From NKAA, Notable Kentucky African Americans Database (main entry)

Gragston, Arnold

(born: 1840  -  died: 1938) 

Gragston was born Christmas Day on the Jack Tabb Plantation in Mason County, KY. Tabb allowed Gragston and other male slaves to visit nearby farms, and it was while Gragston was out "courtin'" that he received his first offer to become an Underground Railroad conductor by taking a pretty girl across the river to Ripley, OH, where she would be met by other conductors. That was in 1860, and for the next four years Arnold would carry slaves by boat across the Ohio River, making three or four trips a month from Dover (Mason County), KY, to Ripley. All during this time, Gragston remained in slavery, never receiving any kind of payment for helping others to freedom. His days as a conductor ended in 1864, the night he was pursued after returning to the Kentucky side of the river. He dared not return to the Tabb Plantation for fear of being caught; Gragston hid in the woods and fields, sometimes sleeping in the trees and in hay piles. The riverbank was being guarded, so Gragston waited for the right opportunity, then he and his wife slipped across the Ohio River to Ripley. They eventually moved on to Detroit, MI, where they remained as their family grew to include 10 children and 31 grandchildren. For more see Arnold Gragston in the Gutenberg EBook, Slave Narratives, vol. 3, Florida Narratives; and "Bracken County marker to honor abolitionist, slave," Kentucky Post, 06/21/2002.

Kentucky County & Region

Read about Mason County, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Kentucky Place (Town or City)

Read about Dover, Kentucky in Wikipedia.

Outside Kentucky Place Name

Item Relations

Cite This NKAA Entry:

“Gragston, Arnold,” Notable Kentucky African Americans Database, accessed April 17, 2024,

Last modified: 2018-01-05 02:35:08