Past Events

    7th Annual Peterboro Emancipation Days
Saturday & Sunday, August 6 & 7, 2016

Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark
5304 Oxbow Road     P.O. Box 6
Peterboro NY 13134

Saturday, August 6, 2016
10:00 Registration
10:30 Assembly, Announcements, Song, and Group Photo followed by Processional to Cemetery
  2:00  National Park Centennial Celebration: Network to Freedom Underground Railroad Passports Issued

Sunday, August 6, 2016
  2:00 Community Conversation: We've Always Been Here: LGBTQ Identities, Race, and the Power of Community
 Facilitated by Drea Finley, Assistant Dean and Director of First Generation Programs, Colgate University, Hamilton NY

For more information and for updates:    315-280-8828

7th Annual Peterboro Emancipation Days


The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (GSENHL) will be commemorating Emancipation Days Saturday and Sunday, August 6 and 7 with both traditional and new programs. The event opens at 10:00 am with free parking and free registration at the Estate, followed by programs similar to those conducted in the 1920s and 1930s by a generation celebrating the emancipation of the generation before them.  In 1925, more than 600 black men and women from Central New York made a pilgrimage to Peterboro, home of Gerrit Smith, to pay homage to abolitionists who fought for their freedom. Emancipation Day celebrations grew in later years, drawing crowds of more than 1,000 people, who came from Syracuse, Utica, Ithaca, Binghamton, Oswego and Fulton for parades, picnics and concerts. Although the practice faded after World War II, local descendants of freedom seekers are holding the Peterboro Emancipation Day celebration for the 7th year since its revival in 2010. 


At 10:30 am Co-Chairs of Emancipation Day, Jim Corpin, Carrie Martin, and Max Smith will welcome guests to the event and to the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark. Corpin is a member of the Smithfield Community Association, the governing board of the GSENHL and a member of the Town of Smithfield board. Max Smith is a former mayor of Oneida and a passionate speaker about his roots in Peterboro. Martin is Co-Chair of the GSENHL, Secretary of the Smithfield Community Association, and the organizer of the Peterboro Civil War Living History Day. After assembly, announcements, and song a group event photo is followed by the Processional to the Peterboro Cemetery. Two wreaths are carried to the grave sites: one is laid on the grave of a man or woman that reads Born a Slave; Died a Free Man or Born a Slave; Died a Free Woman, and the other on the humble grave of wealthy abolitionist Gerrit Smith.


After a bring-your-own-picnic, or lunch at the Deli on the Green,  a special program to celebrate the Centennial of the National Park Service (NPS) will open at 2 p.m. with thirteen rings of the Peterboro tower bells calling people to The Barn which was a transportation hub of Underground Railroad activity at the site. The Gerrit Smith Estate is a part of the NPS as a National Historic Landmark and as a site on the Network to Freedom (NTF), the national Underground Railroad Trail. The Estate is one of 75 sites in the nation, and one of seven sites in the state, to receive the NPS Network to Freedom Passport Stamp.  After brief programs by scholars, proclamations by dignitaries, and the presentation of the passport stamp, the stamp will be ready to mark the NPS Centennial Passports available at the Peterboro Mercantile.


Tours of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark will be conducted at 3 pm. At 4 p.m. refreshments will be served at the Smithfield Community Center, the building where the abolitionists of the state held the inaugural meeting of the New York State Antislavery Society in 1835. The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will be open to visitors to see a facsimile of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, once owned by Gerrit Smith.


At 2 p.m. on Sunday, August 7, 2016 a Community Conversation for all interested persons will be held in The Barn. Drea Finley will be the lead facilitator of the We've Always Been Here: LGBTQ Identities, Race and the Power of Community Finley is a member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum and is co-chair of its Cultural Diversity Committee. In her working life, Finley serves as an Assistant Dean for Administrative Advising and Director of First Generation Programs at Colgate University. Finley is also a Masters student at Syracuse University in the Higher Education Cultural Foundations Program. As an activist; she writes and speaks often on race and racism and their intersections with other identities and systems of oppression. 


The public is encouraged to join descendants of freedom seekers who came to Peterboro for the free weekend. For updates and more information:, or 315-280-8828.

Ballots and Bloomers: Passionate Reforms and Peterboro


2015 is the 95th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution! Peterboro’s second Equality Day 2015 event will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday, August 23 at the Smithfield Community Center in Peterboro. Norman K. Dann PhD will present Ballots and Bloomers: Passionate Reforms and Peterboro, a program on Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s quest for the vote for women, and Elizabeth Smith Miller’s dress reform for women made famous by Stanton’s colleague Amelia Bloomer. Dr. Dann’s presentation is based on his research and publications of Cousins of Reform: Gerrit Smith and Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Ballots, Bloomers, and Marmalade: The Life of Elizabeth Smith Miller, a book in publication. The two Elizabeths were named after the same Livingston grandmother and, besides being close cousins and friends, were allies in reform activities.  


Norm Dann is a founder and member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, a docent at the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, a member of the Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend Committee, and Treasurer of the Peterboro Area Museum. Professor emeritus Morrisville State College, Dann’s biography Practical Dreamer: Gerrit Smith and the Crusade for Social Reform (2009) was the first in a series of books on the Smith family of Peterboro.


At 2 p.m. on Saturday, August 22, young and old are invited to a living history event Looking Back –and Ahead: The Long Road to Equality to break ground for an Equality Garden in Peterboro. As seeds are planted, programming will weave the history of the century of organizing that led to the 19th Amendment, as well as the century of organizing still underway as the United States continues its work toward Equality. Suzanne B. Spring PhD, Jeff McArn and students from Colgate University and Hamilton College will facilitate the participatory program commemorating Equality Day.


On August 26th, 1970, Betty Freidan and the National Organization for Women (NOW) organized a nationwide Women’s Strike for Equality to demand equal opportunities. Over 100,000 women participated. This strike shined light on the injustices and disparities lived daily by women across the nation. In 1971, Representative Bella Abzug (D-NY) introduced a bill which designated August 26th as Women’s Equality Day. This date was selected to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th amendment to the Constitution which granted women suffrage. Women’s Equality Day celebrates women’s suffrage but also brings attention to women’s continuous path towards true equality. The President is authorized and requested to issue a proclamation annually in commemoration for the struggle that continues to this day.


Both events take place at the Smithfield Community Center, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13134. For further updates and information: and

President’s Day 2015


President Lincoln Featured in 2015 Programs


The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum (NAHOF) in Peterboro NY has suspended its two year cycle of inductions and commemorations in 2015 in order to address President Abraham Lincoln as The Great Emancipator. Lincoln: During this Sesquicentennial year of Lincoln’s death, the end of the Civil War, and the ratification of the Thirteenth Amendment, NAHOF and its Peterboro heritage partners will provide public programs on Lincoln from March to October 2015. The first Lincoln program will be Saturday, March 7 at 1 p.m. at 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro, as part of the annual birthday party for Gerrit Smith. Norman K. Dann PhD will trace the Peterboro connection to the evolution of the 19th C. Republican Party, the party of Lincoln, as well as explain the connection of Lincoln’s Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation facsimile on display at NAHOF to the Thirteenth Amendment that abolished slavery in the United States.


Matthew Urtz, Madison County Historian, will describe the relationship between Lincoln and telegrapher Samuel Beckwith of Hamilton at 6:30 pm, Thursday, May 28 at the Hamilton Public Library. This program is part of the Madison County Civil War Series.


Well-known Lincoln reenactor Jack Baylis will lead the Processional Honoring Civil War Veterans at the 23rd Annual Peterboro Civil War Weekend on Saturday, June 13. The Reichert exhibit of Lincoln’s funeral will be on display for the annual weekend event. At 7 p.m. Saturday, June 13 Patrick Schroeder, historian at the Appomattox Court House National Historic Park, will present on the final engagement of the Civil War.


The Annual Peterboro Emancipation Day on August 1 is a celebration of Lincoln’s emancipation documents. Equality Days on August 22 and 23 examine the protection of civil rights for women. J. Thomas Hogle PhD, Morrisville State College, will present his annual Constitution Day program in September with a focus on the Thirteenth Amendment for which Lincoln pressed passage.


The 2012 movie Lincoln will be presented at 6:30 p.m. at the Cazenovia Public Library to commence a Thursday night series of films and discussions around Madison County in October. This film series Created Equal: America’s Civil Rights Struggle is a special project developed by a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History. The films Freedom Riders, The Loving Story, and Slavery by Another Name will be presented on a rotation schedule at the Hamilton Public Library, Madison Hall, and the Oneida Public Library. The final film in the series will be The Abolitionists presented Sunday, October 25 at the Smithfield Community Center in Peterboro.


The study of Lincoln culminates during the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum’s annual public weekend with an evening concert for Lincoln on Friday, October 23 at the Catherine Cumming Theatre in Cazenovia. On Saturday afternoon October 24 Milton C. Sernett PhD will facilitate a round-table discussion with Douglas Egerton PhD., Jason Emerson, Joseph Fornieri PhD, and Robert Paquette PhD on The Emancipation of Abraham Lincoln: Head, Heart, and the American Memory. Following a 19th C. dinner to which the public is invited, Harold Holzer, President of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial Commission, will present the Lincoln and the Abolitionist Press: An American Evolution.                               


For updates, please check,

315-280-8828 as plans and announcements continue to unfold.

Peterboro Emancipation Day 2015

posted Jul 23, 2015, 8:50 AM by Gerrit Smith

Peterboro Emancipation Day 2015

The Peterboro Emancipation Day 2015 Committee invites the public to partake in a day of history, legacy, and reflection on Saturday, August 1, 2015 in Peterboro NY. Activities include 1925 precedents and 2015 current events. The plans for the freedom celebration include:

9:30 am Refreshments and Registration:

Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 5304 Oxbow Road, Peterboro 13134

10:00 am   Opening Assembly

The event begins with bell ringing at the Peterboro United Methodist Church and at the Smithfield Community Center, the location at which abolitionists in New York State formed the NYS Antislavery Society in 1835, and the home of the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. Thirteen rings will herald the Sesquicentennial of the Thirteenth Amendment (Proposed January 31, 1865 and ratified December 6, 1865) “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude …. shall exist within the United States.”

Co-Chair of the event and The Laundry Squad Jim Corpin, Carrie Martin, and Max Smith will welcome guests to the event and to the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark. Corpin is a member of the Smithfield Community Association and the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark governing board. Max Smith is the Mayor of Oneida and a passionate speaker about his roots in Peterboro. Martin is Co-Chair of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, Secretary of the Smithfield Community Association, and the organizer of the Peterboro Civil War Living History Day.  A prayer by Rev. James Fletcher, pastor of the Perryville and Peterboro United Methodist Church, will follow.

10:15 am Legacy of Emancipation Day

The Legacy of Emancipation Day for the nation and Peterboro will be explained as the program for the day is reviewed. 

10:30 am Children’s Workshop

Gerrit Smith Estate docent and teacher, Carrie Martin, will lead a tour and encourage a lively discussion for the younger participants of the Emancipation Day program beginning in the Land Office and finishing at the Laundry. The focus of this workshop will be Gerrit Smith’s role in the abolition movement during the 19th Century, and Peterboro’s place on the Underground Railroad

10:30 am   History Happened Right Here!

Why did the US Department of the Interior declare that the Gerrit Smith Estate “has been found to possess national significance in the history of the United States?” Norman K. Dann will describe the philanthropy, abolition, and Underground Railroad activities of Gerrit Smith (1797 – 1874) that took place directly where the participants are congregating.

11:15 Group Photo

The annual Emancipation Day group photo will be taken in similar fashion as the image recordings from the 1920s and 1930s in Peterboro. All visitors are included!

11:30 am   Procession to Cemetery

The procession to the Peterboro Cemetery commences by foot and by vehicle. Two wreaths are carried to the integrated cemetery as done by generations before – one wreath for a gravestone reading Born a Slave. Died a Free Woman (or Man), and the other for the simple grave of wealthy abolitionist Gerrit Smith. On the way the procession will stop at the Civil War statue on the Peterboro Green to install 35 star flags for the African-Americans who served in the Civil War, and at the Veterans Memorial on the eastern side of the hamlet.


Visitors are invited picnic On the Green, Under the Tent, Beside the Brook or in the Smithfield Community Center.  Bring your own lunch or reserve ten dollar bag lunches by July 24 at Deli on the Green 315-684-3131

1:00 pm National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum Opens 

The Hall of Fame and the Abolition Museum will be open until 5 p.m.

2:00 pm     Children’s Workshop

Carrie Martin will conduct another tour and discussion for youth.

2:00 Local 19th Century Protests were Foundations of Civil Rights Reform

Participants will walk or drive to 5255 Pleasant Valley Road reflecting on the 400 abolitionists who arrived at that site October 22, 1835. Hugh C. Humphreys, a founding member of the Cabinet of Freedom for the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, and author of Agitate! Agitate! Agitate! The Great Fugitive Slave Law Convention and its Rare Daguerreotype will greet the visitors to the historic structure explaining the 19th civil rights protests that occurred there and in Cazenovia. Humphreys’ PowerPoint program will trace the connection of Peterboro to the Emancipation Proclamation and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. Copies of the Madison County Historical Society’s Heritage (Number 19 1994) with Humphreys research will be available for sale and signing.

3:00 pm     Ferguson, Charleston, and Peterboro

A panel facilitated by Drea Finley, Assistant Dean for Administrative Advising and Director of the First Generation Initiative, at Colgate University in Hamilton NY will open a community conversation about situations in Ferguson, Charleston, and In Our Backyard. The panel will include Jackie Nelson (Rome Area NAACP), Al Riley (Madison County Sheriff), John Smith (St. Ann’s School Dean and Director of Middle School), and Max Smith (Mayor of Oneida).

The panel discussion will close with invitations

  • from Donna Dorrance, Smithfield Town Historian, who will be at the Peterboro Area Museum on Sunday August 2 from 2 – 4.
  • by Drea Finley to Equality Weekend, August 22 & 23, 2015
  • by Tom Hogle to the CONSTITUTIONAL REVOLUTION; The 13TH and 14th Amendments and the ongoing "Incorporation" of the Bill of Rights for all Americans.
  • by Jody Luce to In the Kitchen Tea September 20, 2015 at 12:30
  • by Tim McLaughlin to Created Equal: October Film and Discussion Series
  • by Tim McLaughlin Abraham Lincoln: The Great Emancipator Weekend, October 23 – 25,
  • and by Owen Corpin to the Annual Watch Night for Emancipation December 31, 2015 at 4 p.m.

Admission to Peterboro Emancipation Day is a donation.

For further information contact: or 315-280-8828

GSENHL Web Site Updated

posted Mar 13, 2014, 1:51 PM by Gerrit Smith   [ updated Feb 9, 2015, 10:38 AM ]

The Gerrit Smith Estate web site has been refreshed. Be sure to check back often, as we will be adding a lot of material in the coming year. Please let us know if you like the new site, and what we can add to make the site to become more useful.  You can e-mail suggestions to Thanks!

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