Chester Hayden

Chester Hayden played an important role in the Utica Riot of 1835 and the Utica Rescue in 1836. He was Oneida County’s First Judge of Common Pleas in 1835.  Previously he was a prominent  attorney and one of the earliest judges of Oswego County.  He was also a trustee of the Mexico Military Academy before arriving in Oneida County.

Hayden was one of the leaders of the anti-abolitionist mob that disrupted the New York State Anti-Slavery convention at Utica's 2nd Presbyterian Church. After passing several resolutions, the rioters appointed Hayden and a "Committee of Twenty-Five" to demand that the convention be stopped. They successfully disrupted the meeting, but not before the New York State Anti-Slavery society was formally established. 

In 1836 local constables brought 2 freedom seekers to Hayden's law office at 96-98 Genesee Street, Utica. Hayden was about to turn them over to the 2 slave-catchers, but was interrupted by abolitionists Spencer Kellogg and Alvan Stewart. While Hayden was away at the County Courthouse, a crowd freed the two men.  

Hayden continued to serve as County Judge after the Utica Rescue, presiding over the arson trial of members of the notorious Loomis Gang later in 1837. By 1840 he had relocated to Ohio.  His first-person account of the Utica Rescue was printed in The Friend of Man, January 12, 1837. 

Horatio Seymour

Horatio Seymour was an American politician. He was the 18th Governor of New York from 1853 to 1854 and from 1863 to 1864. A leading Democrat, he supported the popular sovereignty ideas of Senator Stephen Douglas. During the Civil War he opposed any union efforts to abolish slavery. He was the Democratic Party nominee for president of the United States in the presidential election of 1868, but lost the election to Republican Ulysses S. Grant. Seymour is buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Utica.

Hiram Kellogg

Hiram Kellogg illustrates the far-ranging influence of Oneida County’s Abolition Movement. The Rev. Hiram H. Kellogg opened the interracial Young Ladies Domestic Seminary in Clinton, NY,  in 1833 and continued it until 1841.  From 1840 to 1860, of the more than 150 academies in New York State, only 8 were open to African Americans,  including Kellogg's Seminary and Whitesboro’s Oneida Institute. Elizabeth Gridley was a student and related this incident about the attendance of three black girls:

     “ An incident occurred during Mr. Kellogg’s tutelage of no little moment the time, as the subject of slavery was being hotly discussed, and coeducation in seminaries with colored girls had not been tested. Mr. Kellogg was equal, however, to the emergency, and accordingly we pupils were introduced to three colored student girls, just entered, who we were expected to treat with courtesy; but the innovation scarcely produced a ripple in the even tenor of the school where pupil boarders sat side by side with the, and the usual harmony prevailed.”   Harriet Ann Jacobs, who wrote “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” was a slave and with her daughter Louisa managed to come North. Louisa went to the Young Ladies Domestic Seminary.

Kellogg left in 1841 to become president of Knox College in Illinois, and he sold the school to the abolitionist Free Will Baptists who called their school the Clinton Seminary. Knox College was founded in 1837 by anti-slavery social reformers. Many of the founders actively supported the Underground Railroad. Its founding document, “The Circular and Plan,” opposed slavery in all forms -- physical, spiritual, intellectual -- and declared that the College would be accessible to students regardless of their financial means, and regardless of their race. This was a radical idea at the time.

Beriah Green

  Beriah Green was one of New York’s most outspoken and influential abolitionist who “jump-started” the Abolitionist Movement in Oneida County.  Green became supervisor of Whitestown’s Oneida Institute of Science and Industry in 1833 on condition that he could use it to promote racial equality and the Abolition Movement. The Oneida Institute, open from 1827-1844, operated at a crucial time for the education of African American leaders. The Oneida Institute’s black and white students established anti-slavery societies across the county. The Friend of Man, an Abolition newspaper, was printed here. The Oneida Institute became a “station” on the Underground Railroad.

Green aroused intense resistance. In January 1834 a Utica mob of 200 burned Green and Alvan Stewart in effigy. The Common Council tried to have Beriah Green indicted for treason, but the measure barely failed to pass by 1 vote.   He initiated the 1835 New York State Anti-Slavery Convention at Utica’s 2nd Presbyterian Church, and served as an officer many times. He was inducted into National Abolitionist Hall of Fame.

Gerrit Smith

Gerrit Smith was one of America’s wealthiest people before the Civil War who used hiswealth and property to support the Abolition Movement and Underground Railroad. He is one of America's most important abolitionist leaders.  He was born in 1797 in a house on Broad Street (south side) just east of Mohawk Street. His father Peter was John Jacob Astor, the fur merchant millionaire.

 Smith was the wealthiest landowner in New York State in the mid-19th century, amassing land holdings in over 50 counties in the state. He saw his wealth as a divine gift to be used for the benefit of others who were oppressed or less fortunate then him. He probably donated over 8 million dollars (equal to one billion dollars in today’s currency) to social, political, citizenship and religious causes. Smith subscribed to and supported several Abolitionist newspapers,

 Smith became an abolitionist in 1835 after attending the abolitionist convention at Bleecker Street, disrupted by the anti-slavery Utica Riot. Until then he had been a Colonizationist.  The convention was reconvened at Smith’s Peterboro estate. In 1836 he was elected to the first of four terms as president of the New York Anti-Slavery Society. By mid 1837 he was secretly shipping abolitionist tracts into the South. He soon began to harbor freedom seekers, and the mansion in Peterboro became a well-known station on the Underground Railroad, helping hundreds of fugitives. He purchased individuals and families directly from slaveholders, sending agents into the South to negotiate for their freedom. He was also one of the "Secret Six," who gave financial assistance to John Brown for his 1859 raid at Harper's Ferry.

One of his social causes was his experiment of colonizing approximately 120,000 acres in North Elba, New York with free African Americans. Out of his Peterboro Land Office, Gerrit Smith sold farm tracts for one dollar each to 3000 poor African Americans, many of whom he had helped escape into freedom, with approximately 140,000 acres being transferred between 1846 and 1850. Land ownership gave them property ownership and making them eligible to vote.

Smith was a candidate for President of the United States in 1848, 1856, and 1860. He served 18 months in Congress as a Free Soil Party Representative in 1853–4.

 Gerrit smith was inducted into National Abolitionist Hall of Fame.


William Blaikie

William Blaikie typifies the crucial feature of the Underground Railroad by serving as a link in the network of “stations” that covered the entire county. Blacks and whites of all occupations helped freedom seekers along the Underground Railroad. Whites were often reviled by their neighbors, and many faced violence. Moreover, they risked serious legal penalties if they were caught.

Blaikie owned an Apothecary on Genesee Street, on the site now occupied by the Radisson Hotel, across the street from Grace Church.   He sheltered freedom-seekers at his home at the southern edge of Utica at 2203 Genesee. He probably hid fugitives in the barn of his next-door pro-slavery neighbor.  His family sometimes had to flee their home because of the threat of anti-abolitionist violence.

John Devereux

John Devereux was born in Wexford, Ireland. His brother Walter was in several battles in the Rebellion of 1798, and his brother James was killed in the Battle of Vinegar Hill. In 1802 Devereux opened a store in Utica. He was elected mayor of Utica in 1840. With his brother Nicholas he founded the Utica Savings Bank. He was an active Catholic. Missionary priests would stay at Devereux's home, where Mass was celebrated. He and his brother brought the Sisters of Charity to Utica to open an orphanage and each gave $5,000 towards the object.Type your paragraph here.

​​Who's Who

Charles and Sarah Wills 

Charles Wills was a prosperous African American farmer who lived on Paris Road, New Hartford. He and his wife Sarah supported the Abolitionist Movement by contributing money and signing petitions protesting slavery. He was also a “station” on the Underground Railroad.

Samuel Beardsley

Samuel Beardsley was a prominent Utica lawyer. He served as a lieutenant in the War of 1812, taking part in the defense of Sackets Harbor. He served as the New York State Attorney General, as well as a New York Supreme Court associate justice. He was elected to the US House of Representatives. Beardsley is interred Forest Hill Cemetery.

Jermain Loguen

Jermain Loguen escaped from slavery in Tennessee, attended Whitestown's Oneida Institute, and became a prominent activist in the Underground Railroad in Syracuse.

 Loguen enrolled at the Oneida Institute in 1830. He started a school for the black children of Utica who were then excluded from the public system.  Loguen also established Hope Chapel, Utica’s first African American church.  He met and married Caroline Storm in Utica and they settled in Syracuse. Loguen became the leader of the Syracuse Underground Railroad and assisted hundreds of freedom seekers to escape. He is well known for his participation in “the Jerry Escape.”