Rome

On the corner of James and Turin was the home of Oliver Beale Peirce. Peirce had an anti-slavery newspaper, part of which was found buried in a wall of his house when it was torn down. While the name of the publication is unknown, its motto was “independent but not neutral”. Peirce also organized the Mohawk Rangers, which became the 81st NY Volunteers. 


Arba Blair's home, on the corner of Washington St. & W. Park ( now site of Zion Church memorial garden ), was probably an UGRR site. He attended the first meeting of the Oneida County anti-slavery society and later became its president. Blair had a ‘safe room' in his house where he kept freedom seekers until he could arrange passage for them to Oswego via the M. Kenyon Stage line. Blair was instrumental in the formation of the Second Presbyterian Church, which advocated temperance and abolition. 


The second pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, Rev. Avelyn Sedgwick and his wife Harriet, were active agents for the Anti-Slavery Society. Places where he spoke against slavery include Rome, Black Creek, New London, Verona, Delta, Lee, Holland Patent, and Trenton. The church was located at 219 N. Washington Street, fell into disrepair after passing through many owners and was demolished in 1996. Arba Blair and his family attended the Second Presbyterian Church. Along with Mrs. Sedgwick, the signatures of the wife of Arba Blair and their two daughters appears on an all-women's anti-slavery petition. 


Colonel Arden Seymour, who resided on the SE corner of George and Dominick Street, claimed that “not a single slave was ever arrested in Rome.” 


Colonel Seymour tells of a man by the name of Johnson, a bright, intelligent man, escaped from his bondage, who settled as a barber at Little Falls. He had been there a number of years, had a family, and lived in his own house. He was surprised one day by having his old master present himself to be shaved. After performing the service, as he was not recognized, he made himself known to him. His master was glad to see him in a prosperous business and left, as he had no power to take him back to servitude. Soon after, Johnson left his business to one of his sons, and removed his family to Rome. He opened his shop in the basement of Stanwix Hall, and by his gentlemanly deportment was highly respected by the citizens of all parties. When the “Fugitive Slave Law” passed, although told by some of the prominent Democrats that they would protect against his being taken back to slavery, he fled with his family to Canada.” 


Colonel Seymour also relates; “While engaged in my store, a very gentlemanly mulatto introduced himself as coming from New York City. He said, ‘I understand, sir, you are going to the city soon; I have a family there, and my former master was in pursuit of men, and I had to flee from the city. My wife and family don't know where I am. They live on Cherry street, such a number, will you be so kind as to see her and tell her I have gone to Canada, and want her to follow me there, at such a place, by the way of Oswego.” He did not want any pecuniary help for himself or family. I found the family, a fine tidy woman – everything in her rooms in good order. A passage was engaged for her and her little ones on one of the Oswego line boats, with a captain who sympathized with the situation of the oppressed. She was to be put under the care of a good brother there, to send her to her husband in Canada.” 


In another incident, Colonel Seymour stated that “One Saturday evening while busy in my store, a colored man, trembling with fear, came in. His appearance showed me at once what he was. As it was a cold day, he was directed to take a seat by the stove, and was furnished with something to eat. He told me had had been three days in the swamp, and had nothing to eat. His master was in pursuit of him, and he barely escaped being taken. He was taken to Dr. Blair's, who had a room where he kept them in safety. On Monday morning he was given in charge of that noble-hearted man, Kenyon , who owned the daily line of stages to Oswego.” Marquis de Lafayette Kenyon provided transportation to escapees to the Freedman's Depot in Oswego on a regular basis. Elected President of Rome, he later was elected to the State Assembly in 1860. Kenyon is described in the “Roman Citizen” paper as being a “noble-hearted man.” 


Alfred and Sally ( Bowen ) Stevenson, who resided on Bouck street, received freedom seekers from her brother, Anthony Bowen of Washington DC, a free man of color who ran a station from his home on L' Enfant Plaza. Mr. Stevenson is listed as a sexton of the First Presbyterian Church, which by 1848 had reunited with the abolitionist Second (Presbyterian? ) Church.In


1844, William Johnson harbored two fugitive slaves, John Thomas and another from Maryland, while living on Post Street, in Utica. He was active in the African Methodist Episcopal Church located on the corner of Lawrence and Depeyster Street, in Rome. On May 10, 1853 he was appointed Vice President of “Convention of colored persons” at the church. There in 1863 he chaired a convention of Free People of Color which resulted in resolutions condemning the practice of Liberian Colonization. It is rumored that the church was a stop on the Underground Railroad.