Beriah Green, born in Connecticut in 1795 and trained at Andover Seminary, struck some as severe and craggy. A New England abolitionist visiting her aunt in Oneida County reported that she found the president of Oneida Institute "ugly and clerical". He was an academic, a scholar of sacred literature and moral philosophy.
Local activists were inspired by the words and examples of Beriah Green and his students at the Oneida Institute, where he assumed leadership in 1833. Green accepted the presidency of Oneida Institute on the condition that he would be allowed to do more for the cause of black freedom in central New York. Green aimed to transform the Institute, located just east of Whitesboro about four miles from Utica, from a Presbyterian-dominated manual labor school into an interracial abolitionist training ground.
Green welcomed fugitive slaves to his home and to the campus, where students hid them in their dormitory rooms. Fugitives from the peculiar institution (as slavery was often called) enjoyed the safety of the ‘Old Hive,’ Green's home in Whitesboro.
Green, outraged following the passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, looked with an approving eye upon John Brown's raid upon Harper's Ferry. Green does not seem to have had prior knowledge of Brown's intentions, but, after the tragic climax of the events of 1859, he praised Brown as a true hero and martyr for righteousness, despite his violent means.
By the end of the Civil War, Green was in poor health due to the effects of old age and were more absorbed in personal rather than public affairs. Green characteristically had less confidence in Reconstruction politics.
On May 4, 1874, Beriah Green collapsed while delivering a temperance lecture in Whitesboro's town hall and died almost immediately.
Inscription: Rev. BERIAH GREEN, Born in Preston, Conn., March 24, 1795 - Died in Whitesboro, N.Y., May 4, 1874. “ So that death righteousness is righteous”
Green also supported many reform efforts, such as temperance, land reform, the redemption of prostitutes, and Christian missions. But he viewed the fight against slavery as the archetype of the whole Christian enterprise to remake America. A man of small means, Green's weapons were his voice and pen. Green's natural disposition inclined more to the scholar's study than the public platform. He drew strength from manual labor in the solitude of the woodpile and field.
Green became active in the Union Church movement, a loose confederation of Christian abolitionists in central and western New York, who insisted that Christians should separate from all those blind to the sin of slavery.
Green was particularly adamant that abolitionists should prepare themselves to assume the obligations of government rather than serve merely as a goad to the Whigs and Democrats on the single issue of slavery.