Historical research using old newspapers fascinates but also frustrates me. Had you read the March 5th, 1936 edition of The Cazenovia Republican you would have learned that the historic Gerrit Smith mansion in Peterboro, New York, burned to the ground two days earlier. [Read more…] about The Destruction of Gerrit Smith’s Mansion
Gerrit Smith Estate
The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will host a guided walk on Saturday, April 23rd, looking at the trees, plants, soil, ecosystems, depressions, and many other aspects of the landscape of the historic property. [Read more…] about Gerrit Smith Estate Guided Spring Walk
The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historical Landmark will hold its annual commemoration of Gerrit Smith’s birthday on Saturday, March 5th, with guest speaker Paul Miller and a showing of his film Searching for Timbuctoo.
In 2015 Miller began filming in Peterboro and Lake Placid to capture the history of Gerrit Smith’s 1846 “scheme of justice and benevolence” of giving 120,000 acres of land to 3000 Black Americans so that they would be eligible to vote in New York State. These land grants helped establish a pioneering Black settlement called Timbuctoo which is located near present day Lake Placid in North Elba, Essex County, NY. Timbuctoo brought abolitionists John Brown and Gerrit Smith together in their legacy fight against slavery. [Read more…] about Searching for Timbuctoo Documentary Showing in Peterboro
In his classic The Souls of Black Folk (1903), the famous activist, sociologist, and historian W. E. B. Du Bois, tells of how Alexander Crummell told Du Bois that he had experienced “three years of perfect equality” under the tutelage of Rev. Beriah Green when a student at Oneida Institute in Upstate New York.
Crummell, along with Henry Highland Garnet and Thomas Sidney, found an educational haven at Green’s school. They had been admitted to the Noyes Academy in Canaan, New Hampshire, but outraged whites used teams of oxen to drag the academy building away. Crummell and his friends then journeyed to Whitesboro, New York, and enrolled in Green’s school. Du Bois said of Green that “only [a] crank and an abolitionist” would have dared to accept students of color such as Crummell at a time when African Americans were excluded from opportunities for higher education. [Read more…] about Beriah Green, Oneida Institute and Education as Liberation
One of the familiar attacks on John Brown (and by extension his anti-slavery legacy) involves his failed business ventures and accusations that he was a swindler and a drifter, roaming from place to place – only briefly and uneventfully staying in North Elba, Essex County, NY.
“Over the years before his Kansas escapade Brown had been a drifter, horse thief and swindler,” Columbia University historian John Garraty once wrote. Garraty served as the president of the Society of American Historians and was co-author of the high school history textbook The American Nation (he died in 2007).
A closer look at Brown and the his family, however, reveals an experience typical of many Americans, then and today, and the importance of North Elba in Brown’s plans for a raid into Virginia. [Read more…] about The Last Days of John Brown: North Elba
John Brown has often come down to us as a lone nut, bent on an suicidal mission, but this is far from the truth.
Brown was part of a larger movement to free slaves that grew with passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 (which required the return of escaped slaves to their masters with all its potential for torture and death at their hands) and the large Underground Railroad movement.
It’s little understood that Brown was intimate with northern politicians, industrialists, ministers, and folks from all walks of life, including the leading intellectuals of the era – the Transcendentalists. [Read more…] about The Last Days of John Brown: The Secret Six
The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will host Norm Dann who will present a series of eight programs on Abolition, the Underground Railroad, Women’s Rights, and Optimism, titled The Gerrit and Ann Smith Family of Peterboro NY and the Crusade for Human Rights, on Wednesdays beginning August 4th and ending September 22nd. [Read more…] about The Smiths’ Crusade for Human Rights Lecture Series
The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will host the 11th Annual Peterboro Emancipation Day on Saturday, August 7th, commemorating emancipation from slavery in the 19th century. [Read more…] about 11th Annual Peterboro Emancipation Day August 7th
This year we are celebrating New York State’s acquisition of John Brown Farm 125 years ago. And it’s good that we are.
But let us also recall a 200th anniversary linked to the John Brown Farm – a connection that has particular importance this year as we witness a voter suppression spree around our country. Two hundred years ago, that was us – our New York ancestors – enacting explicit rules to keep blacks from voting.
We are now seeing a wave of voter suppression efforts in states controlled by Republican legislators fearful of losing their majority power. Well, guess what? That’s exactly what was going on here in good old New York back in the early 1800s. We New Yorkers apparently were leaders in voter suppression. We even put it into the state constitution! That’s more than the states are doing today. [Read more…] about NY’s Voter Suppression History & John Brown’s Farm
Members of the FreeThemWalk team arrived in Peterboro on Monday, May 31st to tour the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. The Team started its 900 mile walk in Lynchburg, VA, and plans to finish the walk in Buffalo on June 19th, in time for the Juneteenth Festival.
The FreeThemWalk Team follows many of the Underground Railroad paths of the network that provided aid and safe houses to enslaved peoples heading north to escape slavery in the south. Hundreds of freedom seekers found support and escape in Upstate New York the first half of the 19th Century. [Read more…] about FreeThemWalkers Travel Underground Railroad