St. Mark’s, Columbus honors formerly enslaved landowner

St. Mark’s, Columbus honors formerly enslaved landowner

St. Mark’s, Columbus honors formerly enslaved landowner 500 333 Episcopalians in Connection

The Rev. Vicki Zust, center, with members of the Upper Arlington School Board. The board members from left to right are: Nidhi Satiani, President Lori Trent, Vice President Jenny McKenna and Lou Sauter. Photo courtesy of Upper Arlington Schools.

The Rev. Vicki Zust, rector of St. Mark’s, Columbus, presented a $1,000 check to the Upper Arlington School Board at its April meeting on behalf of the congregation. The donation, made from the Rector’s Discretionary Fund with the unanimous approval of the vestry, was a contribution toward the construction of a public plaza to recognize Pleasant Litchford, a formerly enslaved blacksmith, whose land holdings included the property on which St. Mark’s is located.

Litchford was born into slavery in Virginia and came to central Ohio around 1830. By 1849 he owned 227 acres of land in Perry Township. The land today includes St. Mark’s, Tremont School, Northam Park, St. Agatha’s Roman Catholic Church and Upper Arlington High School.

The land on which Upper Arlington High School sits at one time included the Litchford family cemetery, the only cemetery available to African American residents of Columbus in the mid 1800’s. The majority of the graves were relocated when the original Upper Arlington High School was built in 1957, but when construction of the new Upper Arlington High School began in 2019, several bodies were discovered under what had been the high school parking lot. This discovery led to community-wide discussion about the history of the property and Pleasant Litchford’s largely forgotten role in the history of Upper Arlington.

Litchford Plaza is a joint effort of the Upper Arlington School District and the City of Upper Arlington to honor the memory and contributions of Pleasant Litchford. St. Mark’s is the first group outside of the city and school district to contribute to the plaza. Construction of the plaza, just south of the new high school, is expected to begin this summer.

The Rev. Vicki Zust is the rector of St. Mark’s, Columbus.