February 11, 2008 – Wolcott, New York

Peter Evans, Wayne County Historian, provided a Preserve NY Grant Project preview at the Wolcott Library on Monday evening, February 11th.

The Project: Anti-Slavery, Abolitionism, Underground Railroad and African American Life in Wayne County for the Period 1820 to 1880. This project is funded by Preserve New York, a grant program of the Preservation League of New York State and the New York State Council on the Arts.

The Wolcott program was arranged by Pamela Lee of the Wolcott Historical Society and was very well advertised throughout the region.  The large library meeting facility was filled to over flowing with standing room only. Some people chose not to stand and left. There were about 100 people present. From the sign- in sheet there were people from Cato, Wolcott, Lyons, Savannah, Williamson, Newark, Clyde, North Rose, Rose, Red Creek, Butler, Huron and Port Byron.

Pamela Lee said that if she had known how well received the program topic would be, she would have planned the meeting at a local school facility.

Peter Evans reviewed the history of slavery abolition in New York State and the organization and actions of local Wayne County people, churches and anti-slavery societies in support of that movement based on the attitudes and commitment emerging from the 2nd Great Awakening. As he discussed the movement of enslaved Americans from the southern Border States northward, he made the point that the “freedom seekers” did not seek out or look for help from European Americans. Instead they sought out free black communities for help and direction. It was through the connections (network) between the free black and the established non-black communities that the “freedom seekers became connected to the network north that was to be referred to as the Underground Railroad. The Underground Railroad was an amorphous labyrinth of multiple cross connections that could bend, change and redirect depending on the conditions of risk and danger to the “freedom seekers” heading north to safety and freedom in Canada. Evans also discussed the major role that women played in this whole elaborate system. Both African American and European American women exerted a major influence on the success of the Underground Railroad.

At the conclusion of the program, Peter Evans requested the assistance of all residents of the eastern Wayne County towns to help develop the stories and understanding of the people, events and places involved in this region. The next Preserve NY Team Study Meeting will be the morning of February 25th at the Butler Historical Preservation Society in Butler Center, New York. Anyone who is willing to contribute or help in anyway is welcome. Please call the Office of the County Historian at (315) 946 – 5470 or email at Historian@co.wayne.ny.us .

The best time to receive research assistance with archive materials is in the mornings - daily