May 30, 2006
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
BUILDING THE MEETINGHOUSE, 1816.
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
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
UNDERGROUND RAILROAD—AUSTIN STEWART, FREEDOM SEEKER, 1816
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). docsouth.unc.edu/steward/menu.html
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: http://www.raims.com/education/SlaveryIssueAug04.htm. 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). docsouth.unc.edu/steward/menu.html. 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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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!
FREDERICK DOUGLASS AND FARMINGTON: A “NEW” LETTER:
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.
FARMINGTON AND WOMAN’S RIGHTS, 1848—PHOEBE HATHAWAY
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
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.
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)
YIN YU TANG HOUSE: A MODEL FOR THE FARMINGTON MEETINGHOUSE?
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 www.PEM.org 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.