Tuesday, December 10, 2013


On September 18, 1850, the U.S. Congress passed the Fugitive 

Slave Act, serving as a compromise between Southern slave

holders (and their Northern financial supporters) and 

Northern Free-Soilers. To proponents of abolition it almost

immediately became known as the "Bloodhound Law",

permitting slaveholders and their agents to surge north and

legally recapture escaped slaves, usually happening without

the bother of a trial.

One resident of Rochester, New York, objected strenuously,

declaring that the only true remedy against the law was a

good revolver,  a steady hand and a determination to shoot 

down anyone attempting a kidnapping. Nine years later the

very same Rochestarian would condemn friend John Brown's

militant raid on slave-holding forces at Harpers Ferry, West 

Virginia. A controversial dichotomy held by Frederick

Augustus Washington Bailey. Or, as he's better known, 

Frederick Douglass.

In her book "Frederick & Anna Douglass in Rochester New

York: Their Home Was Open to All" a current  resident of

Monroe County's central city, author/historian Rose O'Keefe 

places the lives of Frederick and Anna Douglass in historical 

perspective. In her introduction she explains how a man saw

her reading a biography of Douglass in the Downtown

Rochester Public Library. "He told me  that some of the

Douglass children had attended  13 School on Gregory Street

in Rochester (which happens to be my neighborhood)". The

hunt had begun.

Readers familiar with Douglass' general history - well-

covered by online resources from his birth as a slave on a

Maryland farm, through his escape to the North at about the

age of twenty and his subsequent rise to fame as an

abolitionist speaker, publisher and advocate for emancipation

and equality for all, may be less familiar with the details of

his life in Rochester. And during most of that period his

steady companion was wife Anna Murray Douglass, an early

agent of the Underground Railroad, who had been born free

(by one month).  Frederick had known her back in Maryland

where she was a house servant to his owners' neighbors the

Auld family where he'd been sent to live. He'd kept in touch

with her and around early September of 1838, from New

Bedford, Massachusetts, where he'd found work as a ship

caulker after escaping north, he wrote to Anna, asking her to

join him. She followed him and on September 15th thy were

married in New York City by the Reverend James W. C. 


Over the next decade, a period O'Keefe covers in great detail,

Douglass became interested in the antislavery movement and

began lecturing and writing - and finally publishing in - the

growing debate over the subject, eventually becoming a major

spokesman for the issues involved, even traveling to Great

Britain. And spending periods in-between endeavors visiting

Anna back in Massachusetts, where over the next eight or

nine years giving birth to four children, Rosetta, Lewis,

Frederick, Jr., and Charles.

While all this had been going on Rochester, New York, was

becoming a central locale for the anti-slavery movement,

geographically as a main station on the underground, leading

to Canadian entrance sites across the Niagara River and Lake

Ontario. Susan B. Anthony and her family, active in the anti-

slavery movement had moved there n 1845. For these reasons

it had been attracting the attention of Douglass. More and

more he was becoming convinced it would become an almost

ideal geographical platform for his efforts. In February 1848

the Douglass family made the move, settling in a two-story,

nine-room  brick home on the eastern section of Alexander

Street, just off East Avenue; the later soon to become home to

some of the city's finest mansions - including, one day,

George Eastman's - as it departed the downtown area

heading south. But, at this point Anna and Frederick had

chosen the location due to its low prices. Wealth doesn't

always accompany fame. Back in December Douglass had

begun publishing The North Star abolitionist newspaper, a

project he would continue on into mid-1851, with a reach into

Australia, Canada, Mexico, and Great Britain. 

". . .  subscriptions didn't cover production costs. Shortly after

he and Anna bought their  new house, Frederick took to the

lecture circuit again in order to make ends meet."

Fifty-five dollars a week was not a small sum back then and

often costs rose another twenty-five weekly.

There was still a lot of pro-slavery activity in Rochester, so

most of the time Anna and the four children stuck pretty

close to home, especially with Frederick on the road. When he

was home he operated out of the Tallman Building on

Buffalo Street. He'd often arrive in the morning, to find

fugitives sitting on the from step. By evening they'd be off on

the Underground Railroad to Canada, via Lewiston or


But, as the book's subtitle state, "Their Home Was Open to

All". Often friends and supporters would arrive to visit and

remain in the home for extended periods of time. When

Douglass was at home these semi-residents and others who

just stopped by or an hour or two, listening as he played

"Nelly was a Lady" and "My Old Kentucky Home" on the

violin or sang ""Carry Me Back to Old Virginny".

Time passed. Eventually the family moved toward the

western section of Alexander Street nearer to the Genesee

River, and later to a nearby farm. In 1872 they moved again,

leaving Rochester for Washington, D. C. 

Anna would die there in 1882; Frederick would follow suit 13

years later. Both would be returned to the central region of

their lives, burial in the family plot in Mount Hope Cemetery.

Rochester, New York.

The History Press
paperback - $19.99

Sunday, December 1, 2013


Monday - Wednesday Dec 2nd - 4th
Silent Auction of Wreaths LAST DAY! 
10:00 a.m. – Noon
Sunday Dec.8th* 1:30 – 4:00 p.m.

More than 30 hand-made holiday & seasonal wreaths will
be available for purchase by silent auction at the
Greece Museum (595 Long Pond Rd.). Winners will be
announced December 8th at 3:30 p.m.  Proceeds to

benefit the Greece Historical Society & Museum.

Give a Gift of History and support your local museum. Visit
the Greece Museum gift shop, 595 Long Pond Rd.
Sundays 1:30 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. or
Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday 10:00 a.m. – Noon
(through December 22nd.) Many items only available at our museum shop.

Charlotte Village Cemetery
Thursday, December 5th 2:00 p.m. at the Charlotte Library.
3557 Lake Ave.

This program will talk about the veterans and village pioneers who are buried in this cemetery, its deterioration and
subsequent resurgence thanks to many volunteers. Photos
will show the ongoing tombstone restoration by the Navy
Seabee Veterans, Island X-23. 

The presenters are Marie Poinan and Maureen Whalen.

Roc-The-Day for G.H.S.
Wednesday, December 11th

“ROC the Day”, a day for giving, is coming up soon! On
December 11th, the United Way of Greater Rochester
will hold a 24 hour donation drive for not-for-profit

organizations in the Rochester community.  On this
epic one-day giving event, thousands of community
members will be able to make an end-of-year gift to
help advance their philanthropic passions. We are
asking you to support the Greece Historical Society
on December 11th by going to www.roctheday.org and
making your donation.

Greece Museum Closed
The Greece Museum will be closed December 29th for

the holidays and reopen January 12th.

Thank You to every one of our volunteers for all you
have done this best year and to all the individual
members and businesses who contributed financially,
with gifts or with services.  Without your support and that of
the community we would not be able to offer our services to 
the community.