First Annual Scipio Smith Day in Lancaster, Ohio

On Monday, May 29, 2023, the City of Lancaster, Ohio celebrated the First Annual Scipio Smith Day.

Scipio Smith, a freed slave who was emancipated on May 29, 1821, was the first black person to engage in business in the City of Lancaster. He was a tinsmith and owned a shop on Main Street in downtown Lancaster. Scipio also founded the A.M.E. Church which provided worship and education services to Lancaster’s black citizens. He was recognized by the city on this day for his contributions to the community and his historic life.

It was a gorgeous day for the outdoor celebration that took place at Allen Chapel. Around 100 people attended the event which featured speakers, music, a proclamation, and a street sign unveil. The Allen Chapel Choir began the program with a beautiful rendition of the National Anthem. Throughout the event, the choir entertained the crowd with songs.

Pastor Evan Saunders of Allen Chapel delivered the opening remarks and prayer. Author Hollie Saunders provided the background and history of Scipio Smith. Lancaster City Service Safety Director Paul Martin read the Mayor’s proclamation and shared plans to add “Scipio Smith Street” as a secondary name for Walnut Street from High Street to Mt. Pleasant Avenue.

Fairfield County Heritage Association Marketing Director Michael Johnson unveiled the new street sign that was installed in front of the church. Also in attendance was Todd Kleismit, the Executive Director of the Ohio Commission for America 250. America 250 is the commission that is responsible for deciding how the country will celebrate its 250th anniversary in 2026. Kleismit has been raising awareness about the upcoming anniversary by attending historic events around the state. He feels that Scipio Smith’s story is very significant and inspiring.

Michael Johnson has also requested that a statue of Scipio Smith be commissioned and installed in downtown Lancaster. He has spoken with different organizations about the process and is excited to see the project take shape. The location for the statue would be next to The Ohio Glass Museum which is the approximate location of where Scipio’s shop once stood. A statue fund will be set-up soon so that people can begin donating.

Publisher’s Note: Since the publication of this article, the Fairfield County Heritage Association has succeeded in creating a fund to create a statue honoring Scipio Smith, the first black business owner and founder of the A.M.E. Church on Walnut Street in Lancaster, Ohio. The statue is proposed to be located next to the Ohio Glass Museum on Main Street, site of the tinsmith shop Scipio Smith owned. If you are able, please consider donating to the fund. All donations are tax deductible.


You can also donate by contacting the Fairfield County Foundation at (740) 654-8451
or the Fairfield County Heritage Association at 740-654-9923


Filed under: Community, Histories & Mysteries, Life, News, People
Michael R. Johnson, marketing director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association based in Lancaster, Ohio.

By Michael Johnson

Lancaster native Michael Johnson is the Marketing Director for the Fairfield County Heritage Association and serves as editor of the Heritage Quarterly – a magazine highlighting local history. Michael is a member of the Sherman Rotary and the Lancaster Fairfield Chamber of Commerce’s Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Committee. His bachelor’s degree in history education was earned at Ohio University. Michael is married to Tara Johnson and has two children, Isaac and Mia.