Abolitionism flourished throughout the county and wherever it was most active, there too was the Underground Railroad. Nowhere did it so solidly reflect a community’s will as among the Welsh inhabitants of Remsen and Steuben, under the leadership of Dr. Robert Everett.
Born of Scottish-English father and a Welsh mother in 1797 in Wales, he was called to the ministry at Bethesda Welsh Congregational Church in Utica in 1823. He was an abolitionist from the time he arrived in Utica; the Everetts’ wagon driver was either a slave or a former slave and had told them much about slavery. Everett attended the famous inaugural meeting of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society and became one of the region’s most ardent abolitionists. He published 2 anti-slavery publications in Welsh. He also published a Welsh language edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin (Caban f’ewythr Twm) in Remsen. Everett helped organize the Welsh Anti-Slavery Society of Steuben, Remsen, Trenton, and Vicinities at Capel Ucha on January 27, 1842. At least one anti-slavery petition was sent to Congress by the Welsh Residents of Remsen and Steuben.
Everett served at the 2nd Presbyterian Church in Utica but, wanting to work with Welsh-speaking Congregationalists, he took on the ministry at Capel Ucha in Steuben, an area thickly inhabited by Welsh immigrants, with a capacity of about 500 people. Capel Ucha, first built of logs in 1804, was a Methodist stone church during the days of the Underground Railroad. It is likely that fugitives spoke here.
Those walls had sheltered the church home of the parents, and the grandparents of many of them, where they had learned to love the house of God. There had been heard the impassioned eloquence of so many old Welsh ministers in this country, and from Wales, thrilling addresses from the immortal Finney, in behalf of temperance, of Alvan Stewart, Beriah Green, and others of anti-slavery note, and even the plaintive story of the fleeing bondman, who, when he had told his tale, was secretly hurried to he next station on the underground railroad, on his forced flight to liberty in the Queen’s dominions.
Everett’s family was also heavily involved in abolitionism. His two sons attended the Oneida Institute. One of them, John Robert, helped John Brown’s antislavery faction in Kansas. He moved his family to a farm in Osawatomie, Kansas during the days of the free soil movement. His other son Robert Everett, Jr., helped his father print the Cenhadwr, an abolitionist periodical, and lectured on abolitionism and temperance. Both names appear on several anti-slavery petitions of 1837 from Whitestown. His daughter Elizabeth attended Rev. H. G. Kellogg’s Ladies Seminary in Clinton, run by abolitionists and which admitted African-Americans.
By the 1840s Oneida County had become well known for its abolitionist sentiments, due in part to the active support of the Underground Railroad among the Welsh inhabitants of the rural towns of Remsen and Steuben .