchen fire place Donaldson House - 10
The Donaldson winter kitchen with the original hardware in the fire place.
Audubon wallpaper Donaldson House - 4
The Audubon bird wall paper is still in excellent condition in the Donaldson House’s entry hallway.


Reference Cited:

Pollitt, Bethany Richter 2012. The Antislavery Movement in Clermont County. MA Thesis, Wright State University. Document available at:



 Text by Sharyn Jones and William Landon