February 25, 2015
This article is contributed by June Hamell, Macedon Town Historian,
Linda Braun, Village of Macedon Historian and Sandy Pagano, President
of the Macedon Historical Society:
It was in August 1849 that Frederick Douglass visited the First Baptist Church
of Macedon, NY. His visit was recorded in the book, "First Baptist Church of
Macedon, A History of the First Two Hundred Years 1800-2000." Here is a portion
of the article from this book: "A brush with history occurred in August 1849 when,
according to his The North Star of August 24, 1849 Frederick Douglass delivered an
evening lecture to the Macedonians and, the next day, held an anti-slavery fair." (p. 33)
...A large assemblage of persons was secured to hear the anti-slavery subject considered,
and to see anti-slavery principles practically carried out in a manner that they had
never seen before, and we have good reason to think there was much prejudice removed,
and much interest excited among them. They saw, perhaps for the first time, that white
and colored persons could meet together in the same forum, and treat each other with
kindness and respect - an important end attained in this Christian country." (p.33)
Mr. Douglass pays tribute in the North Star article to four main abolitionist families in
Macedon for their provision and support: Mr. and Mrs. Doty and family; Mr. Esick Wilbur
and family; Asa Smith and family; William Getchell and family. Although the monetary
proceeds from the anti-slavery fair were not great, the value was great in establishing
the idea of equality. The example demonstrated and actions taken by our forefathers is
to be commended. Taking a risk, learning something new, accepting new ideas and
perspectives is something we can all continue to learn from.
Fourteen years after Mr. Douglass settled in Rochester we find a reference in Book VI
page 5 of the C. W. Packard Diaries to a visit that Mr. Douglass made to Macedon. On
Tuesday March 5, 1861, Mr. Packard writes: Home! When got up this morning, found 4 or
5 inches of snow on the ground, and the mud stiff enough to hold about 3/4 of the time.
After breakfast this morning we packed up. Father carried us to the Albion Depot in a
sleigh. It snowed till about 1/2 past 9, very hard. We left Albion at 8:50, it continued
to snow till we got to Brockport, there the sun shine out, and has shined most of the day
since, though the air has been chilly. We came through, arriving at Macedon at 11:15.
Ex-Lieut. Gov. Church, was in the same car with us, as far as Rochester, and Fred Douglass
from there to Macedon." And on March 6th he writes at the end of the daily entry: "Fred
Douglass speaks before the Philomathean Society tonight." The Philomathean Society is a
literary society that promotes learning. The University of Pennsylvania still has one.
This can include speakers, speaker series, debates - all activities designed to challenge
one to think about an issue and draw conclusions. We do not know the exact topic for
Mr. Douglass' speech that evening but we can guess that it had to do with the equality
of all humans. Mr. Packard does not tell us if he attended but it was important enough
for him to include it in his diary. Mr. Douglass spoke in the area from time to time.
He spoke at the 1816 Quaker Meeting House in Farmington and since many Quakers from
Macedon attended that meeting, it was a logical step for him to speak here in Macedon.
Did he speak more than once at the Baptist Church and the Macedon Academy? We don't
know. But he did open the way for others. And Macedonians became more involved in
equality issues as a result.
Mr. Douglass was born a slave in 1817 in the Chesapeake Bay area of Maryland. He escaped
slavery in 1838. He visited Rochester, NY in 1843 and became a "conductor" on the
Underground Railroad in 1847. He settled in Rochester and lived there for twenty years
and during that time period spoke on abolition and equality all over the northeast. It
was in Rochester that he operated a newspaper called the "The North Star." Mr. Douglass
died in 1895 in Washington, D.C. and is buried at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester,
Click images to enlarge.