Solomon Northup Day has been set for Saturday, July 20, 2019 at the Willsboro School, 29 School Lane, Willsboro, from 4 to 5:30 pm.
Solomon Northup was a free black man living in Saratoga Springs, New York, who was lured from home in 1841, abducted and sold into slavery in the South. After years as a slave, he was rescued and authored the book Twelve Years a Slave. The book was the basis for the Oscar-winning film, 12 Years a Slave. » Continue Reading.
The Lake Champlain Basin Program will host Don Papson, co-founder of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, as he presents “The Champlain Line of the Underground Railroad” on Thursday, March 9, 2017 at the LCBP office in Grand Isle.
Papson, a historian and author from the Adirondack North Country, will discuss the history of the Underground Railroad along Lake Champlain’s western shore. » Continue Reading.
This Saturday my family and six of my son’s friends will be celebrating his birthday by becoming part of the Underground Railroad. It won’t be the typical birthday party, but it is the one that my son wants to share with his friends. Presented by the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center and the Underground Railroad Historical Association, the North County Underground Railroad Experience will be held rain, snow or shine at the Willsboro 1812 Homestead Museum on November 23 from 6-9 pm. This trip through local history is a mere $5 per person.
Participants will play the roles of escaped slaves while the Pok-O-MacCready staff plays the roles of bounty hunters, abolitionists and marshals. According to Brian DeGroat, Director of the Outdoor Education Center, the event is geared to children ages 10 and older due mainly to the serious issues regarding slavery and gearing the lecture to an older audience. » Continue Reading.
Almost lost in the recent “Fiscal Cliff” spectacle was the anniversary marking one of the major positive milestones of our history — President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.
On January 1, 1863, some 3 million people held as slaves in the Confederate states were declared to be “forever free.” Of course, it wasn’t that simple. Most of those 3 million people were still subjugated until the Union Army swept away the final Confederate opposition more than two years later. And slavery was not abolished in the entire United States until after the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution passed in 1865. » Continue Reading.
Bounty hunters and escaped slaves may sound like a game for the Wii but this Friday, November 11 from 6:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m. you can get your children off the couch and into living history. For a fiver, Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in Willsboro’s is welcoming the public to experience what is would be like to be part of the Underground Railroad.
Though the Adirondacks has ties to the Underground Railroad, this particular experience, though historically accurate, is not placed true to the location. According to Stites McDaniel, Director of the Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) to provide a more in-depth experience participants play the roles of slaves and attempt to avoid bounty hunters as they move from station to station.
“Bounty hunters wouldn’t have necessarily gone this far north,” says McDaniel. “It would have been more likely the common citizen turning in a runaway for the reward. We had to take a bit of creative license in order for the participants to get, what we felt, would be the entire experience from escape to freedom. There was still the danger throughout the Underground Railroad network as the slaves were shuttled north.”
Participants will play the roles of escaped slaves while staff and volunteers play the roles of bounty hunters, abolitionists and marshals. McDaniel encourages people to come with questions as the event always closes with a discussion. He asks that people take a moment to truly suspend belief and immerse themselves in the experience.
“We run this program with high school and lower middle school students,” says McDaniel. “We have had children as young as seven and are able to cater to the age of the participant. We do not over glamorize. We want families with younger children to feel included.”
This community event is a partnership with the 1812 Homestead, where the event takes place. According to McDaniel the “escaped slaves” will move to each station where there will be an historic discovery during the re-enactment. When a group is participating in a learning station they are off limits to the bounty hunters. As the group moves from station to station they are then running from bounty hunters or may be fortunate to find an abolitionist.
McDaniel says, “We try to incorporate as much historical reference as possible. People may meet a traveling abolitionist named Lucretia Mott. There will also be someone acting as a member of local Keese family. The whole re-enactment is about two hours. Within that timeframe participants will be doing their own learning. We do end with a debriefing. We don’t end the activity without a discussion.”
Pok-O-MacCready Outdoor Education Center (OEC) in Willsboro, a not-for-profit organization comprised of 300 acres, focuses on an outdoor educational experience. The waterfront facilities provide opportunities for canoeing, kayaking and fishing while the property utilizes onsite skiing, mountain biking and nature trails. Catering primarily to school and youth groups, the Pok-O-MacCready OEC continues to add community events to their roster based on their popular school events.
Diane Chase is the author of the Adirondack Family Activities Guidebook Series including the recent released Adirondack Family Time: Tri-Lakes and High Peaks Your Guide to Over 300 Activities for Lake Placid, Saranac Lake, Tupper Lake, Keene, Jay and Wilmington areas (with GPS coordinates), the first book of a four-book series of Adirondack Family Activities.
One hundred and fifty years ago, few knew about Lavinia Bell, a fugitive from slavery who trekked from a Texas plantation to Rouses Point, New York, in search of freedom in Canada. Now, for the first time, her experiences will be presented to the public in “Never Give Up: The Story of Lavinia Bell,” reenacted by Melissa Waddy-Thibodeaux at Plattsburgh State University’s Krinovitz Recital Hall. The presentation will begin at 7:00 PM on February 11, 2011. The event is free and open to the public.
Ms. Thibodeaux’s visit to Plattsburgh in February will be her first to the North Country. She has already earned national acclaim for her sensitive depictions of Harriet Tubman and Rosa Parks. The North Country location of the premiere of Mrs. Bell’s story, in the region where her vision was at last realized, is as fitting as are the sponsoring organizations: the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association, Plattsburgh State University, and Clinton Community College. Ms. Thibodeaux will also offer performance workshops for university and college students during her stay in Plattsburgh. On February 12, she will cross into Canada where, under the sponsorship of the Negro Community Center in Montreal, she will introduce Mrs. Bell to a waiting audience.
To see Ms. Thibodeaux portray Harriet Tubman visit You Tube.
To learn more about this event, contact Don Papson at NCUGRHA@aol.com or (518) 561-0277.
Last week student volunteers from SUNY Plattsburgh and SUNY Potsdam took part in exploratory archaeological excavations at the former Stephen Keese Smith farm on Union Road, midway between Keeseville. The Smith farm (also known as “the old Stafford place”) is a historic Underground Railroad site where refugees from slavery were hidden in the 1850s and 1860s. Although several of the buildings on the farm are believed to have housed runaway slaves, one barn in particular that includes a “hidden room” was the target of the weekend’s excavations.
Archeologists and volunteers organized by the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association (NCUGRHA) worked last weekend to conduct an archeological survey in advance of restoration work on the barn. The dig was organized by Andrew Black of Black Drake Consulting and SUNY Plattsburgh, assisted by members of the NCUGRHA, and with the permission and assistance of the of the property owners, Frank and Jackie Perusse.
I first became acquainted with the “Under Ground Rail Road” twenty years or more before the [Civil] War … Samuel Keese was the head of the [Underground RR] depot in Peru. His son, John Keese – myself, and Wendell Lansing at Keeseville [publisher of the Essex County Republican] were actors. I had large buildings and concealed the Negroes in them. I kept them, fed them, often gave them shoes and clothing. I presume I have spent a thousand dollars for them in one-way and another. There were stations at Albany, Troy, Glens Falls and then here in Peru. The Negroes would come through the woods and be nearly famished. We kept them and fed them for one or two days and then ran them along to Noadiah Moore’s in Champlain… He went with the Negroes to Canada and looked out places for them to work.
The archeological teams excavated three places along the exterior foundation walls of the barn in search for artifacts. Aside from some scattered 20th century trash and earlier barn construction debris (nails, hardware, window glass), they found nothing of significance, meaning that some restoration work can begin without harming historically significant remains.
The stone-walled room built into the barn’s lower level, believed to be one of the places Smith hid runaways, was too flooded to excavate. The team had hoped to establish the original floor level in the “hidden room” and see if there are deposits directly related to the room’s occupation by refugees. Unfortunately those investigations will have to wait until the groundwater level subsides, when archeologists will return to the barn to explore this hidden gem of North Country Underground Railroad History.
Photos: Above – Archaeologists and volunteers gather for a photo during the Smith barn excavation in Peru, Clinton County, NY (Courtesy Helen Allen Nerska). Below – The hidden room in the lower level of the Smith barn (Courtesy Don Papson).
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