Peterboro Emancipation Day events announced

Published Aug 1, 2018 at 3:50pm

PETERBORO — The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark committee has announced the programs for the ninth annual Peterboro Emancipation Day Saturday, Aug. 4.

The annual Gathering begins at 10 a.m. on the grounds of the Gerrit Smith Estate, 5304 Oxbow Road. Co-chairs Jim Corpin, Carrie Martin and Max Smith will welcome the public and lead the program. Following the Gathering, two wreaths will be carried to the Peterboro Cemetery in a public procession. The wreaths are laid upon the humble grave of Gerrit Smith and on a grave of a person “Born in Slavery. Died a free (Wo)Man.” This year wreaths will be laid on the graves of Maria Howard and Thomas Jefferson Potter. Prior to the event these graves were unmarked. Thanks to a benefactor two gravestones will be set for the Emancipation Day ceremony.

Maria Howard died on Feb. 17, 1869 at age 50 at the residence of the Rev. William F. Bridge, who was the last minister at the Free Church of Peterboro and, at the same time, principal of the Peterboro Evans Academy. Rev. Bridge conducted Howard’s funeral. She was one of 37 slaves who were owned by Elias Creswell of New Orleans and freed by Gerrit Smith in 1852. She was also one of the last of 17 who came to Peterboro, and then apparently lived in other towns in the area – including with the Daniel Dorrance family in Vernon.

Thomas Jefferson Potter was born a slave about 1816, in an unknown place. Potter’s freedom was later purchased by Naaham Goodsell of Clinton who also paid for Potter’s education. Potter later moved to Peterboro where he subscribed to the Madison & Onondaga Abolitionist, a Cazenovia newspaper, in 1841.

At an 1842 Cazenovia anti-slavery convention, a long letter from Potter was read in which the writer indicated: “I ask the whole American people, had I not rather die, or be put to death, than to be a slave to any tyrant who takes not only my own, but my wife and children’s lives, by inches?” On June 7, 1843, Thomas Potter died “near Peterboro,” and his obituary confirms his attendance at Gerrit Smith’s Manual Labor School. His funeral was conducted by the Rev. Abel Schofield.

The afternoon program “The Evolution of Slavery and the Heroes Who Fight It: Discussions of My Travels from Peterboro and the Home of Gerrit Smith to Montgomery AL and the Home of the Equal Justice Initiative” will be presented by Jacob Donovan-Colin. Donovan volunteered at the opening of the National Memorial for Peace and Justice in April 2018. He will share his experience with pictures.

For more information email info@gerritsmith.org or call 315-657-8461.