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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.

American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic Book Discussion

The book discussion scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 25th at the Montgomery County Department of History & Archives, Old Courthouse, 9 Park St., Fonda, has been rescheduled for Wednesday, March 23rd, 2016 at 10am.  Please call the Department of History & Archives at (518) 853-8186 for further information.  The book to be discussed is American Creation: Triumphs and Tragedies in the Founding of the Republic (2008) by Joseph J. Ellis. Acclaimed historian Joseph J. Ellis brings his unparalleled talents to this riveting account of the early years of the Republic. The last quarter of the eighteenth century remains the most politically creative era in American history, when a dedicated group of men undertook a bold experiment in political ideals. It was a time of both triumphs and tragedies—all of which contributed to the shaping of our burgeoning nation. Check your local library for available copies or book can be purchased online or at major bookstores.

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.