Liberties’ Guiding Light
The Gerrit Smith Estate, Peterboro NY

One of the many places of Prayer in Upstate NY.

“There are yet two places where slaveholders cannot come,
Heaven and Peterboro.”

So wrote black antislavery radical Henry Highland Garnet in a letter to Frederick Douglass which Douglass printed on the front page of The “North Star” newspaper December 8, 1848. Garnet was referring to the deeds of Gerrit Smith who had made the hamlet of Peterboro (25 miles south east of Syracuse) a refuge for escaping slaves on the Underground Railroad and a well- spring for other social reforms during the nineteenth century. That divine energy and spirit that inspired and drove Smith still exists at his home in Peterboro. Smith’s estate offers a unique opportunity for the pilgrim interested in abolitionism and social reform to go beyond observing dead artifacts in museums and experience first hand the prophetic spirit.

He lived life as he believed

Smith was an ardent abolitionist and social reformer that passionately pursued his life’s work. Many escaped slaves came to live in Peterboro to specifically work with Smith on his abolitionist endeavors. It is said that Smith radicalized Frederick Douglass and persuaded him to stop “moralizing” and take up the cause of abolitionism. Douglass moved to Rochester, NY and began writing the “North Star” which Smith helped subsidize. (Click to see a well-known picture of Douglas and Smith standing at the 1850 anti-slavery meeting in Cazenovia.)

“The history of the most important half century of our national life will be imperfectly written if it fails to place Gerrit Smith in the front rank of the men whose influence was most felt in the accomplishment of its results.”
New York Times, Volume XXIV No. 7265 December 29, 1874

Smith was active in a variety of social reform initiatives such as women’s rights, land reform, temperance, dietary changes, to name a few. He took the poor and needy of all colors into his home and helped them financially. He embodied Jesus’ teaching to love your enemies and visited Ku Klux Khan Prisoners in Albany, NY who were diametrically opposed to him. He was a strong believer that abolitionists and social reformers should take a hands on approach and be involved in politics. He was a candidate for President in 1848, 1856 and 1860. He served in the United States Congress, and was the only avowed abolitionist to do so.

Born the son of a wealthy landowner, he felt it was his duty to put his money to good use and help those in need:

“The large landed estate which my father left me, it has ever been my purpose to use in benefiting and blessing my fellow men…”
(Gerrit Smith in letter to Joshua Giddings, March 21, 1852)
“I think it a sin to be rich, and would rather live and die poor than live and die rich. I am doing what seems to be my duty with my great and encumbered inheritance.” (Gerrit Smith in a letter to Marius R. Robinson, March 3, 1846)

He bought and freed slaves, although some such as Lucretia Mott thought that he was doing nothing more than feathering the nest of slave owners. In 1846 Smith divided 120,000 acres into 40-acre land grants for 3,000 black Americans to meet the property requirement for voting. In 1850 Smith gave five hundred “white inhabitants of the State of New York,” who were landless and poor, forty acres each plus ten dollars. The list goes on and on. Smith is reportedly to have been part of the Secret Six that funded John Brown and his raid upon Harper’s Ferry.

The deeds and actions of Gerrit Smith which benefited mankind are too numerous to mention. The New York Times summed it up when it said:

“The history of the most important half century of our national life will be imperfectly written if it fails to place Gerrit Smith in the front rank of the men whose influence was most felt in the accomplishment of its results.”
New York Times, Volume XXIV No. 7265 December 29, 1874

Historically Unknown

In many ways Smith remains virtually unknown in history. Historian Dot Willsey and others are working on setting up an Abolitionist Hall of Fame to recognize Gerrit Smith and others that played an important role in liberating people. To learn more, or donate to the creation of the Abolitionist home, contact Dot Willsey.

The Land office that Gerrit Smith used to hide slaves is located at the corner of Nelson and Main Streets in the town of Peterboro. It sits on a piece of land about the size of half a football field.

If you visit Peterboro you might wish to visit of Madison County. Madison County like so many other counties in Central New York, has beautiful rolling hills, an abundance of water, and has not been suburbanized. If you go in the winter you might want to stop at nearby Stony Pond that affords wonderful cross country skiing with few people. In the summer you can see the spectacular farms and unspoiled beauty of an earlier time. In fact, part of the attraction of the area is the perception of traveling back in time to a simpler era.

Tapping into the Prophetic Spirit

The grounds have a wonderful presence and spirit about them. You can pray, meditate or do a contemplative walk. Given Smith’s strong prophetic spirit you might wish to tap into that consciousness—perhaps a contemplative meditation or a mantra asking for direction or spirit might work.

There are an abundance of good spots on the grounds. When I asked spirit where people should pray I was directed to the tree west of the house. Specifically, looking from the tree to your back you will see a large rock by the front entrance walk about 5 to 10 feet towards it; you will be sitting on a powerful energy vortex. Bring a cushion because there are no benches.


“The great delight I take in purchasing the Liberty of slaves…None of my expenditures of money have brought me more gladness of heart.”
(Gerrit Smith in letter to Ezekial Birdseye July 8, 1845)

There are several powerful formations on the property. The land office marks the intersection of 5 lines of consciousness, or ley lines. Mother earth’s presence can be found in the form of a water dome 10 feet in front of the land office. There are also several fields of energy vortices. I found 2 but I would imagine that there are more. The first field of 6 energy vortexes lies in front on the east side of the land office. There are five more, further east by the big tree I mentioned to pray at.

Reinvigorating the spirit

Visit the Smith estate and tap into the spirit that helped mold and make America during the nineteenth century. It is time for a new awakening of the spirit. Liberation awaits awaits you at the Gerrit Smith Estate in Peterboro, NY.

Thanks for Dot Willsey and to Donna Dorrance Burdick and Norman K. Dann for their book Heaven and Peterboro: The Current Relevance of 19th Century Peterboro to Human Rights Today January 2003; Dr. Sheila Johnson Institute, State University of New York, Morrisville, New York

God Bless and Praise Allah,

Madis Senner

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