Stories from Tioga County's Past

[an error occurred while processing this directive] This section includes a variety of stories that of historic importance.
Timeline of Afro-American History in Tioga County The Underground Railroad in Tioga County

Timeline of Afro-American History in Tioga County
with references pertinent to both New York State and the United States

For more information, contact
The Newark Valley Historical Society
PO Box 222, Newark Valley, NY 13811
(607) 642-9516

1502 National

Portugal lands its first cargo of enslaved Africans in the Western Hemisphere (1)

1619 National

twenty Africans arrive in Jamestown, VA, on a Dutch ship and are sold as indentured servants

1626 NYS

first importation of slaves by the Dutch into New York (New Netherlands) [McManus, p. 4]; Harley gives a date of 1624

1634 National

enslaved Africans are imported to Maryland and Massachusetts

1640 NYS

fine of 50 guilders imposed on anyone sheltering a runaway (McManus, p. 22)

1641 National

Massachusetts becomes the first colony to recognize slavery as a legal institution

1642 National

Virginia passes a fugitive slave order penalizing those who assist runaway slaves

1652 NYS

Dutch privateer seizes 44 Negroes from a Spanish ship to sell them in New Amsterdam (McManus, p. 7)

1661 National

Virginia legally recognizes the institution of slavery in order to maintain needed labor on tobacco plantations

1664 NYS

English establish rule in New Amsterdam (McManus, p. 23)

New York and New Jersey legally recognize the institution of slavery

1669 National

A Virginia act provides that slave owners will not be held liable for killing their slaves

1672 National

King Charles II of England establishes the Royal African Company which soon dominates the Atlantic slave trade

1679 NYS

Gov. Andros prohibits Indian slavery [McManus, p. 24]; Harley makes references to Native American slaves in the years 1682 and 1685

1682 NYS

it becomes a misdemeanor, punishable by flogging, for more than four slaves to meet together on their own time [McManus, p. 80]; Harley gives the date of 1685

1686 NYS

law is enacted making the willful killing of a slave a capital offense

[McManus, p. 59; however, there is no record of anyone ever being

prosecuted under this law, p. 93]

1688 National

Germantown, PA, Quakers sign a resolution against slavery making it the first official written protest against slavery in North America

1705 NYS

death penalty for slaves captured more than 40 miles north of Albany

McManus, p. 104 this is done to discourage slaves from escaping to

the French and providing intelligence information

1709 NYS

slave market is erected at the foot of Wall St. (Harley)

1712 National

Pennsylvania passes the first colonial legislation to prohibit the slave trade


slave insurrection in New York City; 21 slaves are put to death [McManus, pp. 122-125; the Negroes were "burned alive, racked and broken on the wheel, and gibbeted alive in chains]

1741 NYS

New York City slave plot foiled; 32 are executed and 72 are deported

[McManus, pp. 126-139 of the executions, 14 were burned at the

stake and 18 were hung; the prosecution of the case had similarities to

the Salem witch trials, p. 138]

1746 NYS

slaves make up 15% of the New York population [McManus, p. 42]

1753 Local

Moravian missionaries David Zeisberger and Henry Frey meet a Black fugitive near Zeniinge (Otsiningo) on their way to Onondaga. He told them that he had lived for several years among the Indians [Beauchamp, pp. 163-4]

1760 NYS

Society for the Propagation of the Gospel opens a school in New York City for Negro children [McManus, p. 70]

1764 Local

Report of two Blacks in Assining (later Corning). Legal status unknown [Dimitroff]

1767 Local

Birth of Betsey Douglas (Way-Way), offspring of runaway soldier from Fort Stanwix and his slave mistress. "Given" to Nanticoke Indians living in present day Vestal, NY. [Leamer, ]

1771 NYS

Quakers adopt an anti-slavery resolution at their annual provincial convention [McManus, p. 150]

1774 NYS

New York City distillers unanimously vote not to distill syrup or molasses intended for the slave trade [McManus, p. 152]

a New York act grants freedom to slaves who serve three years as soldiers [Harley]


1775 National

the Pennsylvania Society for the Abolition of Slavery is established, the first one of its kind; Benjamin Franklin is its first President

at least 100,000 slaves run away from their masters during the Revolutionary War

1777 (?) National

Americans begin to offer emancipation to the Negroes who fight for the colonists; New York's first Constitutional Convention endorses the principle of emancipation for all slaves [McManus, p. 157; by the end of the war, over 4,000 blacks have served in the Continental Army and thousands more in the local militias]

1777 National

Vermont is one of the first states to abolish slavery in its constitution

1779 National

Sir Henry Clinton, British Commander-in-Chief, offers freedom to any slave who fights for the British [McManus, p. 154]

Negroes captured fighting for the Continentals would be sold into slavery regardless of legal status, [McManus, p. 158]


at the Battle of Newtown on August 30th, near present day Elmira, two prisoners are taken - a Tory and a Negro; this was the only major battle of the Clinton-Sullivan Campaign [Division of Archives, p. 135]

1780 National

the Massachusetts constitution abolishes slavery

1781 NYS

New York legislature votes to manumit any slave serving in the armed forces [McManus, p. 161]

1785 NYS

bill for gradual emancipation introduced, but voted down [McManus, p. 162-65]; New York Manumission Society is organized [McManus, p. 168], one of their concerns is to prevent the illegal export of slaves from out of New York, p. 170]

1787 National

US Constitution is adopted. It states that the importation of slaves will not be prohibited before 1808 and that one slave will count as 3/5 of a person for congressional apportionment

1788 NYS

it becomes illegal to sell any slave imported into the state [Harley]

1790 NYS

According to the US Census of 1790, New York's black population has 21,329 slaves and 4,654 freemen. New York has the largest number of slaves north of the Mason-Dixon line. [McManus, p. 200]


as of this year, all New England colonies have abolished slavery

1793 National

passage of Federal Fugitive Recovery Act, but the court rules that states cannot be compelled to enforce it [Phelan, p. 39]; however, since due process of the accused is denied, the act aids in recovery of fugitive slaves and kidnapping of free Blacks [Wilson]

Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin

1799 NYS

a gradual manumission bill is passed. The bill frees all children born to slave women after July 4, 1799, with the provision that the males must stay with the master until age 28 and the females until age 25. Owners could technically "abandon" these children and assign them to the local overseers of the poor [McManus, pp. 174-5]

Date uncertain Local

Issac Sharpe, a Revolutionary war veteran of "mixed" blood, becomes one of the first settlers in the Town of Nichols [Gay, p. 271]

1802 Local

Maj. Horatio Ross of Maryland comes to Owego with his two sisters. They bring two slaves. [Kingman, p. 105]

1804 National

New Jersey passes a gradual emancipation law

first instance of a prototype Underground Railroad case

1806 NYS

New York City provides schools for black children for the first time [Harley]

1807 National

Congress prohibits the slave trade effective Jan. 1, 1808; however, the ban is widely ignored

1809 NYS

NY bill passed that recognizes slave marriages, legitimizes children of slaves and prohibits separation of spouses [McManus, p. 178]

slaves are given the right to own and transfer property by will [Phelan, p. 39]

Date uncertain Local

Dr. Seeley, the first practicing physician at Lowman, beats one of his male slaves to death. Col. Thomas Baldwin told the doctor that if he beat his slaves again, the doctor would be shot [Albertson, p. 108-9]

Ebenezer Backus, an early proprietor of the DeForest Tavern in Owego, was the owner of two slaves (Backus was Owego Town Clerk in 1814) [Kingman, p. 466]

1810 NYS

law passed against hiring out slave for more than seven years; if over seven years, slave would be free [Schaetzke, p. 31]

1813 National

10 to 25 per cent of Admiral Perry victorious naval force in the Battle of Lake Erie, Put-in-Bay, OH, are black


law is repealed barring Negroes from giving testimony against whites; slaves accused of a crime are given the right to a jury trial [Phelan, p. 39]


1814 National

two battalions of black troops fight with Gen. Andrew Jackson at the Battle of New Orleans


New York authorizes the raising of two regiments of Negro soldiers; slaves could join with master's permission and would be considered free upon end of service [Schaetzke, p. 33]

1815 National

Quaker Levi Coffin establishes the Underground Railroad

1816 National

the American Colonization Society, which seeks to colonize free blacks in Africa, is organized in Washington, DC

the African Methodist Episcopal Church is started in Philadelphia

1817 NYS

bill is passed freeing any slave born before July 4, 1799 [McManus, p. 178]; Harley gives the date of 1813. Nonresidents are allowed to enter the state with their slaves, but slaves are to be forfeited after nine months

1818 Local

Augustus Van Buren moves to Richford; a former slave of the Van Buren family along the Hudson, Augustus relates that he cared for Martin Van Buren as a child [Gay's Gazetteer, p. 416-17]

1820 National

the Missouri Compromise is enacted; Maine is admitted as a free state, Missouri as a slave state


According to the US Census of 1820, Tioga County has 70 slaves of which 32 are located in the Town of Caroline. These are very likely divided among four to five owners (Boyer, Hyde, Patillo and the Speeds). [Pierce & Hurd, pp. 458-59]

1821 NYS

Negro qualifications for voting raised to $250 of property; property qualifications for whites are abolished [McManus, p. 187]

1827 NYS

Emancipation Day in New York State (July 4th)


Robert Hyde, Town of Caroline, is indicted for taking slave to VA and not returning with said slave since this slave would have been free by staying in NYS [OG, Mar. 26, 1931]

1831 National

Nat Turner's rebellion

the New York Committee and the New England Anti-Slavery Society, a radical abolitionist group, are formed

The Liberator, under the direction of William Lloyd Garrison, begins publication in Boston, MA

1834 National

the British Parliament abolishes slavery in the British Empire


racial riots in New York City; hundreds of Negro homes destroyed [McManus, p. 186]

1835 Local

Hammon D. Pinney and his father Joshua come to Owego from Albany to open a dry goods store known as the "Owego Arcade". He would soon become a leader in the abolitionist movement [Kingman, p. 294-5]

1837 Local

first meeting of those favoring abolition held in Baptist Church, Owego [Pierce & Hurd, p. 87]

1838 Local

The Rev. Philetus B. Peck begins his pastorate at the Baptist Church of Owego. He is one of the "pioneers of the anti-slavery movement" and stays until 1847 [Kingman, pp. 627-8]

1839 National

Abolitionists organize the Liberty Party

the Spanish ship, the Amistad, is brought into Montauk, NY, by a group of Africans who have revolted against their captors


first ads appear for anti-slavery almanacs at Pinney's Arcade [OG, Nov. 14, 1839, p. 3]

In January a meeting is held to form an abolition society [Pierce & Hurd, p. 87]

Issac Lillie, a surveyor and teacher, is among those who help form the abolition society [Kingman, p. 318]

1840 National

Pope Gregory XVI declares opposition to slavery and the slave trade


Abolitionists hold first county convention on Jan. 10th [Pierce & Hurd, p. 87]

Frederick Douglas is invited to speak but is "chased" out of Owego [History of Baptist Church, p. 32]

Gerrit Smith has rotten eggs thrown at him for speaking against slavery in Owego [Deuel]

A convention of the "Colored Inhabitants" of the State of New York is held in Albany; Luther Johnson of Owego attends [AA The Colored American, Sept. 12, 1840, #15433]. Referred to as "eccentric Negro barber and fiddler" [Kingman, p. 251]

1841 National

Frederick Douglas makes his first anti-slavery speech in Nantucket, MA


ban against non-residents bringing slaves into the state [McManus, p. 178]

the New York legislature grants school districts the right to segregate their educational facilities [Harley]

1842 Local

The AME church of Owego is issued incorporation papers on Oct. 11th [Tioga County Clerk's Office, Miscellaneous Records, Bk. 1, p. 289]

Emancipation Celebration takes place in Owego [OG, Aug. 12, 1842, p. 2]

Story of Black who commits suicide in Owego [OG, Aug.12, 1842, p. 2]

1843 National

Sojourner Truth (b. Isabella Van Wageren, Hurley, NY) leaves New York and begins abolitionist work


Start of the AME Annual Fair [OG, May 10, 1934, p. 7]

1844 Letter from abolitionist appears in Owego Gazette [OG, Nov. 8, 1844, p. 2]
1845 National

white Baptists split over the issue of slavery

Frederick Douglas's Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas is published

1846 Local

In a flood that occurs on March 26th, three passengers and a driver on a mail coach coming from Elmira to Owego drown crossing the Owego Creek. One of the passengers was a "negro". [Kingman, pp. 439-40]

In April, the Rev. Samuel Corlyus Wilcox resigns from the Presbyterian Church due to conflict with the elders over the issue of slavery. Rev. Wilcox leaves for Williamsburg, MA. [Kingman, p. 587]. . According to one source, it stems from him asking the congregation to pray for "our brethren in bonds". [Gladden, pp. 46-7]


1847 National

Frederick Douglas is elected president of the New England Anti-Slavery Society; the North Star, edited by Frederick Douglas, begins publication in Rochester, NY


The Liberty Party holds a nominating convention in Cortland; Hammon Pinney is one of the secretaries [AA The National Era, February 18, 1847, #6292]


1848 NYS

George Vashon is the first black attorney in the state of New York [Harley]


The Tioga Freeman is published in Owego; it is in support of "Free Trade and Free Labor" [AA The National Era, Washington, DC, May 25, 1848, #10582] Its first issue is May 2, but the office was destroyed by fire in September 1849 and ceased publication. [Gay, p. 62] {see death of Gideon Chase, 1887}

In a letter to the North Star, a writer states that Binghampton [sic] is one of the "most pro-slavery villages" in central NY [AA The North Star, Sept. 15, 1848, #12107]

1849 National

Harriet Tubman (b. 1820) escapes from slavery in Maryland


A group sympathetic to the anti-slavery cause breaks with the Presbyterian Church and asks Rev. Wilcox to return to form a Congregational Church [Kingman, p. 587]

1850 National

Lucy Sessions earns a degree from Oberlin College, OH; she is possibly the first black person to earn a college degree in the US

Compromise of 1850 strengthens the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and admits California as a free state

Sojourner Truth's Narrative of Sojourner Truth is published


Blacks in New York City form the short-lived American League of Colored Labourers, a union of skilled workers [Harley]


The Owego Advertiser complains that Hammon Pinney has desecrated the "Sabbath and sanctuary" for promoting the cause of abolition inside the Baptist Church [OA, April 25, 1850, p. 2]

A "Bush Negress or Wild Woman of the Woods" is exhibited in Owego, admission 25 cents [OA, Oct. 3, 1850]

1851 National

Sojourner Truth delivers an unplanned fiery address (now known as "Ain't I a Woman) at the Women's Rights Conference in Akron, OH


Black and white abolitionists enter a courtroom in Syracuse, NY, and rescue Jerry McHenry, a fugitive slave; there is a similar instance in Boston [Harley]


Account of Emancipation Day celebration in Owego [OG, July 10, 1851, p. 2]

R.W. Thompson, a Black barber from Owego, is ejected from the cars of the Jefferson & Elmira RR for not taking his designated seat. He sues and receives $75 in damages. This is the first known challenge to discrimination on public transportation. [OG, August 7, 1851, p. 2]

The abolitionist William L. Chaplin delivers a lecture at the Baptist Church. He was, at that time, under $25,000 bond for aiding the escape of slaves in Maryland [OG, Aug. 21, 1851, p. 1]

The Liberty Party nominates Hammon D. Pinney for State Engineer; Gerrit Smith is nominated for President [AA Frederick Douglass Paper, October 23, 1851, #24356]


1852 National

Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin is published


NY judge frees eight slaves brought into the city from Virginia on their way to Texas; this action followed the precepts of NYS law [OG, Nov. 18, 1852, p. 3]


R. W. Thompson, a Black barber, moves his business to the Ahwaga House (dated May 27th); J. M. Hollensworth, whose business is located on Lake St., advertises a major remodeling of his shop (dated May 19th) [OG, Nov. 20, 1856, p. 4]

Liberty Party (?) representatives from the counties of Tompkins, Chemung and Tioga hold a convention in Owego to nominate candidates for the 27th Congressional District [AA Frederick Douglass' Paper, Oct. 1, 1852, #34676]

Contributions totaling $19.62 are collected from 8 towns and villages in the county for the NYS Anti-Slavery Society [AA Frederick Douglas Paper, Dec. 24, 1852, #35850]

The Liberty Party hold a national convention in Syracuse; an 8 member business committee is appointed that includes Gerrit Smith, Samuel Wells, J. W. Loguen and Hammon Pinney [Frederick Douglass' Paper, Oct. 15, 1852, #34894]


1853 Local

Prince Van Ness is appointed keeper of Evergreen Cemetery. He keeps this position until his death in 1866 [Kingman, p. 666]


1854 National

Kansas-Nebraska Act repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and permits admission, with or without slavery, of Kansas and Nebraska territories

The Republican Party is formed to oppose extension of slavery into the territories


Elizabeth Jennings sues the Third Avenue Railroad; she wins $225 in damages and a court ruling that Blacks may ride with whites on New York City horsecars [Harley]


Meetings are held in Owego in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska Act [OG, June 8, 1854, p. 2 & Aug. 17, 1854, p. 2]

A letter by Gerrit Smith appears in the Owego Gazette. [Aug. 24, 1854, p. 2]

a fugitive slave passes through Owego [OT, Aug. 31, 1854, p. 2]

in April the play "Uncle Tom's Cabin" runs for one week in Owego to a good house [Kingman, pp. 536-7]

The Rev. William H. King begins his pastorate at the Baptist Church of Owego. He is a strong anti-slavery advocate and stays until 1881 [Kingman, p. 627, 631]

1855 NYS

As of this year, 87% of employed blacks in New York City work in menial labor or unskilled jobs; this figure is representative of the economic conditions of free blacks in other Northern cities [Harley]

1856 National

Margaret Garner escapes with her family from Kentucky to Ohio. When a group of slave holders and US marshals trap them, she kills her infant and strikes two of her boys with a shovel to keep them from returning to slavery. Hers is perhaps the most thoroughly recorded incident of slave resistance and infanticide

There is strong support in both the North and the South for reviving the slave trade [OT, Nov. 27, 1856, p. 2]


Republicans are referred to as "Negro worshippers" [OG, June 26, 1856, p. 2]

John Parker, a freed slave from Virginia, speaks at a Wesleyan Methodist camp meeting in Candor in hopes to raise enough money to buy his wife and child. [OT, Sept. 25, 1856, p. 1]

1857 National

In Dred Scott v. Sanford, the US Supreme Court rules that Dred Scott, a slave, cannot sue for his freedom in a free state because he is property and as such "has no rights a white man has to respect".


an anti-slavery convention is held in Owego on Jan. 20 & 21 [OT, Jan. 8, 1857, p. 3]

The Owego Gazette reports that the proceedings from a meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society in NYC are "treasonous" [OG, May 28, 1857, p. 2]

William Lounsberry of Nichols advertises that a "colored boy", William King, had left him with 2 1/2 years of service remaining [OT, July 23, 1857, p. 3]

the A.M.E. Society purchases a chapel from the Presbyterian Church and moves it to 116 Fox St.; it is dedicated on December 25, 1857 [JHJ plaque]

1857-62 NYS

Lax enforcement of slave trade laws by New York judiciary result in continued traffic in slaves through this entire period. [Vinson]

1858 National

Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas debate during the Illinois primary

a slave ship is captured off the north coast of Cuba and taken to Charleston, SC. [OG, Sept. 16, 1858, p. 1]


letter by C. P. Johnson of Berkshire promoting the cause of abolition [OT, Feb. 25, 1858, p. 2]

1859 National

John Brown raids a Federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, WV

The Clothilde, the last US slave-trading ship, arrives in Mobile Bay, AL


The AME Church holds a supper and festival [OG, Jan. 20, 1859, p. 3]

1860 National

Lincoln is elected president; South Carolina becomes the first state to secede from the Union

The Brooklyn Excelsiors is the first black baseball team to tour the US


Evening Star No. 19, a "Colored Lodge", exists in Owego from this date through the 1880's [Watrous, p. 117]

1861 National

The Civil War begins when the Confederates attack Fort Sumter, SC, on April 12

The Colonization Society reports that seven slave ships had been captured. Of the 4,275 on board, only 3,684 would live to land in Liberia [AA The Christian Recorder, May 18, 1861, #41814]

1862 National

The US Congress approves the enlistment of freed blacks into the army. Their pay is half the amount of white soldiers and will not be equalized until 1864

May Jane Patterson is the first black woman to receive a bachelor's degree from an accredited college (Oberlin)

1863 National

The Emancipation Proclamation goes into effect, but only in those states and areas still in rebellion against the Union

The 54th Massachusetts Volunteers becomes the first northern black regiment


White mobs destroy a black orphanage in NY [Harley]

Poor white immigrants in NYC attack blacks in the so-called anti-draft riots leaving almost 1,200 people killed [Harley]

1864 National

Fugitive Slave Laws are repealed


One hundred forty-four blacks from 18 states meet in Syracuse, NY, for a National Convention of Colored Citizens; they issue an appeal for the right to vote [Harley]

1865 National

The Civil War ends with the surrender of Gen. Lee at Appomatox. 250,000 blacks have served in Union forces; 38,000 have lost their lives

The US Congress ratifies the 13th amendment which abolishes slavery

President Lincoln is assassinated in Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC


Hyram S. Thomas, chef, invents the potato chip in Saratoga Springs, NY [Harley]


Blacks of Owego and adjoining counties hold a celebration in Owego marking the end of slavery in the South and the end of the Civil War [OT, Aug. 17, 1865, p. 2]

1866 National

Bands of southern white men begin a campaign of terror against blacks and white Republicans; these groups include the Ku Klux Klan


Death of Prince Van Ness on Dec. 28, sexton for Presbyterian Church [OG, Jan. 3, 1867, p. 2]




At the National Association of Baseball Players convention, delegates vote to exclude black players and teams from membership

1868 National

Congress ratifies the 14th Amendment, which grants blacks full citizenship and equal civil rights

1869 National

US Congress establishes four regiments of black enlisted men Ninth and Tenth Cavalries and the 24th and 25th infantries; Native Americans refer to these troops as "Buffalo Soldiers"

1870 National

US Congress passes the 15th amendment, which grants male suffrage regardless of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude".


Upon graduation from the NY Medical College for Women, Susan McKinley Stewart becomes the third black female doctor in the US [Harley]


the American Anti-Slavery Society disbands. The Owego Times reports that the Underground Railroad had existed in Owego and that Hammon Pinney had been one of the station masters. [OT, April 14, 1870]

A group of "rowdies" disrupt church services at the AME Church; one instance erupts into assault; the OT condemns the perpetrators [OT, Oct. 20, 1870]

1872 Local

An Emancipation Jubilee is held at Wilson's Hall [Binghamton Daily Democrat, Jan. 20, 1872, p. 2]

Another "Jubilee of Freedom" takes place during the summer

[OT, Aug. 15, 1872, p. 3]

Frederick Douglas gives a lecture on Santo Domingo [OG, March 21, 1872, p. 3; OT, March 21, 1872, p. 3]

1873 Local

AME Church is reconstructed and rededicated [JHJ plaque]

1874 Local

The "Fat Men" of Newark Valley host a clambake at the Trout Ponds. Capt. Isaiah Flamer (241 lbs.), an Owego black barber, is among the first to "weigh in" [OG, Oct. 1, 1874]

1875 National

The Civil Rights Act of 1875 gives blacks the right to equal treatment in inns, public conveniences, and public amusement places

1876 Local

The Philosophian Literary Society for "colored citizens" is formed. It has 50 members [Pierce & Hurd, p. 184]

1877 National

The Republican Party establishes the "Black and Tan Republican Party", which is separate from the all-white Republican Party


AME Church of Owego host a State Conference [OG, May 17, 1877, p. 3 & May 31, 1877, p. 3]

1879 Local

Death of Carlisle P. Johnson, a Berkshire merchant [OT, March 20, 1879]. He was referred to as an "old abolitionist"; Frederick Douglas stayed at his home when Douglas came to speak in Owego [Gay, p. 164]. Johnson very likely aided fugitive slaves.

Daniel Searles, a Black laborer living in Newark Valley, kills an elderly white farmer, Elbridge Rewey on June 26[OG, July 3, 1879]; trial begins on December 1st; he is convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to hang [OT, Dec. 11, 1879]

The AME Church has 200 sittings, 45 members, $5000 worth of property and pays its minister $500 [Pierce & Hurd, p. 93]

Luther Stone of Waverly is identified as an abolitionist and that his home was a station on the Underground Railroad [Pierce & Hurd, p. 647]

1880 Local

Daniel Searles is executed on Jan. 21st; this was Tioga County's first and only public execution [OT, Jan. 22, 1880]

Rev. B. F. Aldridge, pastor of the AME Church dies of "quick consumption" at age 27. A native of New Orleans, he was educated at Oberlin. [OG, Oct. 28, 1880]

1885 National

The Cuban Giants are organized; they are considered to be the first black professional baseball team

1886 Local

Enoch R. Spaulding runs for Village Trustee on the Republican ticket. He is defeated, but he is the first Black to run for any elective office in the county. [OG, Jan. 7, 1886]

A grand Emancipation Celebration to be held [OT, July 29, 1886, p. 3]

J. M. Hollensworth is notified of his appointment as notary public by Gov. Hill [The New York Freeman, July 31, 1886, p. 4]

Reference to a "colored officer" in the Owego Police Dept. [Owego Daily Blade, Aug. 6, 1886, p. 3]

1887 Local

Ad appears in the Owego Times for Enoch R. Spaulding, who now offers both barber services and bathrooms at his place of business at 47 Lake St. [Watrous, p. 65]

Death of Gideon O. Chase, former editor for the Tioga Freeman. According to this source, the paper continued until Sept. 1850, not Sept. 1849. [OG, March 31, 1887, p. 1]

The AME Church hosts a two day district conference [OG, Oct. 20, 1887, p. 1]

The family of Moulton Cheeks, consisting of 13 children plus mother and father, gives a concert at Ahwaga Hall; there is standing room only. [OG, Dec. 15, 1887, p. 1]

1888 Local

Emancipation Day celebration held in Waverly [OG, Aug. 2, 1888, p.1]

1890 Local

Samuel J. Hollensworth, Esq., former barber of Owego, has now become a lawyer in Pine Bluff, AK [OG, Jan. 16, 1890 taken from Pine Bluff, AK, Commercial]

Two Black youths steal some skunk skins. One is described as "an indolent specimen of his race, of which there are a great number in this village." [OG, Feb. 15, 1890, p. 1]

"Colored People's Camp Meeting" held in South Waverly [OG, July 31, 1890]

A "colored Chatauqua" is held in Waverly [OG, Aug. 14, 1890?]

A minstrel company, Uncle Tom's Cabin Company, performs in Owego; it has "white and colored" artists [OG, Oct. 9, 1890?] Minstrel shows would occur with regularity through the W. W. I period; several had white and Black artists. The Lyric Minstrel Troupe of local composition was also integrated. [Nizalowski, p. 329]

1891 Local

concert is given by wife of the AME minister; audience is "crowded with with white people" [OG, May 21, 1891, p. 5]

1892 NYS

A Black is lynched in Port Jervis, NY[OG, June 9, 1892, p. 1]


Owego Black population (Town and Village) would reach a peak of 225 (?) [US Census, 1892]

Performance by minstrel group Considine Avenue Aeolians, has white and Black performers [OG, April 14, 1892, p. 1]

A dispute erupts in the AME Church over who should control funds raised for remodeling. The minister has one person arrested for disturbing a religious meeting [OG, June 2, 1892]

J. M. Hollensworth selected for Colored Men's National Convention [OG, June 23, 1892, p. 1.

The AME State Convention is held in Owego [OG, June 30, 1892, p. 1]

Unveiling of the Soldier and Sailor's Monument; Oscar Barton, drummer with the 26th NY Colored Infantry Regiment, makes his last public performance [interview with Margaret Williams, his granddaughter]

1893 Local

Performance by the Dockstalder Minstrels [OG, Mar. 9, 1893, p. 1]

AME Church holds a week long camp meeting at the NV Trout Ponds [OG, July 13, 1893, p.5]

1894 Local

AME has benefit at the Ahwaga Hotel [OG, April 26, 1894, p. 5]

1895 Local

A Black barber expresses interest in being Treasurer for the Village of Owego [OG, Dec. 12, 1895, p. 4]

1896 National

In Plessy v. Fergerson, the US Supreme Court rules that "separate but equal" facilities are constitutional

1897 Local

Enoch R. Spaulding elected Treasurer for the Village of Owego. . At this time there were four barbers in his place of business. [OT, Jan. 7,1897, p. 3]

Death of Samuel J. Hollensworth, age 60, in Little Rock, AK [OG, April 1, 1897, p. 1]

A poem entitled "Thanksgiving in Blackville" appears on the front page of the Owego Gazette. It is written in Southern Black dialect. [OG, Nov. 25, 1897] Representations of this type would frequently appear from 1890 through the W. W. I period. [Nizalowski]

Performance by Uncle Tom's Cabin Company, 60 performers [OG, Dec. 16, 1897, p. 5]

Death of James H. Wilson, Owego resident who had enlisted in the 54th Colored Massachusetts Volunteers. He had been disabled by the premature explosion of a cannon [OG, Dec. 23, 1897, p. 1]

Enoch R. Spaulding elected Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Colored Masons at annual meeting held in NYC [Watrous, p. 116-117]

Enoch R. Spaulding is a member of the committee to erect a statue of Frederick Douglas in Rochester [Czerkas]

The Owego Mandolin Club, a Black organization, does a benefit concert for the pastor of the AME Church [Watrous, p. 97]

1898 Local

Death of Hammon Pinney on Feb. 24th. It is noted in his obituary that his home had been a haven for runaway slaves. [OT, March 3, 1898, p. 3]

1899 Local

Death of Lewis Wallace, former slave and Civil War veteran [OG, Jan. 19, 1899, p. 1]

AME Church holds a musical and cakewalk at the Ahwaga Hotel [OG, Nov. 16, 1899, p. 5]

the "In for Information Club", a "colored" club of Owego, sponsors a ball at the Ahwaga [OG, Nov. 30, 1899, p. 5]

The Rev. Peter B. Guernsey leaves the Baptist Church of Owego to take the Presidency of Roger Williams University in TN, a college which prepares "young colored men for the ministry". [Kingman, pp. 632-3]

1900 National

By this year the AME church consists of 5,775 churches and 663,746 members


Performance by the Orion Orchestra of Ithaca to benefit the AME Church [OG, Mar. 22, 1900, p. 5]

1901 National

Booker T. Washington dines with President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. This dinner is criticized by many whites.


Jennie Glasco, "colored", is salutatorian for her graduating class (?)

1902 Local

Miss Olivia Hasaalum is first "colored" applicant to Cornell University from Owego [OG, June 12, 1902, p. 1]. She would later graduate from Oneonta Teacher's College [Tioga Courier, p.1, Feb. 23, 2000; article by Mike Gulachok]

100 people from Owego attend the Emancipation Day Picnic in Ithaca [OG, Aug. 14, 1902, p. 1]

1903 NYS

Harriet Tubman deeds a home for the elderly in Auburn, NY, to her AME Zion Church [Harley]


Owego Gazette proposes that a lynch law should be passed for the North [OG, June 11, 1903, p. 4]

1904 Local

Charles Cheeks, age 29, attempts suicide fending off an imaginary lynch mob. He is committed to the State Hospital in Binghamton [OG, Mar. 17, 1904, p. 1]

1906 National

In the "Brownsville Incident", 167 black soldiers are dishonorably discharged for raiding a town. Pres. Roosevelt supports this action. More than 60 years later, their names are eventually cleared.


The first black Greek letter fraternity for undergraduates is founded at Cornell University [Harley]


The Cuban Giants, a Black baseball team, lease the Tioga County Fair Grounds for their 1906 season [OG, March 1, 1906, p. 1]

Some Cornell University students fortified by "liquid refreshment", start annoying a Black barber, William Benson. He fires blanks from a revolver into the air and they run off. Police are called, but see nothing that requires their attention [OG, July 26, p. 1]

1907 National

The US Supreme Court rules that railroads may racially segregate passengers traveling between states, even when segregation is illegal in the states in which the train is traveling


The First Baptist Church donates chairs and hymn books to the AME Church [Watrous, p. 189]

1908 Local

Edward Buck becomes an apprentice seaman [OG, Jan. 2, 1908, p. 1]

1909 Local

Death of Moulton Cheeks. He had been a slave in Virginia and had come to Owego after the Civil War. He was a carpenter by trade and had 19 children [OG, Feb. 4, 1909, p. 1]

Dispute erupts at the AME Church [OG, July 1, 1909, p.1]

Rev. DeShields of the AME Church leaves [OG, Sept. 9, 1909, p. 1]

1910 Local

Orpheus Jubilee Singers to perform at the Methodist Episcopal Church [OG, Jan. 13, 1910, p. 1]

1911 NYS

Booker T. Washington is severely beaten for allegedly approaching a white woman in NYC [Harley]


The AME Church holds a colorful parade similar to the Pinkster celebrations of Blacks along the Hudson River [OG, July 27, 1911, p. 1]

1913 Local

Samuel Cheeks, age 81, is baptized in the Susquehanna River [OG, Sept. 11, 1913, p. 2]

1915 National

The NAACP leads protests against D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation

1916 NYS

Edward A. Johnson is the first black elected to the New York state assembly

1917 National

US enters World War I; approximately 300,000 blacks serve in the conflict. The 369th is the first black combat unit overseas


Progressive Brothers Club holds dance at the Ahwaga [OG, Jan. 18, 1917, p. 5]

Death of Isaiah Williams, age 69, first Black graduate from Owego Free Academy [OG, June 21, 1917, p. 2]

Blacks register for the draft; 13 from Owego and 4 from the Town of Barton [Watrous, p. 202]

1918 Local

Last of Owego's Blacks leave for the service. Although they are given a "rousing send-off", they would need to ride in a car at the rear of the train. [OG, Aug. 8, 1918, p. 2]

1919 National

Andrew "Rube" Foster and a group of black baseball club owners form the National Negro Baseball League


Last of Owego's Blacks return from service. Nearly all were in the 349th Field Artillery 92nd Division. Lionel Williams would receive a Silver Star for repairing telephone wires. [OG, Mar. 13, 1919, p. 1]

1920 National

The National Football League is formed and allows teams to sign black players

1922 National

An anti-lynching bill to make mob murder a federal offense passes in the US House of Representatives but fails in the US Senate


Blacks to hold large picnic. It includes a parade, a baseball game (Lester Scott's "ball-tossers" vs. the Binghamton Red Sox) and a band concert. A Dance at the Ahwaga would last until 4 AM. [OG, Aug. 17, 1922]

First report that the Klan is organizing in Owego [OG, Nov. 30, 1922, p. 4

A cross is burned in Evergreen Cemetery [OG, Dec. 28, 1922, p. 1]

1923 Local

Factional differences arise over pastor at AME Church [OG, June 7, 1923, p. 1]

Cross is burnt on float in the Susquehanna River opposite Ross St. [OG, Aug. 9 1923, p. 2]


1924 Local

Klan members make their first public appearance at the Waverly Baptist Church [OG, Feb. 7 1924, p. 2]. It is reported that there are three Klan organizations in the county [OG, Feb. 14, p. 2]

Mary P. Chase writes letter deploring lack of interest in the AME Church [OG, April 24, 1924, p. 3]

Klan holds its first parade in Spencer [OG, June 26, 1924, p. 10]

A state-side meeting of the Klan (a Klorero) is held in Binghamton [OG, July 10, 1924, p. 7]

Weekly meetings of the Klan are held in Owego at Red Men's Hall on Lake St. There are 500 at the meeting of July 29th [OG, July 31, 1924, p. 1]

Klan members attend a Newark Valley school board meeting [OG, Aug. 14, 1924, p. 6 (taken from Tioga County Herald)

Colored Lodge of Elks of Binghamton have an outing at the Tioga County Fair Grounds [OG, Aug. 28, 1924]

1925 National

The newly revived KKK state a 40,000-man parade down Pennsylvania Ave, Washington, DC.


Two open air meetings by the Klan, one in Newark Valley and one in Ellistown, Town of Barton. The Newark Valley meeting has at least 250 cars and 1,000 in attendance [OG, June 18, 1925, p. 6]

The Klan has a meeting at "the hickories" ]OG, Aug. 13, 1925, p. 3]

1926 National

The start of Negro History Week; this expands to a month in 1976


AME Church starts $1,000 remodeling drive [OG, Aug. 12, 1926, p. 6]

Peerless Jubilee Company performs for the AME drive [OG, Sept. 23, 1926, p. 11]

AME Church publicly thanks their "good white friends" [OG, Nov. 4, 1926, p. 5]

1927 Local

The AME remodeling effort is completed. Of the $2,312.89 raised for the project, $1300 came from "good white friends". [Watrous, p. 251]

Klan has large parade in Newark Valley; 400 are in attendance [OG, Sept. 8, 1927, p. 6]

Patrick Slow, Black Civil War veteran dies [OG, Dec. 22, 1927, p. 7]

1929 National

Cong. Oscar DePriest (R-IL) is the first northern black to serve in the US Congress


Francis E. Rivers is the first black admitted to the New York Bar Association [Harley]

1930 National

The New York Times capitalizes the word "Negro" for the first time "in recognition of racial self-respect"

The professional football leagues stop recruiting blacks until after WWII

1931 National

Nine youths are arrested for allegedly raping two white women in Scottsboro, AL; the "Scottsboro Boys" case is very controversial and all nine are eventually free by parole, appeal or escape by 1950


Article on slavery in Tioga County by Charles C. Cafferty [OG, Mar. 26, 1931]

1932 Local

William Cheeks, musician, is found destitute and ill in Java; his vocal quartet once performed for the royal courts of Europe [OG, June 23, 1932, p. 1]

Baseball Colored Comedians appear in Owego [OG, June 23, 1932, p. 11]

AME Church celebrates its 90th birthday [OG, Oct. 20, 1932 p. 3]

Oscar Barton, Black Civil War veteran, turns 100 [OG, Nov. 3, 1932, p. 1]

1933 Local

Colored National Basketball champions play in Owego [OG, Feb. 9, 1933, p. 6]

Oscar Barton dies [OG, Aug. 17, 1933, p. 3]

George Jones, a Black mason, takes Fred Smith, a restaurant proprietor, to court for allegedly not serving him a beer because of his race. Smith was found not guilty. [OG, Oct. 19, 1933, p. 11]

1934 Local

AME Church holds its 91st annual fair [OG, May 10, 1934, p. 7]

Fred Cheeks is color bearer for the St. Nicholas Society of NYC. Formed by the Dutch, it is the oldest society in the country [OG, Dec. 13, 1934, p. 16]

1935 Local

AME Church holds prayer service due to invasion of Abyssimia [OG, Feb. 14, 1935, p. 1]

CCC Camp SCS-7 at Straits Corners is occupied by Black veterans of World War I. It is one of the first camps in NYS to work exclusively on private lands [OG, Nov. 7, 1935, p. 9]

1936 National

The reelection of Franklin Roosevelt marks the first time that black Americans overwhelmingly vote for a Democratic president


CCC Camp provides assistance during two floods [OG, March 26, 1936, p. 1; OG, Aug. 27, 1936, p. 11]

CCC Camp holds a benefit minstrel show for the AME Church [OG, April 23, 1936, p. 5]

Frank Dennis, former slave, dies in Richford [OG, May 7, 1936, p. 1]

The Tioga Red Sox play the Colored Giants of Binghamton [OG, Aug. 6, 1936, p. 2]

AME Church makes a special appeal for funds [OG, Oct. 29, 1936, p. 10]

1937 National

Joe Lewis becomes heavyweight champion of the world


CCC Camp digs holes for utility poles that will provide electric service from Tioga Center to Straits Corners [OG, Jan. 14, 1937, p. 1]

CCC Camp receives the highest rating out of the 24 in its district [OG, Feb. 11, 1937, p. 1]

Mary P. Chase writes another letter seeking greater financial assistance and support for the AME Church (OT, Sept. 28, 1937)

Death of Egbert N. Van Dyke, age 83. He had been a blacksmith and had once held town office in Berkshire. His great-grandfather was Augustus Van Buren, who came to Richford in 1818. [Watrous, p. 291]

Death of Mary P. Cheeks, also known as Mary Chase. Mary had been born a slave in New Orleans in 1862, but had resided in Owego for 60 years. She had operated a needlework and dressmaking shop on North Ave. [Watrous, p. 307]

1938 National

Benny Goodman leads a concert at Carnegie Hall; despite opposition, he refuses to play without two members of his band, Lionel Hampton and Teddy Wilson

Joe Lewis defeats the German Max Schmeling


Over 500 participate in a field day held at the CCC Camp [OG, Aug. 11, 1938, p. 6]

CCC Camp to close Oct. 10th [OG, Sept. 22, 1938, p. 9]

1939 National

NAACP launches a drive to obtain one million signatures on an anti-lynching petition


Charles Drew establishes a "blood bank" at Presbyterian Hospital, Columbia University, NYC [Harley]


Article appears concerning the slave descendents living on the former Speed homestead [OG, Aug. 24, 1939, p. 9]

William Cheeks dies in Java; a Javanese newspaper refers to him as a forerunner to Paul Robeson [OT, Nov. 28, 1939, p. 1; OG, Nov. 30, 1939, p. 3]

1940 National

Benjamin O. Davis, Sr. is appointed brigadier general in the US Army, becoming the highest ranking black in the armed forces


James Stewart, nearly 100 years old and member of Old Colored Georgia Minstrels, dies [OG, Sept. 12, 1940, p. 1]

1941 National

The 99th Pursuit Squadron, an all black unit, it formed and the Tuskegee Training Program is established

The first black tank battalion, the 758th, is activated

When the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor, Dorie Miller, a mess steward, mans a machine gun and downs four Japanese fighters; he receives the Navy Cross


AME Church has 99th anniversary [OG, Oct. 23, 1941, p. 10]

Frank Clark purchases five farms in the hills of Richford for a potato farm. He uses local labor and black migrant farm workers during harvest time. By the early 1950's, Jamaicans are used as well [Bill Sherwood]

1942 National

The US Justice Department threatens 20 editors of black newspapers with sedition for featuring articles relating to segregation and injustices in the US military

1943 National

The US Navy admits blacks to all branches of the service

The First Marine Depot is the first black unit to be sent overseas during World War II

Blacks in Detroit, MI, riot in protest over exclusion from civil defense jobs; federal troops are called in; 34 are left dead

Paul Robeson is the first black actor to play the title role in Othello on Broadway, NYC

George Gershwin's Porgy and Bess opens on Broadway [Harley]

Delegates at the Professional Golfers Association annual meeting vote to limit membership to whites only


Article on Underground Railroad, focusing on 351 Main St., former home of Hammon Pinney [OG, July 22, 1943, p. 1]

1944 National

The US Secretary of the Navy orders all naval vessels integrated

Black stevedores refuse to return to work after an ammunition explosion at the docks near San Francisco, CA. The men are tried and sentenced to hard labor; Thurgood Marshall wins an acquittal in 1946


All three Rollins brothers are in the service [OG, Feb. 24, 1944, p.2]

Every Black man eligible for service is in the ranks [OG, April 6, 1944, p. 1]

1945 NYS

New York is the first state to pass the Fair Employment Practices Commission law [Harley]

1946 National

The Basketball Association of America, a professional league is formed; the league admits black players

The All-American Football Conference is formed and allows teams to sign black players

1947 National

Jackie Robinson becomes the first black to play major league baseball; Dan Bankhead and Larry Doby also become players this same year.

1948 National

Pres. Harry S. Truman issues Executive Order 9980 and Executive Order 9981; these are designed to eliminate discrimination in federal employment and ensure equal treatment in the armed forces

The African Methodist Episcopal Church authorizes the ordination of women
Alice Coachman is the first black American woman to win a gold medal in the Olympics

Leroy "Satchel" Paige, formerly of the National Negro League, becomes the first black pitcher in the American League

The PGA drops its "whites only" policy after a law suit

The National Committee for Fair Play in Bowling is established; the American Bowling Congress and the Women's International Bowling Congress admits blacks 18 months later

1950's Local

Tuskegee Institute provides student interns and apprentices for O'Brien's Restaurant [Nizalowski, p. 335]

1950 National

Althea Gibson becomes the first black American to play tennis at the US Open

1951 National

Gen. Douglas MacArthur refuses to follow orders to desegregate the US Army and is removed from his command for insubordination

1952 National

Tuskegee Institute's Department of Records and Research reports 1952 as the first year in 71 years of tabulation that there are no lynchings in the US

1953 Local

AME Church conducts a fund drive [OG, July 30, 1953, p.4]

1954 National

The US Supreme Court rules in Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka that segregated schools are "inherently unequal".

1955 National

Rosa Parks, seamstress, is arrested for refusing to yield her seat to a white man in Montgomery, AL; this sparks the Montgomery bus boycott.


Last known reference to the AME Church in the OG [Sept. 22, 1955, p. 6]

1957 National

Gov. Orville Faubus orders units of the Arkansas National Guard to Central High School in Little Rock to block school integration

1959 National

The integrated American Football League is formed; its nondiscriminatory policy serves as a major draw for black athletes

1960 National

The modern "sit-in" movement begins when four black students from North Carolina A & T College sit at a "whites only" Woolworth's lunch counter

1961 NYS

Ernie Davis, Syracuse University running back, is the first black to win the Heisman Trophy. [Harley]

1962 National

The US Supreme Court orders the University of Mississippi to admit student James H. Meredith

Jackie Robinson is the first black inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, Cooperstown, NY

1963 National

Gov. George Wallace blocks Vivian Malone and James Hood when they attempt to register at the University of Alabama

Medgar Evers, field secretary for the NAACP, is killed outside his home in Jackson, MS

More than 200,000 protest marchers from all over the US come to Washington, DC, where Martin Luther King, Jr., delivers his "I Have a Dream" speech

Four girls are killed during Sunday school service by a bomb in Birmingham, AL

1964 National

The bodies of three slain civil rights workers are found in a shallow grave outside Philadelphia, MS

The passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gives the US attorney general additional power to protect citizens against discrimination and segregation

Martin Luther King, Jr., receives the Nobel Peace Prize

1965 National

Malcolm X is assassinated at the Audubon Ballroom in NYC

A clash between black residents and white police triggers the Watts rebellion

1966 National

Sen. Edward W. Brooke (R-MA) is the first black since Reconstruction to be elected to the US Senate

1967 National

The worst summer of racial disturbances occurs in major urban areas including Newark, NJ; Detroit, MI; and Chicago, IL

Pres. Johnson appoints Thurgood Marshall as an associate justice to the US Supreme Court; he is the first black to hold this position.


Five Black youths from Binghamton are verbally assaulted by a local resident as they wait at a North Avenue gas station. One youth hurls a bottle that accidentally injures a young girl. [Watrous, p. 428]

Herbert Williams receives an award for outstanding community service by the Owego Jaycees [Watrous, p. 442]

1968 National

Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated in Memphis, TN; widespread violence occurs in 125 cities

Arthur Ashe wins the US Open tennis championship; he is ranked the number one player in the world

Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) becomes the first black woman elected to the US Congress

1969 NYS

Armed black students take over the main administrative building at Cornell University [Harley]


Ed Finley, a black, shoots and kills a county police officer in the line of duty [Bob Williams]

1970 National

Students at the all-black Jackson State College in Mississippi protest and throw rocks at white passers-by; police open fire on unarmed students killing two and injuring 12 others

1972 National

The U.S.S. Jesse L. Brown is the first ship in the US Navy named in honor of a black naval officer

Cong. Shirley Chisholm (D-NY) makes a bid for the presidential nomination of the democratic party

1974 National

Henry "Hank" Aaron of the Atlanta Braves breaks Babe Ruth's record for most career homeruns


Bob Williams becomes the first black sheriff's deputy for Tioga County; he also serves in Waverly and Newark Valley [Bob Williams]

1976 National

Cong. Barbara Jordan (D-TX) is the keynote speaker for the Democratic National Convention, the first black to do so for a major political party's national convention

1980 Local

Harold Murray is elected as Village Trustee, probably the first Black to hold such a position. [Watrous, p. 511]

1982 National

The US Congress votes to extend the Voting Rights Act of 1965


Bob Williams is appointed Police Chief for the Village of Owego. He is the first Black to hold this position and serves until 2001 [Nizalowski, p. 335]

1983 National

Rev. Jesse Jackson announces his bid for the presidency

Vanessa Williams is crowned Miss America, the first black to win in the history of the pageant

The birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. becomes a federal holiday

Guion S. Bluford, Jr. becomes the first black American astronaut in space

1984 National

Wynton Marsalis, jazz trumpeter, is the first musician to win Grammy awards for jazz and classical music recordings simultaneously

1986 National

A bust of Martin Luther King, Jr., is on display at the US Capitol Building; it is the first statue of a black American to stand in the halls of Congress

1988 National

Colin Powell is promoted to four-star general; in 1989 he will become the first black Chief of Staff for the US Armed Forces

1989 NYS

David Dinkins becomes mayor of NYC, the first black to ever hold that office [Harley]

1990 National

L. Douglas Wilder is inaugurated governor of Virginia, the first black to be elected governor of any state

1992 National

Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois is the first black woman Democrat elected to the US Senate

1998 Local

Edward Arrington is elected as a Trustee of the Village of Owego. He keeps this position until 2002.

2000 Local

Death of John Honey Jones of Owego (b. Cincinnati, OH, Jan. 22, 1921). John moved to Owego in the early 1950's. He would leave a bequest for the study of Tioga County's black history. [JHJC]

2003 Local

The first program honoring John Honey Jones is held on Feb. 2nd. An exhibit on the Underground Railroad is presented. [JHJC]

2004 Local

A second program honoring John Honey Jones is held on Feb. 1st. The focus is the AME church. A representative of Congressman Hinchey also presents World War II medals granted posthumously to John Honey Jones.




Accessible Archives [online database]

Albertson, Capt. Charles L. History of Waverly, NY and Vicinity. Waverly, NY Waverly Sun, 1943.

Beauchamp, Rev. Wm. M., Ed. Moravian Journals Relating to Central New York, 1745-1766. Syracuse Dehler Press, 1916. from Brother David Zeisberger's Diary. Rpt. Bowie, MD Heritage Books, 1999.

Czerkas, Jean M. Letter to the Tioga County Historical Society regarding the 100th anniversary of the statue.

Deuel, Ryan. "Slaves took 'railroad' to freedom". Press & Sun-Bulletin. February 3, 2004, A1+.

Dimitroff, Thomas P. and Lois S. James, History of the Corning-Painted Post Area 200 Years in Painted Post Country qtd. "On Freedom's Threshold The African-American Presence in Central New York, 1760-1940". Afro-Americans in New York Life and History. Vol. 19, No. 1, January 1995. pp. 44.

Division of Archives and History. The Sullivan-Clinton Campaign in 1779. "Account of the Battle of Newton". Letter to Gov. Clinton from T. Barber [Clinton papers, 5242] Albany University of the State of New York, 1929.

Everts & Ensign. Four County History.

Gay, W. B. Historical Gazetteer of Tioga County, New York 1785-1888. Syracuse, NY W. B. Gay, nd. Reproduction Evansville, IN Unigraphic, 1978.

Gladden, Washington. Recollections. Boston Houghton Mifflin Company, 1909.

Leamer, Laurence E. "Blacks in Vestal", unpublished manuscript by Vestal town historian, 1984, 1-2 qtd. Sernett, Milton C. "On Freedom's Threshold The African-American Presence in Central New York, 1760-1940". Afro-Americans in New York Life and History. Vol. 19, No. 1, January 1995. pp. 44.

Harley, Sharon. The Timetables of African-American History. New York Simon & Shuster, 1995.

John Honey Jones Committee materials and documentation.

Kingman, Leroy Wilson. Early Owego. Owego Owego Gazette, 1907. Rpt. Interlaken, NY Heart of Lakes Publishing, 1987.

McManus, Edgar J. A History of Negro Slavery in New York. Syracuse Syracuse University Press, 1966.

Nizalowski, Edward. "Ethnic-Immigrant Groups". Seasons of Change. Thomas C. McEnteer, Ed. Owego, NY Tioga County Legislature, 1990.

Phelan, Helene C. And Why Not Every Man? An account of slavery, the Underground Railroad, and the road to freedom in New York's Southern Tier. Interlaken, NY Heart of the Lakes Publishing, 1987.

Pierce, H. B. and D. Hamilton Hurd. History of Tioga, Chemung, Tompkins and Schuyler Counties. Philadelphia Everts & Ensign, 1879.

Schaetzke, E. Anne. "Slavery in the Genesee Country (also known as Ontario County) 1789 to 1827". Afro-Americans in New York Life and History. Vol. 22, No. 1, January 1998, pp. 7 - 40.

Sherwood, Bill. [Richford Town Historian]

Vinson, Robert Trent. "The Law as Lawbreaker The Promotion and Encouragement of the Atlantic Slave Trade by the New York Judiciary System, 1857-1862". Afro-Americans in New York Life and History. Vol. 20, No. 2, July 1996, pp. 35-58.

Watrous, Hilda R. Owego Reflections 1887 - 1987. Interlaken, NY Heart of the Lakes Publishing, 1994.

Williams, Bob. Former Chief of Police of the Village of Owego.

Wilson, Carol. Freedom at Risk The Kidnapping of Free Blacks in America 1780-1865. np University Press of Kentucky, 1994.

(1) National references are taken from The Timetables of Afro-American History by Sharon Harley unless otherwise noted.

Back to Top

The Underground Railroad in Tioga County
A Piece of History With Many Gaps to Fill

by Ed Nizalowski

The Underground Railroad refers to a loosely connected support system that aided fugitive slaves who escaped from the South and eventually made their way to Canada. Although laws against helping these individuals had been on the books since the 1790's, enforcement north of the Mason-Dixon line was often quite lax. This would change, however, with the passage of the Missouri Compromise of 1850. Northerners were now under greater pressure to incarcerate fugitive slaves and arrest those who harbored them or who facilitated their escape.

Tioga County's association with the Underground Railroad has a long history, but as is the case in so many other parts of the country, actual documentation and credible evidence for involvement can be very difficult to verify. I have personally done very little research regarding this topic until recently. Most of what I had read was often based on conjecture, oral history or unsubstantiated claims that would make the reader curious, but with little of substance that would stand up in court.

I decided to make an effort anyway after being contacted by a member of the Southern Tier Underground Railroad Commission to speak about the Underground Railroad in Tioga County. I told them told them that the best I could probably do would be to summarize what I have collected in my vertical file over the years, but since historians are as vain as everyone else, I was hoping I could do better than that.

Research regarding the Underground Railroad should be done in conjunction with research regarding the Abolitionist movement as well. The people involved in this activity are usually documented to a greater extent and this may often give substantial clues concerning those who willing to break the law to aid a fugitive slave. Abolition began polarizing many of the churches and organizations in Tioga County by the 1830's. Hammon Pinney was one of the leading abolitionists and was also a founding member of the Baptist Church in Owego. Abolitionist meetings began in 1837, became more formal two years later, but many detractors were adamantly opposed to the organization. Meetings were marred by "wild confusion and violence" and the Abolitionist Gerrit Smith was pelted with rotten eggs when he spoke in 1840. Frederick Douglas cancelled a speaking engagement in this same year for fear of his physical safety, but returned to speak in 1857.

The research that has been done concerning the Underground Railroad has almost exclusively been focused on Owego. There are four homes on Front Street (#100, #294, #313, #351) that have been linked to the Underground Railroad, with the home at 351 Front Street being owned by Judge Farrington, a prominent Abolitionist. The home was reported to have a hidden staircase and a secret crawl space under the cellar. At 294 Front Street, a building once owned by the Eagles Club, a brick lined tunnel had been found running along the north wall. How this tunnel may have helped fugitive slaves has always been a matter of speculation.

The home in Owego that has the best evidence for being a station for fugitive slaves is located at 351 Main Street. This had been the home of none other than Hammon Pinney and did have a hidden space in the cellar. Another link that helps give credence Hammon as a stationmaster comes from a story passed on by when the property changed hands. In 1867 when the Hastings family bought the property from Frederick Pinney, Hammon's son, the new owners were told that the home had served as a station for fugitive slaves. This story was passed on for over 100 years. The best evidence for Hammon being a stationmaster comes from his obituary that appeared on March 3, 1898 where it also states that his home served as a station. This is one of the few written references from the 19th century identifying a specific individual.

An article appearing in the Waverly Sun and Nichols Recorder in 1945 written by Mary Finch lists a number of homes that might have been stations. These included the homes of Luther Stone, Alexander Brooks, Philip Finch and Henry Young. A story had been passed on regarding the hiding of an abolitionist who came to speak in Waverly and another story related that Harriet Tubman herself spoke in the village. However, Mary Finch admitted in her article that she had no documentation or written references to back up any of these statements.

A great deal of my information on Tioga County history comes from the Owego Gazette. It is certainly a good source, but it is certainly not the only one available and since it was the voice of the Democratic Party, partisanship often colors the types of stories covered and their treatment. I was able to spend some time looking at the Owego Advertiser, which became the Owego Times and subsequent voice of the Republican Party. The Owego Times is no less partisan, but it does provide a different point of view and the time that I spent straining my eyes over the microfilm proved very valuable. I can now at least prove that fugitive slaves passed through Owego.

In a short article entitled "Underground Railroad" dated August 31, 1854, the Times relates the story of a fugitive slave from Maryland who passed through the village with a son, age 2 1/2. The man had been horribly treated by an overseer who had "mutilated him in a fit of drunken passion" resulting in the loss of an eye. What prompted the man to flee was learning that his master had been offered $125 for his son. The article did not mention any names of those who had spoken to him or who may have provided assistance. His only guide was the North Star. The article went on to say that Douglas, presumably Stephen Douglas, would soon introduce legislation to have the North Star removed from the sky since this constitutes proof of it being a "decided Abolitionist".

Another article that was very enlightening had the headline "More Buying Slaves by Abolitionists and Republicans on Sunday" that appeared on September 25, 1856. This concerned the plight of John Parker, a slave who had been emancipated in 1850 by Benjamin Davenport of Jefferson County, VA. Parker had released 18 of his slaves from bondage as a decision he made on his deathbed. The slaves would need to leave Virginia within 30 days or be put into prison and resold. Parker left the state for Delaware County, PA, and by some means his wife and son, who had belonged to another plantation owner, joined him. John and his wife had three more children.

On the night of November 9, 1855, the door to their home was broken down, his wife was held captive and a gun was placed to Parker's head. The men left with his wife and Parker's son, now age 9. Samuel Brown, a lawyer in Virginia, negotiated a deal whereby John could purchase his wife and son for the sum of $950.

A group of people had assembled at the Wesleyan Methodist camp in Candor, NY, for the purpose of helping raise money for Parker. Parker had accumulated over $600 at that point and the camp meeting had raised over $100 in cash and three gold rings that women had dropped into the plate. A Buchanan supporter who happened to be at the event dropped a rifle ball into the plate as a gesture of disapproval for the entire affair. This action had just the opposite effect. The group became so incensed by this insult and veiled threat to their activities that another $50 was raised. By the time Parker left Owego, he only needed $80 more to reach the goal of securing freedom of his wife and son.

There are a variety of homes in Northern Tioga County where oral history links them with fugitive slaves. These include the house at Bushnell Corners (junction of Wilson Creek Rd. and Ketchumville Rd.), the home at the corner of Route 38 and Brown Rd. (Town of Berkshire), the home of Beverly Swaney (Brown Rd., Town of Newark Valley), the home of Ron & Marie Brown (Route 38, Newark Valley), the home of Marty Wilcox (near the junction of Routes 38 and 79 in Richford) and the Gee home (west of Richford on Route 79). The home of Ron and Marie Brown is across from a former brickyard that belonged to William Loring. There is a story relating to a tunnel that passed from the home to the adjoining brickyard where slaves could hide inside piles of brick.

The most likely home for a station in this end of the county is the one that belonged to Carlisle P. Johnson, a merchant from Berkshire. His home was at the corner of Glen Road and Route 38, across from the Congregational Church. This is a quote from Gay's Gazetteer, a history of Tioga County written c. 1888: "Although the vicinity of Berkshire was not without its slaveholders at an early day, there existed a general and widespread opposition to this 'peculiar institution' of the South for years preceding the rebellion, and the town was not without its members of the 'underground railroad'. Frederick Douglas and other slaves received substantial aid from this organization on their journey to Canada, Douglas having been a guest of the Hon. C. P. Johnson, an old abolitionist." This does not directly state that Johnson was a stationmaster, but it is certainly implied.

There are numerous stories relating to a tunnel that existed between Johnson's store and the old Congregational Church as well. The store has been gone for many years, but Dave Howland, the present owner of the property, told me that there was an opening in the cellar wall of his home that faced the church. He had blocked this opening many years ago because of the draft that it caused coming into his cellar. He also remembers a large depression in their lawn that apparently resulted from the tunnel's collapse. A previous owner, a Mrs. Parker, who feared that someone might fall in and sustain injury, had done this on purpose. The resulting depression became a local dumping ground for village residents. Dave's father pulled out different types of debris over the years and also kept bringing in fill dirt to level the property. There is no longer any trace of this depression.

I wrote to Dave's mother, Mrs. Nancy Howland, asking for information. She had little in relation to the tunnel, but did say that a Mr. Fred Royce spoke to her husband about Johnson's involvement with fugitive slaves when they moved to Berkshire in the 1940's. The home, unfortunately, no longer exists. It sustained too much smoke damage in a fire several years ago and was demolished.

These stories made me take a second look at a ledger loaned to me by a custodian at our high school, Henry Sharp. Henry's great-great grandfather, Anson Kimball, was a tradesman prior to the Civil War who specialized in stonework and masonry. Between 1846 and 1848 Anson worked for Carlisle Johnson a total of 235 days and was paid $367.39. The ledger states that he was working on something called Brookside Cottage. This was an enormous sum of money if it was simply for an ordinary cottage.

Personally, I don't believe that Brookside Cottage ever existed. I have seen it on no maps of Berkshire and have seen no reference to it in anything written concerning Berkshire history. No one in Berkshire has ever heard of it. Could this have been the mysterious tunnel in question? It certainly can't be taken as proof, but it was built during the right period of time making it one more piece to add to the puzzle.

I would like to share some of Johnson's views regarding slavery. This is a good illustration of the fervor and the hatred that the old time Abolitionists had in regard to this institution. He also felt the same way about the evils of alcohol. These views are very similar to many other reformers of the period. These remarks appeared in the Owego Times on Feb. 25, 1858:

"Nor must I be frightened into a 'masterly inactivity' of deportment towards the dark-blooded monsters, Intemperance and slavery, because of their immense wickedness, and all-pervading, blighting influences."

"Nor can I rest content and innocently and hopefully fold my arms with only an evanescent, or periodical effort to cripple the 'hydra monsters', letting off at long intervals only a single gun into the Sevastopol of abominations."

"Nor must I be dismayed at their giant proportions, even though all others are."

"But because of the frightfulness of the seven-fold curse, and the wailing hopelessness of their victims, should not every friend of humanity, and especially every one of God's ministers, possessed as they are, of the strong-holds of moral power of the whole country, as completely as any military power ever possessed any county, with reason and right, and the universal conscience and God on their side-each rise in consciousness of his might, and let off whole broad-sides of god's scathing truth against sins so colossal, as to sit astride the ocean with leprous feet upon the necks of millions in two continents!"

"Thus instructing the people in regard to questions so vast in their just proportions, until public opinion in its steadily increasing strength shall roll on bloodlessly like a mighty avalanche burying forever the devils most infernal soul destroying inventions"

Ever Yours, for the Right,
C. P. Johnson
Berkshire, Feb. 15th, 1858

If a person feels that strongly about the evils of a particular institution or practice, does it stand to reason that a person of that type would commit an act of civil disobedience and break the law for the sake of helping another person gain their personal freedom? If I were a law enforcement official from the 1850's and was told that a fugitive slave was making his way toward Berkshire, Johnson's home would be the first place I would investigate.

At the presentation that was done on the Underground Railroad by the Southern Tier Underground Railroad Society at Roberson Center in February, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that research was being done in the Candor area by Gwen Clark of Homestar and Carrie Kerr, a teacher with the Ithaca School District. Much of this focuses on the Booth family. Call Gwen at 659-4802 if you have anything to share regarding abolitionist or Underground Railroad activity in that part of the county. Information relating to the Underground Railroad and other facets of Black history in this region are being collected and studied by two other groups: the Southern Tier Underground Railroad Commission and the Center to Anti-Slavery Studies. The later group is located in Brooklyn , PA.

If you have stories to share regarding this topic, give me a call (607-642-8075) or write (441 Brown Rd., Berkshire, NY 13736) or e-mail

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