African American News and Genealogy

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Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Professor documents county's Underground Railroad sites

By Melinda Donnelly / Special to The Citizen

Saturday, October 1, 2005 12:13 AM EDT

OWASCO - The sites are located throughout Auburn and Cayuga County, from Sterling to Locke. Some are houses, others are churches.They are part of a network identified as key sites for abolitionist activities or African-American life in 19th century Cayuga County.The sites were celebrated Friday night as hotbeds for activity on the Underground Railroad and in the abolitionist movement in general. Historians from across the county gathered at the Emerson Park pavilion for a banquet and presentation by Oswego professor Judith Wellman. She presented a report detailing the area's involvement in the Underground Railroad and chronicled the lives of escaped slaves and their families in Cayuga County.In all, Wellman documented 100 sites in the county, 60 of them in Auburn.They include the Sennett Federated Church, houses along Richardson Avenue and Garrow Street in Auburn and the Howland Stone Store in Sherwood. All were either stops on the Underground Railroad, sites of major abolitionist activity or the homes of freed slaves."There are many other sites still to be found and documented," Wellman said. "There are more out there. Take it from here." Eileen McHugh, executive director of the Cayuga Museum of History and Art, said the report will form the framework of an exhibit in February at the museum.The history of African Americans and the Underground Railroad is difficult to ascertain, as there is not a lot of documentation, McHugh said."It's of tremendous historic value," she said of the report.Auburn Mayor Timothy Lattimore said the report underscores the city and county's importance in American history. "History could be one of our biggest economic development tools," he said.The report will soon be available online through the county historian's office Web site. County Historian Sheila Tucker said she hopes also to lend it out to schools so that its contents can be used in curricula."(Students) can use it as part of their research understanding that era," Tucker said.Many of the sites have been named to the "Network to Freedom" of the National Park Service.The sites also may someday be part of a historical trail. In the meantime, Tucker plans to do more research, looking for documentation on other sites."This is a project that's not going to end," she said. "This county has a wonderful history."


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