In his remarks, Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II described Smith as providing consistent support for the activities of her family members in the 19th Century human rights movements. Smith worked with her husband Gerrit Smith for the abolition of slavery, partnered with her daughter Elizabeth Smith Miller and granddaughter Anne Fitzhugh Miller for women’s rights, and supported her son Greene in environmental conservation efforts. Bruchey explained that Ann Fitzhugh was born in 1805 in Hagerstown and was raised in the slave-holding Fitzhugh family with the aid Harriet Sims, an African American nanny.
In 1799 Ann’s father William Frisby Fitzhugh and two Hagerstown business associates – Charles Carroll and Nathanial Rochester – began to investigate the developmental potential of a water power mill site on the Genesee River in upstate New York. The three purchased one hundred acres in November of 1803. After receiving title to the property in 1811, Rochester moved to New York to conduct surveying while Carroll and Fitzhugh stayed in Maryland until after the end of the War of 1812. In 1817 Fitzhugh sold his Maryland property and sixty-one slaves, and the family moved to New York where he, Rochester, and Carroll helped found the city of Rochester.
Ann married Gerrit Smith in 1822 and moved to Peterboro. The Smith home was an active Underground Railroad site and haven for social reformers. At invitation, the inaugural meeting of the New York State Antislavery Society was held in Peterboro in 1835. In 1841 Gerrit and Ann Smith purchased the freedom of the Harriet Sims Russell family of seven slaves. The Russell family came to Peterboro where they were employed, and where some descendants live today.
Norman K. Dann PhD, Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro, an author of several books on the Smith family, was completing his biography on Ann when learning of Ann’s dedication ceremony. He attended the ceremony and researched the Fitzhugh family in two Hagerstown cemeteries. His book God, Gerrit, and Guidance: The Life of Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith will be available online.
Photo of Ann Smith’s Dedication Plaque provided.