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Events

Underground Railroad Itinerary

Calvary Church in Hagaman – Historic Marker

15 Church Street, Hagaman

The Montgomery County Anti-Slavery Society was organized at the Presbyterian church (now the Calvary Reformed Church) in Hagaman in 1836.  This was the county’s first official stance against the institution of slavery.  Many local abolitionists were instrumental in organizing this society.  A marker is placed outside of the church signifying its importance in the anti-slavery movement.

Green Hill Cemetery in Amsterdam – Self-guided Walking Tour

23 Cornell Street, Amsterdam

Abolitionism and African American Life in Amsterdam: Amsterdam, referred to by some as “the abolition hole,” was a hotbed of activity in the anti-slavery movement that swept the country in the years leading up to the Civil War.  Many of the local prominent residents participated in the cause to assist those seeking a life of freedom.  The area’s black residents also participated in the fight to end slavery with the Civil War.  A number of those participants, black and white, have their final resting place here at Green Hill Cemetery.

Canajoharie – Self-guided Walking Tour

Begin on Cliff Street, Canajoharie

The walking tour focuses on the sites associated with the African American residents and the anti-slavery movement in the Village of Canajoharie.  The brochure identifies sites with the village, those still existing and those that are gone with the passage of time.

James Mereness  – Historic Marker at Ames Museum

611 Latimer Hill Road, Ames

Dr. James Mereness participated and organized anti-slavery meetings for the western part of Montgomery County for many years prior to the Civil War.  Reports indicate that fugitive slaves seeking freedom from their lives in servitude sought shelter in Mereness’ home as part of the Underground Railroad network.  Dr. Mereness died in 1872, at which time, he continued his interests in improving the lives of African Americans through bequests to educate them.

The top floor of the 1835 Ames Museum, used as an academy from 1839 to 1959, houses many local artifacts featuring Ames’ hey-day as the hops-growing capital of 19th Century America. This building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

For copies of the Green Hill Cemetery and Canajoharie tour maps and more information on the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and African American Life in Montgomery County project, please contact the Montgomery County Department of History & Archives at (518) 853-8186.

African American Life & Abolitionist Movement in Canajoharie

A Walking Tour of Canajoharie

African American Life and the Abolitionist Movement in Canajoharie

Henry & Mary Miller (Cliff St.): Both born into slavery, Henry and Mary (Garlock) Miller were emancipated with the 1827 law.  They lived on this site where they raised a large family.

Peter & Eliza (Miller) Skinner (Cliff St.): Peter and Eliza Skinner represent the successful integration of many African Americans, born of enslaved parents, into the community life of these Mohawk Valley villages.  Both Peter and Eliza became property owners and successful business people in Canajoharie.

African Methodist Episcopal (A.M.E.) Zion Church (Cliff St.): Five African American men, representing African Americans who had been meeting for some time in a local church assembled to incorporate the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church at Canajoharie.  They purchased a plot of land on Cliff Street, just east of the home of Peter and Eliza Skinner.  Whether or not they actually built a church there is not known.  This church incorporated in 1857.  The denomination was synonymous with notable abolitionists such as Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and Rev. Jermaine Loguen.  Rev. Richard Eastup, a freedom seeker himself, was appointed to oversee the Canajoharie mission church i 1862.

Charles Walter & Frances (Skinner) Denning (Cliff St.): Built sometime after 1868, this house was the home of Walter and Frances Denning, African Americans, by 1905.  Walter Denning was a Civil War veteran who became a prominent mason and brick worker in Canajoharie, who most likely used limestone quarried near this house.  Denning’s father actively shepherded freedom seekers from his home near Elmira.  Frances Skinner Denning grew up with her parents in a house just east on Cliff Street.

Philip Phillips (corner of Wheeler & Otsego Streets): As the generation of African Americans who were once enslaved, Philip and Eunice Phillips represent the modest success that steady work and home ownership provided to people who spanned the experience of both slavery and freedom in the Mohawk Valley in the mid-nineteenth century.

Canajoharie Academy (Otsego St.): As headmistress of the female department, Susan B. Anthony taught from 1846-1849 in the building that stood on this spot.  One cousin called her “the smartest woman in Canajoharie.”  Here she began her public career as a reformer, when she gave her first lecture for temperance on March 2, 1849.  She resigned in 1849 to move to Rochester, where she lived with her parents and began her career in abolitionism and women’s rights.  The current structure was designed by Archimedes Russell and built in 1892.

Ehle Block (Rock & Cliff Streets): erected 1876 by Eliza Ehle replacing an earlier home that had burned; housed various businesses including Peter Skinner’s barbershop and his wife Eliza Skinner’s ice cream parlor.

Reformed Church (Front St.): Like many churches in Montgomery County, European Americans dominated this congregation, but many African Americans  were also members.  Philip Phillips and his wife Eunice Van Horn Phillips were both members of this church; Philip Phillips was also sexton.

United Methodist Church: organized in 1828 in Palatine Bridge; built on this site in 1841; new structure erected after 1915 fire; had antislavery lectures including former slave Henry Walton Bibb. Many black families had their children baptized here.

John C. Smith: As a teacher and later President of the Canajoharie National Bank, Smith was one of those Canajoharie residents who, in 1850, signed and sent a petition to Congress denouncing slavery and forbade further admittance of any slave state to the Union.

Shaper Block (northwest corner of Church & Mohawk Streets): first building burned 1891; housed the barbershop of James Teboet.  The second building on this site, constructed of brick, burned and was razed in 1973.

George & Eleanor (Read) Caldwell (Mohawk St.): Susan B. Anthony first stayed at the home of her cousin Eleanor (Read) and George Caldwell during her tenure at the Canajoharie Academy.  As a conservative Democrat, George Caldwell introduced Anthony to local and state wide political debates, helping Anthony to define her own commitment to abolitionism.

James & Sarah Teboet/John & Mary Cromwell (Mohawk St.): James Teboet learned the skill to be a barber and practiced his trade in the Sharper building just down the street to the east of his home.  John Cromwell, residing in the same house, learned to play the violin while a slave in Schoharie County.  Hi s orchestra was well known throughout the Mohawk Valley playing at many halls and events.

Chester “Bromley” & Lizzie (Phillips) Hoke (Mohawk St.): Bromley Hoke and Elizabeth Phillips Hoke represent the integral part of that African Americans, descendants of grandparents who had been locally enslaved, played in the economic and social development of the Mohawk Valley, as well as the close ties of family and neighborhood that sustained African American families as they moved from slavery into freedom.

George Gilbert (Mohawk St.): Gilbert worked as a teamster and served as trustee for the A.M.E. Zion Church during its incorporation and its dissolution.  Also a member of the St. Mark’s Lutheran Church, Gilbert was a prominent member of Canajoharie’s black residents.

For a copy of the Canajoharie tour map and more information on the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and African American Life in Montgomery County project, please contact the Montgomery County Department of History & Archives at (518) 853-8186.

 

Abolitionism and African American Life in Amsterdam

A Tour of Green Hill Cemetery

Amsterdam, referred to by some as “the abolition hole,”* was a hotbed of activity in the anti-slavery movement that swept the country in the years leading up to the Civil War.  Many of the local prominent residents participated in the cause to assist those seeking a life of freedom.  The area’s black residents also participated in the fight to end slavery with the Civil War.  A number of those participants, black and white, have their final resting place here at Green Hill Cemetery.

Abolitionism and African American Life in Amsterdam

Bruce Anderson (1845-1922): Believed to have been born in Mexico, Bruce Anderson was one of the few African Americans to have been awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his service in the Civil War, participating in the assault on Fort Fisher in North Carolina.  Julia Anderson (1858-1914), Bruce’s second wife, was descended from slaves.

Charles (?-1903) & John Ceasar (1843-1906): Longtime residents of Amsterdam who may have been descended from those who were locally held in slavery.  The Ceasar family attended the A.M.E. Zion Church on Cedar Street.

Helen Blood (1830-1901) & Henry Blood (?-1876): Longtime residents of Amsterdam.  Henry may have been born into slavery.

Ellis Clizbe (1797-1878): Abolitionist and lecturer; Member of the Eastern New York Anti-Slavery Society and founding member of Amsterdam and Montgomery County Anti-Slavery Societies.  Clizbe sheltered fugitive slaves at his Rockton farm.  His views on slavery rooted in his Christian faith, Clizbe organized anti-slavery meetings across New York State.

Chandler Bartlett (1800-1884): Abolitionist; operated a shoe store on Main Street in Amsterdam from 1820 until after 1870.  Bartlett reportedly sheltered fugitive slaves in his store before sending them on their journey to freedom.

George Washington J. Brownson (1800-1867): Prominent resident of Amsterdam; broom corn grower/manufacturer and enthusiastic abolitionist” who assisted Chandler Bartlett with sending “freedom seekers” along to Canada.

John/James Dennis (1843-1914): Born in Rockton, Dennis was likely a neighbor of Ellis Clizbe.  He was a Civil War veteran of the 31st NY Regiment US Colored Troops and member of the E.S. Young Post Grand Army of the Republic.

Benjamin H. Dennis (1844-1872): Born in Rock City section of Amsterdam, Dennis was likely a neighbor of Ellis Clizbe.  He served as a Private in Co. I of the 31st NY Regt. of the US Colored Troops.

Amos King (?-1908): King settled in the North Bush section of the Town of Caroga in Fulton County before enlisting and serving in Co. G of the famed 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment where he fought valiantly in many battles including Olustee.

James H. Bronson (1826-1909): Broom manufacturer and member of Green Hill Cemetery Association board; abolitionist who helped to establish St. Paul’s A.M.E. Zion Church on Cedar Street near his home and place of business.

Henry M. Neff (?-?): Along with Ellis Clizbe and others, Neff signed an “Action on Slavery” in 1849 address to the Presbyterian Church refusing an ecclesiastical authority that allowed slaveholders as members.

John Kellogg (1826-1911): Industrialist and prominent resident of Amsterdam, Kellogg was part of the movement for temperance reform and he may have been involved in anti-slavery activity at his home on Church Street, along with neighbor Chandler Bartlett.

Betsy Reynolds Voorhees (1790-1858): Abolitionist; prominent Amsterdam resident who, while raising four sons, took an active role in social causes, including abolition.

John S. Maxwell (1845-1929): Knitting mill manufacturer turned attorney and city judge, Maxwell, himself a Civil War veteran, filed for pensions for other local veterans of the Civil War including Bruce Anderson.

For a copy of the Green Hill Cemetery tour map and more information on the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism and African American Life in Montgomery County project, please contact the Montgomery County Department of History & Archives at (518) 853-8186.

 

*E.B.M., “Underground Railroad Again: Its Operations as Seen at Amsterdam, New York,” Springfield Republican, April 9, 1900