Authors Kim Starr and Diane Runyon have brought the history of one of our former farming families into the mainstream with the publication of their book Secrets Under the Parking Lot. Pleasant Litchford, an African-American and former slave who bought his freedom from his master (who was also his father), migrated from Virginia to this area of Ohio. He purchased land in Perry Township sometime before 1842 (the name “Litchford” appears on a 1842 map) which he owned until his death in 1879.
It was 1913 that the Thompson brothers purchased of 840 acres of land south of current-day Lane Avenue from James T. Miller to begin the Upper Arlington community. It wasn’t until the 1940s and 1950s that Pleasant’s land, then owned by others, was annexed by the City of UA, expanding our footprint. One section of this newly-acquired property was designated for the new high school (at 1650 Ridgeview Road), and our community approved the corresponding bond issue in 1954.
This Dispatch article from 1955 reveals the discovery of a graveyard on this land and the steps taken during the high school’s construction at the time to reinter the bodies found at the site. This event is also documented in our two history books - History of Upper Arlington (from the 1970s and reprinted in the 1980s) on p.79 and A Cherished Past, A Golden Future: Celebrating the First One Hundred Years of Upper Arlington (2017) on p. 64.
Now, as our new high school is built on this same site, we are in partnership with Upper Arlington Schools, the City of UA, the authors and other interested parties to learn and share more about Pleasant’s life and impact on the Perry Township community and beyond, specifically through the installation of historical markers and the documentation of accepted facts. This will be a multi-year process as the construction possibly reveals more layers to the story.
—> See an obituary for Pleasant Litchford at Daily Ohio State Journal, 1879-04-16, p.1 (bottom of 5th column, continues top of 6th column).