Farmington Meeting House Underground Railroad Site Saved

(reproduced from The Underground Railroad Free Press, volume 1, issue 3, November 2006)

In the nick of time, a group of preservationists in upstate New York has stepped in to prevent demolition of a former Quaker Meetinghouse used as an Underground Railroad safe-house. The Farmington, New York meeting house was on its last legs when the group led by local Underground Railroad historian Judith Wellman organized in early 2006 and got to work.

Within six months, fundraising began, the old building was saved from what had been an imminent razing, and it was structurally stabilized and listed on a national Underground Railroad site list. Plans are to restore the building to its original appearance and donate to an organization which will preserve and operate it as an Underground Railroad interpretive center.

Farmington and towns near it in this part of New York are as rich as anywhere in the nation in the history of the Underground Railroad and abolitionism. The area also spawned the women's rights movement. Farmington, a village of about 100, is forty miles from the Harriet Tubman home in Auburn, New York.

Restoration of the Farmington Meeting House has been aided financially by the Heritage New York Women's History Trail, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the New York State Arts Council and the Quaker Church.

In the News

Quaker meetinghouse gets reprieve

(May 24, 2007) — The Farmington Town Board has agreed to postpone indefinitely demolition of a historic Quaker meetinghouse while fundraising efforts to save the deteriorating structure continue.
"They're moving forward with an honest effort to get funds," said Farmington Supervisor Ted Fafinski about the board's decision Tuesday night.....

Events of 2006

In February 2006, the east wall blew off the meetinghouse. Approximately eighty percent of the original fabric remained, including much of the plastered interior, octagonal columns, and most of the frame, but it was entirely exposed to the weather, creating an emergency situation.
Working with nationally known architect John G. Waite, people in Farmington and across the nation raised $26,000 from both private and public sources. They transferred the building to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation. And they began emergency stabilization and initial documentation. Supporters included:
•National Trust for Historic Preservation
•Heritage New York’s Women’s History Trail
•New York State Council on the Arts
•Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting)
•many private donors.
Save America’s Treasures declared this building an official project. The National Park Service’s Network to Freedom project listed it as an important Underground Railroad site. The State Historic Preservation Office declared the meetinghouse eligible for the National Register of Historic Places as part of a local historic district, to include the 1876 Quaker Meetinghouse and Quaker cemetery across the road. People of Farmington are working to donate 3.5 acres of land within this historic district as a permanent location for the building. The total cost of this project, based on initial projections, will be upwards of $1,000,000.


  • National Trust for Historic Preservation provided funds for emergency stabilization.
  • Heritage New York's Women's History Trail provided $5000 for initial stabilization.
  • New York State Council on the Arts Technical Assistance program provided a technical assistance grant.
  • Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting provided funds to help document the building with photographs and HABS- quality drawings.
  • many private donors have contributed funds.
  • many volunteers have been extraordinarily generous volunteer with their time, money, and resources, including
  • architectural services, web design, historical research, fund-raising, and land for a permanent site for the meetinghouse.
  • Eric Moon has created a CD called "Christmas in the Finger Lakes," which will be sold through branches of the Canandaigua National Bank, with half the proceeds to be given to the 1816 Farmington Meetinghouse project. The CD is available at the following branches: Bloomfield, Canandaigua Main St., Canandaigua Lakeshore Dr., Farmington, Honeoye, Shortsville-Manchester and Victor.

Stabilization and Restoration

  • Stabilization and Restoration nationally-recognized architect John G. Waite, John G. Waite Associates, has begun documentation and has provided a plan for stabilization and initial restoration.
  • the damaged southeast corner of the building has been stabilized, with assistance from engineer and contractor, with cables and supports.
  • a six-foot fence has been erected around the meetinghouse the Farmington Town Board and Code Enforcement officers have helped us with issues relating to public safety.
  • a local insurance agency provided insurance for the building.

Public Support For This Project

•the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom program has listed this building as a site important to the Underground Railroad (approved September 13, 2006).

•Save America’s Treasures has listed this building as an official project.

•Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation (P.O. Box 603, Seneca Falls, N.Y., 13148), a 501c3 organization, agreed to take ownership of the building until an appropriate historical agency can be found to hold it on a long-term basis.

•NYS Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation has declared the meetinghouse eligible for the National Register, part of a historic district to include the 1876 Quaker meetinghouse, cemetery, original site of the meetinghouse next door, and future site of the meetinghouse across the road;

about 125 people are now on a listserv of support for this project.

•volunteers created this website for the meetinghouse

•Farmington Town Board passed a resolution of encouragement for this project, September 13, 2006.

•Church Women United of New York State Board passed a resolution of support for this project, October 2006.

•several local groups have signed petitions in support of this project.

•a national Advisory Board has provided support and expertise.


Whereas, New York State before the Civil War was a crucible of reform, at the cutting edge of nationally important reform movements dedicated to equality and respect for all people;

Whereas, these reform movements challenged Americans to consider the essential meaning of democracy in the new Republic, as stated in the Declaration of Independence: “that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed”;

Whereas, Quakers and others from across New York State and the nation, meeting at Farmington, were at the center of these nationally significant debates (helping to organize the 1848 Seneca Falls woman’s rights convention, developing a national crossroads for the Underground Railroad, and enhancing the relationship of mutual respect between Quakers and Native Americans);

Whereas, the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse, the earliest known Quaker meetinghouse still standing west of the colonial settlement line, represents an opportunity to interpret these nationally significant issues and events in the present world;

Whereas, the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse has received considerable support from national, state, and private groups—including the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Heritage New York Women’s History Trail, the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation, and an Advisory Board made up of historians, preservationists, and descendants of people involved with reform movements—as well as from nationally known architect John G. Waite;

Whereas, the restored 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse will provide a source of economic development through heritage tourism to the Town of Farmington, connecting Farmington to the National Park Service’s Underground Railroad Network to Freedom, the National Park Service’s proposed Votes for Women Trail, the Heritage New York Underground Railroad Trail, and the Heritage New York Women’s History Trail;

We therefore support the plan to keep the 1816 Quaker Meetinghouse in Farmington as a nationally important historic site, one of the crucibles of America’s dialogue about the essential meaning of the Declaration of Independence, to restore the meetinghouse to its historic appearance, and to donate it to the National Park Service or another appropriate historical agency for use as an educational and tourism center to interpret the nationally history of Farmington as a site important to woman’s rights, Quakers and Native Americans, and the Underground Railroad, as they reflected national debates about American ideals of equality.

Latest News

October 25, 2007
Posted by Quakers in the News

Kuhl seeks to preserve Farmington meetinghouse
Elmira Star-Gazette, NY - Oct 12, 2007
U.S. Rep. John R. Kuhl Jr., R-Hammondsport, introduced legislation to request that the National Park Service consider the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse as a possible addition to the National Park Service, as part of the Women's Rights National Historical Park.

"The Farmington Meetinghouse was very important to the early women's rights movement, Native American rights, and abolitionism and the Underground Railroad,” Kuhl said. “This legislation will ensure that this nationally significant site is enjoyed for many more generations to come.”

Built in 1816 to replace earlier 1796 and 1804 buildings, this meetinghouse is known as the earliest Quaker meetinghouse still standing west of the colonial settlement area in the country. As a crucible of several national reform movements, the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse was the stage for many debates over freedom and equality for women, African Americans, and Seneca Indians in upstate New York and around the nation. National reformers associated with this meetinghouse include William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony.

The meetinghouse has become the focus of a major community preservation effort after the east wall was blown off in February 2006. Kuhl is working with architect John G. Waite, local community organizations, and New York State politicians to raise the $1.5 million needed to restore the building. Kuhl has also requested a reconnaissance study and preliminary resource assessment to enhance the protection available for the historic building and to help develop an appropriate plan for the preservation of this structure.

The Meetinghouse is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places as part of the Farmington Quaker Crossroads District. In September 2006, the National Park Service added the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse to its Underground Railroad Network to Freedom for its importance to the Underground Railroad. In April 2007, the National Register of Historic Places added the Meetinghouse to the National Register at the national level of significance for its national importance in reform movements.


May 24, 2007

Posted by Quakers in the News

Quaker meetinghouse gets reprieve

(May 24, 2007) — The Farmington Town Board has agreed to postpone indefinitely demolition of a historic Quaker meetinghouse while fundraising efforts to save the deteriorating structure continue.

"They're moving forward with an honest effort to get funds," said Farmington Supervisor Ted Fafinski about the board's decision Tuesday night.....

January 4, 2007
Posted by Quakers in the News
Quaker History/Meetinghouse/Restoration//People, developments to watch in 2007/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle/Rochester/NY/USA/31-Dec-06/In Farmington, a Quaker meetinghouse — built 190 years ago — was in such bad shape that it was slated for demolition. The Town Board, however, has allowed the building to stand at least until the end of May as preservationists try to raise the funds needed for restoration., ...


December 5, 2006
Posted by Quakers in the News
Quaker History/Underground Railroad/Abolition/Suffrage/Wrecking ball looms again/Rochester Democrat and Chronicle/Rochester/NY/USA/6-Dec-06//(December 5, 2006) — FARMINGTON — Judith Wellman used to drive by the historic Quaker meetinghouse in Farmington wondering what could be done to save this ...


November 16, 2006

Much has happened since May! Basically, people in Farmington have embraced this project, and we have had welcome support from both the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation and the National Park Service's Network to Freedom program.

We are, however, facing a major deadline to stabilize the building further before November 30, and we need to find money quickly to do it. Click here for details.

1. In June, we were delighted to learn that people in Farmington wanted to keep this meetinghouse as part of the heart and soul of Farmington's history. Farmington Friends Meeting is working on plans to donate land near the original site of the 1816 meetinghouse and the current site of the 1876 meetinghouse for its permanent home. Should this plan fall through, supporters in Seneca Falls and Waterloo stand ready to welcome this meetinghouse at the site of Junius Monthly Meeting of Friends, but we are very hopeful that the meetinghouse will remain in its historic home in Farmington, surrounded by homes of Quakers and Underground Railroad supporters who originally organized this meeting and built the meetinghouse.
2. In August, with funding assistance from the Heritage New York Women's History Trail and the National Trust for Historic Preservation and technical expertise from Matthew Abate, engineer, and Michael Perkins, contractor, supervised by John G. Waite, architect, we stabilized the fragile southeast corner of the meetinghouse with cables and supports.
3. With help from the technical assistance program of the New York State Council on the Arts and the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of Friends, Jack Waite, architect, has begun basic documentation for the exterior of the meetinghouse, with drawings and photographs. Bruce Harvey, Senior Cultural Resource and Licensing Specialist, Kleinschmidt Energy & Water Resource Consultants in Syracuse, volunteered his expertise to do HABS-quality photographs.
2. In September, the Farmington Town Board passed a resolution of support for the project. Many thanks to the Town Board for this. If you belong to a group who would like to support this project by passing a similar resolution of support, this would be most welcome. (See attached draft.)
2. Mark Peckham, from the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, visited the meetinghouse on August 24 and recommended that we nominate the building to the National Register as part of a small historic district, encompassing also the 1876 meetinghouse and cemetery across the street, the original site, and the proposed new site across the street. Many thanks to Mark for making this special visit to Farmington and for this very creative suggestion. We will nominate the building to the Register in time for consideration at the next meeting (March) of the State Board.
3. The National Park Service's Network to Freedom accepted the meetinghouse to its program. Network to Freedom coordinators visited the site on September 14. Marie Parsons gave a brief and lovely program, with readings from historic people involved with the meetinghouse, Charles Lenhart provided refreshments, and several people from Farmington Friends acted as hosts. Many thanks to Farmington Friends for letting us use their meetinghouse. And many, many thanks to the Network to Freedom for accepting this historic meetinghouse, with its nest of Underground Railroad activists, to the Network to Freedom. This will help bring national recognition to a building that increasingly seems to have been a very important national node on the Underground Railroad.
4. We nominated the meetinghouse to the Seven to Save program of the Preservation League of New York State. Many thanks to Cynthia Howk of the Landmarks Society of Western New York for her letter of support.


Although we have stabilized the southeast corner, concerns remain about the rest of the framing structure. Last spring, we planned to dismantle the building by September 15, in order to move it to Waterloo. Now that the building will remain in Farmington, however, we can begin restoration and further stabilization at the current location, so the building can be moved in its entirety to its new nearby site.
Architect John G. Waite has developed a plan for repairing the framing timbers (using chemical consolidants, "dutchman" replacement pieces, and the complete replacement of timbers, if needed) so that we can save as much of the existing plaster, lathe, roof sheathing, and exterior walls as possible. Estimated cost is $75,000.
Working with Floyd Kofaul, Farmington Code Enforcement Officer, the Farmington Town Board has extended the deadline for beginning this work to November 30, to allow us time to raise further funds.
We are looking at several sources--both public and private--for this immediate need. THIS IS EXTREMELY IMPORTANT! Any help in locating funds is much appreciated.


James Nichols, Clerk of Syracuse Monthly Meeting, reports that "the White Brick Meetinghouse in Waynesville, OH was apparently built in 1811 to be the home of Miami Quarterly Meeting and it continues in use as a meetinghouse for Miami Monthly Meeting of Ohio Valley YM. Their claim is that they are the oldest extant building for worship west of the Alleghenies." So the 1816 Farmington meetinghouse is now the second oldest known extant meetinghouse west of the colonial settlement line in the U.S. Thanks to Jane Zavitz-Bond, we also know of one older, 1812, in Ontario. Thank you, Jim!

1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse

1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse
160 County Route 8, Farmington, New York

Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse, Built 1816, Photos c. 1917
Courtesy Friends Historical Library, Swarthmore, and Macedon Town Historian

Description: Reflecting Quaker values, the 1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse is a very plain building, 47 feet wide by 60 feet long. It once had a balcony on three sides and a divider down the middle, separating men’s meetings from women’s meetings. In 1927, John Van Lare moved this building 325’ to its current location, created a second floor, lowered its second-story windows. He used it as a barn, moving benches and stoves into neighboring homes.

Significance: Built in 1816 to replace earlier 1796 and 1804 buildings, this meetinghouse represents the spread of Quaker meetings from New England into upstate New York after the American Revolution. Perhaps the largest pre-canal building in central and western New York, it is also the earliest known Quaker meetinghouse still standing west of the colonial settlement area in the U.S. Twenty-five Quaker meetings from all over western New York, Ontario, and Michigan originated from Farmington meeting. Originally part of New York Yearly Meeting, Farmington also became the site in 1834 of Genesee Yearly Meeting of Friends (Hicksite).

Before the Civil War, many Friends assumed leadership roles in national reform movements, including abolitionism and the Underground Railroad, the preservation of Seneca Indian rights, and the woman’s rights movement. National reformers spoke in Farmington, including William Lloyd Garrison, Lucretia Mott, Frederick Douglass, William Wells Brown, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony. In the late 1830s, Haudenosaunee leaders appealed here for Quaker assistance. “We pulled the strings and the world’s people danced,” said one Quaker. In 1838, Genesee Yearly Meeting of Friends at Farmington stated that “men’s and women’s meetings for discipline stand on equal footing of common interest and common right.” In 1848, Quakers at Farmington formed the Yearly Meeting of Congregational Friends, in which men and women, blacks and whites met together on a basis of complete equality, joined not by creeds but by “practical righteousness.” At least one-quarter of the signers of the Declaration of Sentiments at the first woman’s rights convention at Seneca Falls in July 1848 came from Farmington Quarterly meeting. Elizabeth Cady Stanton spoke in this meetinghouse in October 1848, and Susan B. Anthony spoke here in 1873 at the time of her trial for voting.

Current Status and Future Plans:

In February 2006, a windstorm blew off the east wall of the meetinghouse. Eighty percent of the original fabric remains. Working with architect John G. Waite, local, regional, and national supporters organized to stabilize, document, and restore the building, now being nominated to the National Register and the National Park Service’s Network to Freedom, for use as an interpretive center for the nationally important history of Farmington in woman’s rights, the relationship between Quakers and Native Americans, and abolitionism and the Underground Railroad. Donors so far include Heritage New York Women’s History Trail, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and many individuals. The Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation (P.O. Box 603, Seneca Falls, N.Y., 13148), a 501c3 organization, owns the meetinghouse and accepts donations.

Report prepared by Judith Wellman, with help from Helen Burgio, Christopher Densmore, Douglas Fisher, Margaret Hartsough, Helen Kirker, and Charles Lenhart.

Update 10

May 30, 2006

Hello Friends—

As we await word on insurance for the Farmington Meetinghouse, several people have been working on research. Here are some choice tidbits of information:
1. Building the meetinghouse, 1816
2. Underground Railroad—Austin Stewart, freedom seeker, 1816
3. Frederick Douglass and Farmington—“new” letter
4. Farmington and Woman’s Rights, 1848—Phoebe Hathaway
5. Letter from Sylvia Rose re visit to Peabody-Essex Museum and Yin Yu Tang house—a model for Farmington Meetinghouse project?
Best, Judy and Rich for the Committee


Christopher Densmore, Curator at Friends Historical Library, searched the minutes of Farmington Preparative, Monthly, and Quarterly Meetings in 1816. He reports that “funding came from local Friends, Farmington Monthly Meeting, Farmington Quarterly Meeting and the Meeting for Sufferings of New York Yearly Meeting. This was a period of rapid expansion of New York Yearly Meeting and consequently need for new meetinghouses. At the same time that the new Farmington Meetinghouse is being built, Farmington Monthly Meeting Friends are also contributing money for the construction of other meetinghouses in NYS and Canada-- Junius, Hamburg, DeRuyter, Palmyra. It looks like most meetings were able to come up with at least half of the cost of new construction, with the remainder being supported by funds from the Quarterly and Yearly Meeting (and the Yearly Meeting funds were raised with assessments from local meetings). In the case of Farmington, they had the benefit of selling the old meetinghouse, so needed only $400 (of $2250) in support. I wouldn't be surprised if the amount paid in by the Yearly Meeting was offset by the amount of money Farmington Friends were contributing to the building of other meetinghouses...Anyway, the following are from the minutes of the Preparative, Monthly and Quarterly Meetings. It does give the name of the trustees overseeing the building but I think it is fair to say that all members of the meeting "built" it.”

Twentieth century articles report that the meetinghouse frame was built of “whitewood.” Spafford’s Gazetteer (1823) notes that whitewood was the tulip tree. Thanks to Charles Lenhart for finding this.
Comments and rough transcriptions by Christopher Densmore, Curator
Friends Historical Library
Swarthmore College
May 28, 2006

Building the Farmington Meetinghouse
The funding came from local Friends, Farmington Monthly Meeting, Farmington Quarterly Meeting and the Meeting for Sufferings of New York Yearly Meeting. This was a period of rapid expansion of New York Yearly Meeting and consequently need for new meetinghouses. At the same time that the new Farmington Meetinghouse is being built, Farmington Monthly Meeting Friends are also contributing money for the construction of other meetinghouses in NYS and Canada-- Junius, Hamburg, DeRuyter, Palmyra. It looks like most meetings were able to come up with at least half of the cost of new construction, with the remainder being supported by funds from the Quarterly and Yearly Meeting (and the Yearly Meeting funds were raised with assessments from local meetings). In the case of Farmington, they had the benefit of selling the old meetinghouse, so needed only $400 (of $2250) in support. I wouldn't be surprised if the amount paid in by the Yearly Meeting was offset by the amount of money Farmington Friends were contributing to the building of other meetinghouses...

Anyway, the following are from the minutes of the Preparative, Monthly and Quarterly Meetings. It does give the name of the trustees overseeing the building but I think it is fair to say that all members of the meeting "built" it. Like other meeting records, there is very little information beyond the approval of the building-- no progress reports on construction, no report of completion, no details of who actual did the work. With all the building at this time, I wouldn't be surprised either if some of the actual builders of the physical site (e.g. those who held that hammers and saws) had worked and would work on other meetinghouses. With the exception of some of the urban meetinghouses at this period, I've haven't seen any building specifications that went much beyond the external dimensions and the height of the posts. I suspect like a lot of vernacular architecture, there was little need for plans and the builders didn't have particular need for architectural drawings, though presumably someone was drawing up specific lists of needed supplies -- so many board feet in what dimensions and what lengths, how many panes of glass, how much iron for hinges etc., and estimating hours of labor needed.
[spelling, punctuation, capitalization inconsistent, and the following transcription probably introduces new errors. ]

1816 2 Mo. 15 Farmington Preparative Meeting
[proposes enlargement of existing house by dividing in the middle and adding 25 feet in length]

1816 2 Mo. 22 Farmington Monthly Meeting
"Received from Farmington Preparative Meeting the following proposals for the enlargement of the Meetinghouse in that place (Viz) This meeting taking into consideration the inconveniences which we have long laboured under on account of the smallness of our Meetinghouse in this place after a time of deliberation and free conference on the subject it is unitedly concluded to propose to the Monthly Meeting to enlarge the house by dividing it and adding 25 feet in length and Sunderland Patison, Darius Comstock, Ira Lapham, Nathan Aldrich and Wellcome Haringdeen are appointed to estimate the cost and inform our next Monthly Meeting the amount.

"And the comite appointed to estimate the cost report that they have estimated it at seven hundered dollars which being considered Friends are united with the proposal. Sunderland Pattison, Ira Lapham and Wellcome Harringdeen are appointed to open subscriptions and provide materials for making the proposed alterations and also as trustees to se[e] that the work is completed."

1816 3 Mo. 28 Farmington Monthly Meeting
"The trustees appointed to make an addition to the Meetinghouse Report as follows (Viz)

"To the next Monthly at Farmington. We who were appointed by the monthly meeting to make an addition to the meetinghouse in this place have consulted together and with a number of Friends on the subject and we believe that if the present house be so enlarged as proposed it would be attended with a considerable expense and still would be inconvenient and disagreeable so friends whom we have consulted and to ourselves [?] we have aprehended it would be better to build a new meetinghouse on a site that is offered within a few rods of the present one sixty by forty feet and 22 feet posts. We have estimated the cost of such an house at twenty two hundred and fifty dollars and we find that friends of this monthly meeting are willing to give for such an house eleven hundred and fifty dollars and that the present house may with one acre of land be disposed of for seven hundred dollars to friends for a benevolent purpose reserving the stoves and seats and we would seghest [suggest?] whether it would not be right to propose to the quarterly meeting the consideration of the subject and if that meeting should think best to ask the remaining four hundred dollars of our Meeting for Sufferings all which we submit to the Monthly Meeting.

William [Welcome?] Harindeen, Ira Lapham, Sunderland Pattison
21st 3d mo 1816

1816 4 Mo. 17 Farmington Quarterly Meeting
"By a minute of Farmington Monthly Meeting it appears that friends of that place find it necessary to have a larger meeting h ouse, and their old one being inconvenient to enlarge they propose building a new one 40 by 60 feet and 22 feet posts, on a site adjoining he meetinghouse lot, estimated cost $2250, towards which friends of that meeting will pay $1150 and they are offered for the old house $700 which leaves the sum of $400 wanted to compleat the building.
"This meeting unites with the proposal, and recommends to the consideration of our meeting for sufferings, requesting assistance in raising the deficient sum. The clerk is directed to forward a copy of the above mintue to said meeting."

1816 7 Mo. 25 Farmington Monthly Meeting reports $400 granted by Meeting for Sufferings.
Rough transcription from Christopher Densmore


One of those who may have helped build the Farmington meetinghouse (with Darius and Otis Comstock) was Austin Steward, born in slavery in Prince William County, Virginia, in 1794, and brought to Bath, New York, by Captain William Helm. He escaped in 1814 and came to the home of Otis Comstock of Farmington, where he lived for four years, going to school, before he moved to Rochester in 1818, bought land, and started a Sabbath School for African Americans and a meat store, where he sold goods supplied by Comstock. Steward later moved to Canandaigua, where he is buried in West Avenue Cemetery. Charles Lenhart reports that Otis Comstock (1770-1850), brother of Darius Comstock, was the first white settler in the Town of Farmington and is buried in North Farmington Cemetery. For more on Comstock’s life, see his autobiography: Austin Steward, Twenty-Two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman (Rochester, New York: William Alling, 1857).
Graham Russell Hodges has edited a new hard copy edition (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002). This is one of the very earliest documented examples of people escaping from slavery in New York State. For more on people who lived in slavery in Ontario County, see Ontario County Historian Preston Pierce’s website: Thanks to Charles Lenhart for this research.

May 28, 2006
Austin Steward, Twenty-Two Years a Slave and Forty Years a Freeman (Rochester, New York: William Alling, 1857). New edition edited by Graham Russell Hodges (Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press, 2002).

I had determined to make an effort to own myself, and as a preliminary step, I obtained permission of Capt. Helm to visit some friends living in Canandaigua and Geneva. This was in the winter of 1814. I went first to Geneva; from there to Canandaigua. Between the two villages I met a company of United States' troops, returning from Buffalo, where they had been to repel an invasion of the British.

The two villages above named, were small but very pretty, having been laid out with taste and great care. Some wealthy and enterprising gentlemen had come

Page 109
from the East into this great Western country, who were making every improvement in their power. The dense forest had long since fallen under the stroke of the woodman's ax, and in that section, flourishing villages were springing up as if by magic, where so lately roamed wild beasts and rude savages, both having fallen back before the march of civilization.

I called on James Moore, as directed by Mr. Cruger, and found he was one of the directors of the "Manumission Society," as it was then called. This was an association of humane and intelligent gentlemen whose object it was to aid any one who was illegally held in bondage. The funds of the society were ample; and able counsel was employed to assist those who needed it. The late lamented John C. Spencer, one of the most eminent lawyers in Western New York, was then counsel for that society.

I soon got an interview with Mr. Moore, to whom I related the history of my life, - the story of my wrongs and hardships. I told him about my having been hired out by Capt. Helm, which he said was sufficient to insure my freedom! Oh! how my heart leaped at the thought! The tears started, my breast heaved with a mighty throb of gratitude, and I could hardly refrain from grasping his hand or falling down at his feet; and perhaps should have made some ludicrous demonstration of my feelings, had not the kind gentleman continued his conversation in another direction.

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He said that indispensable business called him to Albany, where he must go immediately, but assured me that he would return in March following; then I must come to him and he would see that I had what justly belonged to me - my freedom from Slavery. He advised me to return to Bath and go on with my work as usual until March, but to say nothing of my intentions and prospects. I returned according to his directions, with a heart so light, that I could not realize that my bonds were not yet broken, nor the yoke removed from off my neck. I was already free in spirit, and I silently exulted in the bright prospect of liberty.
Could my master have felt what it was to be relieved of such a crushing weight, as the one which was but partially lifted from my mind, he would have been a happier man than he had been for a long time.

I went cheerfully back to my labor, and worked with alacrity, impatient only for March to come; and as the time drew near I began to consider what kind of an excuse I could make to get away. I could think of none, but I determined to go without one, rather than to remain.
Just before the time appointed for me to meet Mr. Moore, a slave girl named Milly, came secretly to Bath. She had been one of Capt. Helm's slaves, and he had a while before sold her to a man who lived some distance west of the village. Milly had now

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taken the matter into her own hands. She had left her master to take care of himself, and was in short, "running away," determined as myself, that she would be a slave no longer; resolved on death, or freedom from the power of the slaveholder.
The time I had set for my departure was so near at hand, that I concluded to accompany her in her flight. When the dark night came on, we started together, and traveled all night, and just as the day dawned we arrived at Manchester, where we stopped a short time with one Thomas Watkins.

But I was not to be let go so easily. I had been missed at Capt. Helm's, and several men started in immediate pursuit. I was weary, and so intent on getting a little rest that I did not see my pursuers until they had well nigh reached the house where I was; but I did see them in time to spring from the house with the agility of a deer, and to run for the woods as for life. And indeed, I so considered it. I was unarmed to be sure, and not prepared to defend myself against two or three men, armed to the teeth; but it would have gone hard with me before I surrendered myself to them, after having dreamed as I had, and anticipated the blessings of a free man. I escaped them, thank God, and reached the woods, where I concealed myself for some time, and where I had ample opportunity to reflect on the injustice and cruelty of my oppressors, and to ask myself why it

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was that I was obliged to fly from my home. Why was I there panting and weary, hungry and destitute - skulking in the woods like a thief, and concealing myself like a murderer? What had I done? For what fault, or for what crime was I pursued by armed men, and hunted like a beast of prey? God only knows how these inquiries harrowed up my very soul, and made me well nigh doubt the justice and mercy of the Almighty, until I remembered my narrow escape, when my doubts dissolved in grateful tears.

But why, oh why, had I been forced to flee thus from my fellow men? I was guilty of no crime; I had committed no violence; I had broken no law of the land; I was not charged even with a fault, except of the love of liberty and a desire to be free! I had claimed the right to possess my own person, and remove it from oppression. Oh my God, thought I, can the American People, who at this very hour are pouring out their blood in defence of their country's liberty; offering up as a sacrifice on the battle field their promising young men, to preserve their land and hearthstones from English oppression; can they, will they, continue to hunt the poor African slave from their soil because he desires that same liberty, so dear to the heart of every American citizen? Will they not blot out from their fair escutcheon the foul stain which Slavery has cast upon it? Will they not remember the Southern bondman, in whom the love

Page 113
of freedom is as inherent as in themselves; and will they not, when contending for equal rights, use their mighty forces "to break every yoke, and let the oppressed go free?" God grant that it may be so!

As soon as I thought it prudent, I pursued my journey, and finally came out into the open country, near the dwelling of Mr. Dennis Comstock, who, as I have said, was president of the Manumission Society. To him I freely described my situation, and found him a friend indeed. He expressed his readiness to assist me, and wrote a line for me to take to his brother, Otis Comstock, who took me into his family at once. I hired to Mr. Comstock for the season, and from that time onward lived with him nearly four years.

When I arrived there I was about twenty-two years of age, and felt for the first time in my life, that I was my own master. I cannot describe to a free man, what a proud manly feeling came over me when I hired to Mr. C. and made my first bargain, nor when I assumed the dignity of collecting my own earnings. Notwithstanding I was very happy in my freedom from Slavery, and had a good home, where for the first time in my life I was allowed to sit at table with others, yet I found myself very deficient in almost every thing which I should have learned when a boy.
These and other recollections of the past often saddened my spirit; but hope, - cheering and bright, was

Page 114
now mine, and it lighted up the future and gave me patience to persevere.
In the autumn when the farm work was done, I called on Mr. Comstock for some money, and the first thing I did after receiving it I went to Canandaigua where I found a book-store kept by a man named J. D. Bemis, and of him I purchased some school books.

No king on his throne could feel prouder or grander than I did that day. With my books under my arm, and money of my own earning in my pocket, I stepped loftily along toward Farmington, where I determined to attend the Academy. The thought, however, that though I was twenty-three years old, I had yet to learn what most boys of eight years knew, was rather a damper on my spirits. The school was conducted by Mr. J. Comstock, who was a pleasant young man and an excellent teacher. He showed me every kindness and consideration my position and ignorance demanded; and I attended his school three winters, with pleasure and profit to myself at least.

When I had been with Mr. Comstock about a year, we received a visit from my old master, Capt. Helm, who had spared no pains to find me, and when he learned where I was he came to claim me as "his boy," who, he said he "wanted and must have."

Mr. Comstock told him I was not "his boy," and as such he would not give me up; and further, that I was

Page 115
free by the laws of the State. He assured the Captain that his hiring me out in the first instance, to Mr. Tower, forfeited his claim to me, and gave me a right to freedem, - but if he chose to join issue, they would have the case tried in the Supreme Court; but this proposition the Captain declined: he knew well enough that it would result in my favor; and after some flattery and coaxing, he left me with my friend, Mr. Comstock, in liberty and peace!

Charles Lenhart found reference to a Frederick Douglass letter sent to Phoebe Hathaway, sister of J. C. Hathaway of Farmington (whose house, a documented UGRR site, still stands on Hook Road), in 1854, that sold at auction in Texas in February for $9560.00. Here is the description of the letter:
Frederick Douglass (1818-1895) Escaped slave and prominent abolitionist, fine content Autograph Letter Signed "Frederick Douglass", one page and addressed in his hand on verso, 8" x 13", Rochester, [New York], March 28, 1854 to fellow abolitionist Phoebe Hathaway in Farmington, New York updating her on his busy lecture schedule.

He writes in full: "It is too bad that I cannot come to Farmington on the first of April after that winsome little note of yesterday. But I cannot and cannot now, see any chance of visiting the kind domicile of the Dear Hathaways this side the bright Sunshine and bird singing of the bonny month of June. My hands are full and more than full of work. I have two or three lectures to prepare for several occasions near at hand, have a long journey before me to Cincinnati, number meetings to attend in Ohio-Rosetta to take to Oberlin- Have just been made agent of the industrial School and my paper to attend to. I am Dear Phebe [sic], an over worked man[.] Still my heart is warm and my sprit is bright and sure I am that a visit to the house of your Father would greatly please me but I dare not just now allow myself even so much leisure. I hope some day and that day I hope is not very far distant when I can come out to Farmington for more than one day. Do me the kindness to remember me affectionately to your Father Brothers- and your Dear sisters- and Believe me now and always most."

Phoebe Hathaway was a Quaker abolitionist from upstate New York and likely the daughter of Joseph Hathaway, a Hicksite Quaker who accompanied Douglass in his early lecture tours in the late 1840s(Actually Phoebe's father was Isaac Hathaway (1787 to 1858) of Farmington, N.Y. and Joseph Comstock Hathaway (1810 to 1873) was Phoebe's brother - per "Hathaways of America" Compiled and Edited by Elizabeth Starr Versailles, Printed by Garrett Printing, Northampton, Mass. 1970 p. 421 -and this brother, Joseph C. Hathaway, was President of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society - per January 7, 1848 THE NORTH STAR, Rochester, New York - Fourth Annual Meeting of the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society - plus other references. - per transcriber C. Lenhart - June, 2006).

By this time, Douglass could move more freely as he was no longer considered a fugitive slave -- he had been formally freed by his former master. Douglass had five children including Rossetta and Charles who assisted him in the publication of his anti-slavery newspapers. As noted in this letter, Rossetta also attended meetings on his behalf.

Just after the Seneca Falls convention, Phoebe Hathaway of Farmington wrote to Elizabeth Cady Stanton that she had invited Lucy Stone to come and lecture. Ann D. Gordon, ed., Selected Papers of Elizabeth Cady Stanton & Susan B. Anthony, Vol I: In the School of Anti-Slavery, 1840-1866 (New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1997), 132.

Phoebe Hathaway to ECS Farmington Mo. 11 1848
Dear Friend,

I send thee another letter which I received from Lucy Stone by last mail. Thou wilt be glad to hear that she can come to this state on much sooner than she expected.
Perhaps thou hast written her before this, and told her something definite relative to the plans of the society. I have written her but once, and then little more than to ask her if she would be willing to enter this field, and if so, upon what terms. I suppose she wishes to know definitely what her work is to be, and nearly as possible, where.

My love to Lizzie McClintock, please, when thou sees her, and say to her Ann Adams is with me and also sends much love.

In haste

Thine truly,
Phebe Hathaway
ALS Scrapbook 1. Papers of ECS, NPV.
1. Phoebe Hathaway (1819-1902) lived alll her life in Farmington, New York where her Quaker parents settled and her older brother Joseph Comstock Hathaway raised his family. Both brother and sister were active in the Western New York Anti-Slavery Society and thus linked to the Garrisonians in Massachusetts and in Rochester. [Elizabeth Starr Versailles. "Hathaways of America" (Northampton, Mass.,1965),ilia; Hewitt, "Women's Activism and Social Change,"117, "Gus, Diary of Benjamin F. Gar" 40, Garrison Letters (can't read page numbers - digital copy haze per transcriber C. Lenhart/June 2006)

Architect Jack Waite worked on reconstructing the Yin Yu Tang house, a 1790s Chinese merchant’s house, dismantled and rebuilt for the Peabody-Essex Museum. Sylvia Rose, a member of our local Farmington Meetinghouse Committee, visited the Yin Yu Tang house, and reported:

I saw the Yin Yu Tang house this weekend and was very affected by the whole endeavor. Part of what made such an impact was the opportunity to see footage of the dismantling phase in China; done brick by brick, tile by tile, post by post, no doubt in a manner very similar to its
construction two centuries ago (bamboo ladders and all). It was wonderful to have a behind the scenes look at how they did everything before/after visiting the reconstructed house. I can easily imagine that an educational video would be an apt introduction to a visit to the Meetinghouse in the future. Or it could be used for history lessons in schools, etc. If you go to and click on the YYTang house you can see some still shots of the
dismantling/documenting phase; it's very professionally done and just neat. We might even set up a web site down the road and use initial dismantling footage as part of fund-raising efforts. It would be hard for anyone in the future to imagine what the MH looks like now in its sad state.

Update 9

WORK SCHEDULE. We were not able to find someone to dismantle the meetinghouse as per our original schedule, so we are working on Plan B. With the gracious agreement of the Farmington Town Board, we will stabilize the building beginning next week, document it as thoroughly as possible while it is still standing, and dismantle it later this summer. We are currently in the process of getting liability insurance for the building so that the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation can (finally!) take ownership of it and work can begin. Many thanks to all who are making this possible.

CONDITIONS ASSESSMENT/BUILDING INTEGRITY. We are blessed to have the help of John G. Waite, architect, who came on May 9 with two people from his office, Bill Brandow and Jessica Malarik, to measure the building, do preliminary sketches, and take photographs. The building is 60 feet three inches x 47 feet in its exterior measurements. As per a suggestion by Mark Peckham, from the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, we are wondering whether this may be one of the largest (if not the largest) extant pre-canal buildings in upstate New York. Can anyone think of a larger one?
As the building stands, you can clearly see outlines of the old gallery on three sides. Pieces of benches, stair railings, the divider between men's and women's meetings, and other interior features are visible. We are delighted to know that much more of the original fabric of the building remains and can probably be saved than we had originally thought. So the extra time that the building stands will be very helpful for documenting the structure. Stephen Spaulding, of the northeast regional office of the National Park Service, has been extremely helpful with technical advice. Thanks also to Bruce Harvey, of Kleinschmidt Energy and Water Resource Consultants, who has taken HABS quality photos of the exterior of the building.

HISTORICAL DOCUMENTATION. Charles Lenhart and Helen Kirker videotaped an interview with Gus Wehrlin, who as a child witnessed the actual moving of this meetinghouse in 1927. They are also interviewing other local people who attended annual meetings of Friends ("Quaker Days") in this meetinghouse. We have searched the Accessible Archives database of African American newspapers for all references to Farmington. Charles Lenhart has also worked with local historians in Macedon and Margaret Hartsough of Farmington to find material from local newspapers and photographs. Christopher Densmore has contributed photographs and much printed material from Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore and from his own research. Local people have found references in family diaries to speeches in the meetinghouse by Frederick Douglass, William Lloyd Garrison, and Susan B. Anthony. Several people have told us about benches, stoves, or other artifacts related to the meetinghouse. Many, many thanks to all of you who have shared this material. If others find references to the Farmington Meetinghouse, we much appreciate knowing about them.

FUNDING. Because much of the documentation for this building will take place before it is dismantled (instead of afterwards, as we had originally planned), and because much more can be saved than we had originally anticipated, we will have to spend money now that we thought we could defer until the building was dismantled. Upfront costs will be in the range of $75,000 or more, instead of $35,000 that we had originally estimated.
We now have potentially $25,000 (about $12,000 from private donations, $5000 from Heritage New York's Women's History Trail, $1500 from the New York State Council on the Arts, $1500 from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and, we are hopeful that we will have $5000 soon from another grant.)
The member item we have requested through Senator Nozzolio's office ($75,000) would be a wonderful step forward for this project.
We are also developing plans to raise money to rebuild the meetinghouse. We are looking forward to a creative combination of private and public monies and appreciate any ideas that any of you may have. All suggestions are welcome!
Donations large and small may be sent to:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation
P.O. Box 603
Seneca Falls, New York 13148

1816 Farmington Meetinghouse Fund

THANK YOU! Several interested people showed up to look at the meetinghouse on May 9, including Liseli Haines and her son Alex from Hamilton, New York, and neighbor Bob Wilton, who reported that a car had hit the southwest corner of the meetinghouse in an accident several years ago, which may explain why this corner was weaker than the others. Mr. Wilton also brought a marker with the name of John Van Lare on it. Mr. Van Lare is the farmer who moved the meetinghouse when it became a barn in 1927. One of the potato crates also had John Van Lare's name on it.

Thanks to everyone, including the Wiltons, the Stanton Foundation, and the Farmington Town Board, for your patience and your concern for this important building.

We'll keep you posted. If you are of Quaker persuasion, we ask that you hold all concerned with this project in the Light.

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Update 8

Hello Friends--
This has been a momentous week for the Farmington Meetinghouse!

1. SIGNING CONTRACTS! We expect that next Tuesday, May 2, 2006, we will transfer the building from the current owners, Lyjha and Jillian Wilton, to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation. Many, many thanks to the Wiltons for maintaining this building for future generations and to the Stanton Foundation for its willingness to assume responsibility while we work to find a permanent site. Without both of you, this building--with its nationally important stories of abolitionism, the Underground Railroad, Seneca land rights, and women's rights--would be lost.
Architect Jack Waite has put out bids for this project, and we hope to be able to review them in time to sign a contract on Tuesday with whomever will be doing the actual work on this building.

a. The National Trust for Historic Preservation has donated $1500 from its emergency fund to help us document, dismantle, and move this building! Many, many thanks for this very welcome contribution.
b. We now have about $18,750 (in private donations, as well as from the Heritage New York Women's History Trail, the New York State Council on the Arts, and the National Trust) toward the needed $35,000. We still need $16,250. We also have an outstanding application for a $5000 grant to the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting for documenting this meetinghouse.
Donations may be sent to:
Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation
P. O. Box 603
Seneca Falls, New York 13148
Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse Fund

Thank you all who have helped to support this project so far. Because of the need to move this building, beginning by May 3, timing is short for us to raise this money. We appreciate all of you so much who care about this building and all that it represents.

3. PUBLICITY The Google search algorithm counts links to blogs and web-sites. You can help others find this blog by including a link to from your web-site.

Discovering extraordinary people and places in time.
"All men and women are created equal." Declaration of Sentiments, Seneca Falls, 1848
"Right is of no sex. Truth is of no color." Frederick Douglass. North Star, 1848

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Update 7

Historic Farmington Meeting House, April 18, 2006 April 19, 2006
Good morning, Friends!

1. All contributions to the meetinghouse fund are welcome! We are still trying to raise $35,000 to pay the costs of dismantling and initially documenting this building. So far, we have raised almost $17,000, enough to begin work. We would like to transfer this meetinghouse to the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation and sign a contract with the mover sometime next week. In order to do this, however, we need to know that we can pay this mover in full, when the contract comes due. Some of us have agreed to guarantee this personally, but we are hoping that we do not have to mortgage the house, literally, to make good on this!

Contributions may now be sent to:
*Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation*
* P.O. Box 603*
* Seneca Falls, New York 13148*
* c/o Francis Caraccilo, Treasurer*
* 1816 Farmington Meetinghouse Fund*

2. Yesterday, Lyle Jenks, from the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, came to review the meetinghouse and our application for funding for its documentation according to Historic American Building Survey standards. It was a beautiful spring day, and we had a thorough and productive discussion of our progress. Many thanks to Lyle and all members of the committee.

3. Many thanks to a good friend and fellow preservationist from the Preservation Association of Central New York, who just sent $250 to the meetinghouse fund! (There is a connection between Quakers in Onondaga County and those in Farmington. At one time, many people in Skaneateles Quaker Meeting (Orthodox) in Onondaga County were extremely active abolitionists and Underground Railroad supporters. As a result of a survey of sites relating to
the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism, and African American Life (sponsored by the Preservation Association of Central New York and funded by the Preservation League of NYS and the NYS Council on the Arts), the home of Quakers James Canning Fuller and Lydia Fuller on Genesee Street in Skaneateles was listed on both the National Register and the National Park Service's Network to Freedom as an Underground Railroad safe house.)

4. Above is a photo of the meetinghouse, taken yesterday from the northeast, for inspiration.

Best, Judy Wellman for the Ad Hoc Committee to Preserve the 1816 Farmington Meetinghouse

Last Previous Update

Update 6

April 16, 2006

Hello Friends! Here is an update on the Farmington Friends' Meetinghouse.
1. TRANSFER OF THE MEETINGHOUSE TO ELIZABETH CADY STANTON FOUNDATION. Many thanks to the Stanton Foundation of Seneca Falls for its willingness to assume ownership of this building while we are looking for a permanent home, and many thanks to the current owners for working with us to make this possible. We hope to have this building transferred by the middle of next week.
2. CONTRACTING WITH MOVERS. At this same time that we transfer the building to the Stanton Foundation, we hope to sign a contract with the contractor who will dismantle the building. Jack Waite, architect, has prepared performance specifications. These are being publicized, and bids are being solicited from interested contractors.
3. RAISING FUNDS. We need about $35,000 to carry out the initial phase of moving and documenting this building. Thanks to the help of private donors, Heritage New York Women's History Trail, and a technical assistance grant from the New York State Council on the Arts, we have now raised $16,200. We are actively soliciting further grants and welcome--most heartily--your contributions as private donors! Many, many thanks for whatever you can do!

Contributions may now be sent to:
*Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation*
* P. O. Box 603*
* Seneca Falls, New York 13148*
* Attention: Francis Caracillo, Treasurer*
* Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse Fund*

4. WONDERFUL LETTERS OF SUPPORT! We received three beautiful letters of support--from Old Chatham Meeting; Lyle Jenks of Philadelphia; and Christopher Densmore, Curator of Friends Historical Library at Swarthmore. We passed all of these out at the Farmington Town Board meeting last Tuesday, and they are all appear here as comments to this page. Marie Parsons of Rochester Meeting also wrote a lovely evocative essay, which is now on our website. Thank you all so much fo these!
5. Diane Plassey Gutierrez and Marie Parsons are working on a brochure to help publicize the meetinghouse project. This should be available soon for downloading and printing. We will be meeting Lyle Jenks of the Chace Fund of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting (to which we have applied for funding to help document this building) at the meetinghouse tomorrow (Monday, April 17) morning at 10:00 a.m. All are welcome to join us.
Stay tuned! We will keep you posted with breaking news! Thanks for everyone's help, in every way.

Next Previous Update

Update 5

April 9, 2006

1. Francis Caraccilo, President of the Elizabeth Cady Stanton Foundation, reports that the Foundation is ready and willing to assume ownership of the Farmington meetinghouse on an interim basis, while we dismantle and document the building and look for a final home for it. As a not-for-profit, 501c3 organization, the Foundation has a track record in dealing with a historic buildings. In the early 1980s, the Stanton Foundation purchased the Elizabeth Cady Stanton house in Seneca Falls and donated it to Women's Rights National Historical Park.

2. Jack Waite, a nationally-known preservation architect, has agreed to work with us on dismantling, documenting, and reconstructing the Farmington meetinghouse. In addition to his work on such premier buildings as Mt. Vernon and the Tweed Courthouse, Mr. Waite brings a particularly appropriate expertise for the Farmington meetinghouse. He worked on a prize-winning project to dismantle and document a Chinese temple and reconstruct it for the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts, using techniques similar to those that he will be using for the Farmington meetinghouse. (For more information, see

Within the next several days, we will be working with the current owner, who has been so helpful in working with us and has agreed to donate this building, so that we can move forward with plans to move it into the hands of the Stanton Foundation, hire a contractor, and begin documenting and dismantling the meetinghouse. The Farmington Town Board has requested that work begin by May 3 and be completed by June 3.

What we need:

1. Interim storage area. Thanks to the work of the Rochester and Monroe County Freedom Trail and others, we have a couple of possibilities for places where this building might be stored before it is reconstructed. We can use either of these, but neither is perfect. The ideal location would be a secure enclosed area at least 100 feet x 100 feet, where we might spread the pieces of the meetinghouse out. There, careful drawings would be made according to Historic American Building survey specifications. Parts of the building would be partially reconstructed in this space, much like a giant 3-D puzzle, before the entire structure was finally rebuilt outside. If you know of a warehouse, empty strip mall, or similar spot where we might house the pieces of the meetinghouse while work is being done, please let us know ASAP.

2. Money. We need $35,000 within the next two or three months. We currently have $13,200 ($8200 in private donations, plus $5000 from Heritage New York's Women's History Trail). Many, many thanks to these donors!
We have requested a member item through Senator Nozzolio to help with the cost of this work. Because of the pressure of time, the actual dismantling will need to be done before we know whether this member item will be available, and--if available--before we have access to it. So we are trying to raise through private donations and immediate grants the estimated $35,000 that we will actually need to dismantle the building, restore the site to a level field, and pay the architect's fees.
Your help at this time is critically needed. If you can donate to this fund, even a small amount, you will be making a contribution for that will last far beyond our generation. Please send tax-deductible donations to:
Rochester Friends Meeting
84 Scio Street
Rochester, New York 14604
Attn: Paul Michaloski
1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse Fund
If Senator Nozzolio's member item does come through, we will apply this, as originally proposed, to documenting the building and preparing to rebuild it in its final location.

The Farmington Town Board will hold a public hearing on this building on Tuesday, April 11, at 7:00 at the Town Hall. All are welcome to attend.
Stay tuned for continuing reports! Thanks to everyone for all your continuing support. With your help, this building will stand for the ages, a continuing testament to the power of ideals of equality and justice for all people.

Next Previous Update


There are sites which seem layered in time; where human history accumulates and seems to remain. The 1816 Farmington Friends Meetinghouse is one of those places. The hand-hewn, barn-frame structure was used as a regular place of worship for sixty years, then served as a special meeting place for the Quakers of western New York - and far beyond - for another half-century.

Though it has been a storage barn for the past eighty years or so, and moved from its original site at the top of the slope at the nearby intersection, for those who know its history, the building still carries the aura of the everyday - and exceptional - Quakerly history which occured there. Even after the passing of 190 years, the heart of the structure is outlined by the hand-hewn, octagonal posts, once supporting the second-floor galleries, as well as adding their strength to the posts and rafters holding up the broad roof. Those eight-sided, vertical building members seem to define the pent-up echoes of the past for the now-wounded Meetinghouse.

If we stand quietly in that space, seeking the Light of True Gathering, the whispers of time seem to rise around us, asking us to listen. If we are mindful enough, then the voices of the past may rise up within us. Using that well-tuned spiritual ear which each Friend uses for worship, we may inwardly hear the voices of those Farmington Friends of the past. Yes, we can easily find the written words of the famous who were invited to speak here: Frederick Douglass, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Quakers' own Lucretia Mott, William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B.

But those well-known names are simply the embroidery upon the strong, homespun material of those, who in their everyday lives here in Western New York, supported equal rights for people of all races, genders and religions and who, in actively opposing slavery, waged the very first
American civil rights campaign. The lesser known, the unknown of the past are those whose voices whisper about us when we practice "true Gathering" in such a place. If we take our corporate Friendliness to heart, we must do that which the Light leads us to do, to preserve this
Quakerly, national and humane legacy for the Friends - and friends - of the future.

Marie Kent Parsons - 9 April 2006

Petition (Template)

1816 Farmington Quaker Meetinghouse
We, the undersigned citizens of central New York, heartily endorse the efforts to obtain funding to stabilize and restore the 1816 Farmington Quaker meetinghouse for use as an interpretive center for the nationally important history of women’s rights, Quakers and Native Americans, and the Underground Railroad in the Town of Farmington, Ontario County, for reasons outlined in the attached resolution:
Name Address Email (if available)
Please return to:
Helen Kirker (2146 Buffalo Street, Stanley, New York 14561) or
Judith Wellman (2 Harris Hill Road, Fulton, New York 13069)


Here is an article about Farmington
Friends in 1849, who were involved
in a very famous rescue of the
Edmondson sisters from slavery.

They were two of 77 people who
tried to escape from slavery in
Washington,D.C., in 1848 on a
ship called the PEARL. William
Chaplin, editor of the ALBANY
PATRIOT, was one of those
involved in this rescue. The PEARL
ran aground, and all on board
were captured and sold into slavery.
The Edmondson sisters, through
the efforts of their father, were
purchased and brought to the
Farmington area. They later
made a lecture tour around upstate
New York to help William Chaplin
get out of jail in Maryland when
he was again captured in Maryland.

ITEM #20128--from Accessible
Archives Database. Found by
Tanya Warren
October 26, 1849
Rochester, New York


Of the Provisional Committee,
for the Promotion of Education
among the Colored People, in
such of the Slave States are,
or may be accessible.
The organization of this Committee,
is the work of necessity. It grew
out of the consideration, that the
labors and prayers of the friends of
the slave had been blessed in the
deliverance of many thousands from
the fetters of legal bondage. But
their condition, when thus
emancipated, suggests the important
inquiry, that how glorious soever
may be our success in the future,
whether the consummation we so
ardently desire would not be reft
of half its interest and importance
if we were denied the reasonable
anticipation, that a blow so well
aimed and effective, would be
followed by a ready zeal, fidelity and
insight, in ample preparations to
impart the rudiments of sound
knowledge, with healthful morel
discipline, to the youthful masses just
escaped from legal bondage.
What is true of our slaves and colored
people, is true of every people,
long outcast and degraded. Such can
secure the recognition of their
rights, only through an intellectual
and moral regeneration. They
must burst the fetters of ignorance, and
vanquish the dominion of low,
sensual passions, or live and die in a
condition, in no way more exalted,
or worthy of a divine manhood, than
that of the veriest slaves!
The time has fully come in our
judgment, when a well advised and
effected plan may be vigorously
prosecuted for the enlightment and
elevation of our colored people,
who are at least nominally free,
though in the Slave States. In
some of those States they are not
seriously interrupted in the pursuit
of knowledge. They may be reached
in either of two ways, to wit: by
establishing schools directly among
them, or by selecting young persons
of good morals, and endowed with
active, strong powers of mind, who,
when sufficiently trained under
good teachers and the best social
influences to be found at the North,
may return to labor in the department
of instruction, among their
friends and the people of their peculiar
class at the South. This
latter is the idea which strikes us
forcibly, and which, for the
present, we shall seek to make
available by our efforts. Through the
events of Providence we have it
in our power, just now, in an easy,
quiet way, to make an experiment
in the direction alluded to, and under
the most agreeable and gratifying

The Edmondson Sisters, Mary and
Emily, you know by reputation. Their
brief history is singular
and affecting. It is enough to say,
that they were for seven months in
the hands of slave-traders, in
Washington, Baltimore, Alexandria, and
New Orleans - that their virtuous
and christian character afforded them
a shield of complete defence -
That by a rare impulse of social
sympathy, twenty-two hundred
and fifty dollars were raised for their
redemption! They are of a good
family - are now in this neighborhood,
under the most favorable
circumstances to be thoroughly taught,
possessing highly respectable
capacities, with most exemplary industry,
and a rare deportment for propriety;
they are anxious to acquire
information that will, in every way,
render them competent and
effective, as teachers and examples
among their people in the District
of Columbia. This Committee propose
to take charge of them - to advise
them, and to raise whatever means
may be required in the course of
their education. Others of equal
promise will, no doubt, soon offer
themselves. Indeed, we are well
informed, that any number of persons
adapted to the object we have in
view, can at any time be selected at
Washington or Baltimore.

Allow us to say, that it is not our
purpose to make pets of our
beneficiaries - to spoil them by
indulgence, or by superficial, shallow
views of the relations and duties
of life. It shall be our aim to
foster and assist their own exertions,
and by no means to supersede
them. Nor is it our design, in any
way, to build up schools exclusively
for colored children. We shall
place them where the chances for sound
instruction, exact discipline, and
real elevation of character, are the
most completely satisfactory.
Our limits forbid addition to this
hasty outline of our plans. We
wish to regard you as a corresponding
member of our body, and to look
to you constantly for counsel and
support, as a cordial and active
laborer in a common field of
enterprise and responsibility.
- Is it not
a delightful thought, that by a
united effort, the women of New York
can, in a brief period, place in
the District of Columbia, or the State
of Maryland, a dozen intelligent,
well-trained colored females, as
teachers of schools and models
of manners, behavior and character, to
exert an influence among those,
who are most sadly in need of its
quickening power?

You are left free to raise funds
and to bring this interesting
subject before the community
around you, in such way as
seems to you
most convenient, and at the
same time surest to reach a
speedy and desirable result.
The Committee will take care
that you receive frequently a f
ull report of what they design
and accomplish, and
especially of the manner in
which all the money and resources put at
their disposal are applied.

Your friends, truly.
P.S. Please to direct your
communications to our Secretary, C.G.
Hamblin, Farmington, Ontario Co., N.Y.


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