One Hundred Anti-Slavery Conventions Tour 1843

Abolitionist, Underground Railroad conductor and orator Frederick Douglass made his first visit to the Lake Champlain Valley region in July of 1843 as a member of a One Hundred Anti-Slavery Conventions tour hosted by the American Anti-Slavery Society. This occurred two years before he published his narrative and three years before his British friends, Ellen and Anna Richardson, purchased his freedom for 150 ₤ Sterling from his former master Hugh Auld in Maryland, where Douglass had been enslaved on the Eastern Shore as well as in Baltimore. Conducted over six months, the tour speakers in the East included Messrs. John A. Collins, George Bradburn, Frederick Douglass, Charles L. Redmond and James Monroe. In the First Series, Douglass spoke in Randolph, Vt. on Monday and Tuesday, July 10 and 11th; Middlebury on Thursday and Friday, July 13th and 14th; North Ferrisburgh on Monday and Tuesday, July 17th and 18th and in Keeseville, N.Y., on Thursday and Friday, July 29th and 21st. In Middlebury, Vermont, hostile college students said Mr. Douglass was an escaped convict, stamped their feet and threw gravel and eggs.

Source: The Liberator, June 22, 1843.

Public Domain Image

Gerrit Smith

Abolitionist and philanthropist Gerrit Smith was the reason John Brown came to the Adirondacks to help Black settlers at Timbuctoo. Smith was also a friend of Frederick Douglass and Wendell Lansing, who invited him to speak at the First Baptist Church in Keeseville on June 7, 1845. A notice of the talk appeared in the Essex County Republican.


Public Domain Image

Notice of Gerrit Smith speaking at Baptist Church

Notice of upcoming Gerrit Smith lecture at First Baptist Church of Keeseville was published in the Essex County Republican in 1845.

Stephen Keese and Jane Keese Smith

Abolitionist and Underground Railroad Conductor Stephen Keese Smith and his wife, Jane Keese Smith.

Public Domain Image

West Point Cadets tour Stephen Keese Smith Farm in Peru, NY.

West Point Cadets tour historic barn on Stephen Keese Smith Farm on Union Road in Peru with Jacqueline Madison, President of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association that operates the North Star Underground Railroad Museum, which offers seasonal Underground Railroad tours of local sites in the Champlain Valley.

Robin Michel Caudell/Photograph

NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones tours Stephen Keese Smith Farm in Peru with daughter, Ella, and Community Liaison, Connie Mandeville.

NYS Assemblyman Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay) and his daughter, Ella (center) tour the Stephen Keese Smith Farm in Peru with Constance Mandeville (left) his Community Liaison; Jackie Kinnelly (center), daughter of current owners Frank and Jackie Perusse, and Jacqueline Madison (right) President of the North Country Underground Railroad Historical Association.

Robin Michel Caudell/Photograph

Abolitionist and Underground Railroad Conductor Wendell Lansing, Founder of the Essex County Republican

Wendal (Wendell) Lansing and wife, Eliza, founders of the Essex County Republican in 1839-1959. His (great) grand-daughter Marjorie Lansing Porter was Editor of the same publication.

At the present time, Mrs. Porter is Essex County Historian.

Source: A History of the First Baptist Church of Keeseville, N.Y. 1788-1968, Eleanor A. Spaulding, Under the Auspices of the Baptist Ladies Guild, January 1, 1959; Bibliography, Addendum to the Church Minutes.

Public Domain Image

Green Apple Inn, 19th century Underground Railroad site

The Green Apple Inn in Keesville, NY is a recognized Underground Railroad site.

Keeseville Free Library

Second Church Rupture

Since its inception as the First Baptist Church of Christ of Peru, the First Baptist Church of Keeseville's core tenets included an Anti-Slavery stance. This, however, didn't halt a schism in the Church that led to its closure. And once again as in the Anti-Masonic Movement, it didn't stall the exodus of pastors and members, who stood on opposite sides of this second rupture of the Church body.

These contentious circumstances coupled with uninformed memory still foster a racialized history in Keeseville in the 21st century.


No. 5 Opposed to Slavery

ARTICLE 18--We believe to steal, buy or sell any of our fellow creatures as slaves is contrary to reason, Justice and nature, the principles of Good Laws and Government, the whole doctrine of the Gospel and the revealed Will of God, which enjoins us to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to do unto all men as we would that they should do unto us; to have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.

Source: A History of the First Baptist Church of Keeseville, N.Y. 1788-1968, Eleanor A. Spaulding, Under the Auspices of the Baptist Ladies Guild, January 1, 1959; History of Clinton and Franklin Counties, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Its Prominent Men and Pioneers by Hurd, D. Hamilton (Duane Hamilton) 1n; Lewis, J. W. & Co. Philadelphia, 1880.

"Nigger Church"

According to the history of Keeseville Church written by Marjorie Porter for the Essex County Republican in 1950,  "It is interesting to note that during the period when Abolitionists were lecturing in this section that the Baptist Church opened its doors for this purpose in spite of the sentiment against "Nigger lovers." 

Under date of July 16, 1844, Ahaz Hayes took exception to opening "their doors for the abolitionists, openly and sundry times." It is probably from this that the Baptist Church has been dubbed, "Nigger Church." 

The name seems to crop up now and then. It is a fact that there is an "Underground Railway Station" under the house (Colonial Hall) adjoining the Masonic Hall. (Presbyterian Church). There is also two in the "Union" (The barn at the Stafford farm and the Northern Orchard farm). The Quakers were definitely Anti-Slavery also. 

Of course, some of the first articles of faith of the Baptists was against slavery in any form.

Source: A History of the First Baptist Church of Keeseville, N.Y. 1788-1968, Eleanor A. Spaulding, Under the Auspices of the Baptist Ladies Guild, January 1, 1959, pgs. 99-100.


"Traffickers in human flesh"

July 13, 1844

In special Church meeting.

Voted 1st Deacon P. P. Spear, moderator and Humphrey Taylor, Clerk.

4th. Voted to adopt the following preamble and resolution as presented by Isaac Sawyer,

Whereas, the resolution passed by the Church some time since that they could not hold fellowship with slaveholders nor admit Slave holding ministers into their pulpit to preach and

Whereas, this Church had no preference to or difficulty with those members of the Church that did not adopt said resolutions, therefore,

Resolved, 1st. That we  have no difficulty with them simply on that account but if they otherwise walk orderly as Christians, we hold them in our fellowship as such

Resolved, 2nd. That a committee of three be appointed to inquire whether we should continue to bestow our funds for Missionary purposes to be mixed and mingled with the money of slave owners and traffickers in human flesh or whether we shall patronize the new Baptist Missionary Society newly established at Boston which sends no slave holders abroad as missionaries nor mixes its funds with the contributions of slave holders.


"Labour with him"

In the old days, any grievance anyone had against a member of the church, the matter was brought before the church, discussed and the offending party deal with. It was the custom to have a committee call on the offending party or parties and "labour with him." If the results were satisfactory, the offending party confessed and asked forgiveness of the church and was restored to his former status.

Ahaz Hayes and Dr. Aden Weston had been under censure, but Dr. Weston had been restored. The next church meeting shows the state into which the church had fallen. 

Monday, July 1, 1844

Church meeting agreeable to appointment.

1st. Brother Lansing brought forward the following charge against Brother Wm. Taylor.

1st. For abusive language toward members of the church misrepresenting and impuning their motives indulging invarious of epithets toward persons personally reflecting on their Christian character and conduct.

2. Demeaning himself in a disorderly manner on numerous occasions reflecting discredit on the church of which he is a member or generally on the Christian name.

3. For insincerity in acting in a religious capacity contrary to his belief and principles to stop the mouth of brethren avowing such to be his intention.

Brother Taylor acknowledged most of the charges and confessed to the satisfaction of the church.

Voted satisfied with Br. Taylor's confession.

This incident and what follows is recorded because of the results as it pertains to church discipline. 

Another member is dissatisfied with the procedure of the church in this most recent conflict. That matter is taken up in the next meeting.

July 16, 1844.

Church met agreeably to appointment.

1st. Took up the case of Brother Ahaz Hayes on a certain communication from him to the Church of which the following is a copy. -- 

To the Baptist Church in Keeseville,

I am informed by Calvin Cook that the church have assumed the difficulty & labor that Cook up against me-- I consider it is of so small a concern that I shall not notice it and the church may do with me as they please. I am in as good fellowship with the slaveholding Baptists Brethren of the South as I ever was and I would as soon commune with and sooner than the abolitionists of the Keeseville Baptist Church for I think their conduct better. I take this opportunity for reasons which I will hereafter communicate to withdraw my fellowship from the Baptist Church of Keeseville.

1. For that whereas the Church of Keeseville have openly and sundry times opened their doors for the abolitionists and that too without applying to me as one of the trustees of the meeting house.

2nd. That the church have passed sundry resolutions on the subject of slavery in the South--I have attempted to avoid trouble & difficulty coming into the church but no it must be dragged into the church & met with it, if by avoiding one evil, I have committed a greater one by staying away from the church meetings. I am sorry for it and wish to be forgiven. I acknowledge I do not enjoy as much religion as it is my privilege to enjoy, it is partly owing to my mind being harassed up by Politics coming to the church and the more so by my own wicked heart and may God forgive me.

(Signed ) Ahaz Hayes

3rd. Voted to excuse Brother Hayes for some misconduct toward the moderator

4th. Voted Brother Hayes confess his wrong in the sending of the above communication to the church and as he did not confess but a part

5th. Voted that the Church is not satisfied with the confession

6th. Voted to withdraw the hand of fellowship from Brother Hayes on the above letter.

Feb. 8, 1845 Saturday

In special Church meeting.

3rd. The Church voted to review a written complaint presented by Br. Lansing against Br. Wm. Taylor, the following is a copy of the charge against Br. Taylor.

1st. For manifesting in his daily talk and conversation a spirit of war with the spirit of the Saviour and disreputable to the Christian character and Christian name.

2nd. For the use of language towards Brethren unmanly and unChristian sowing that worldly passions predominate over love of Christian rules and Christian order.

5th. Voted that a committee be appointed to labour with Br. Taylor. That committee was Wm. Finch, and Br. F. Fuller.

Elder Conant Sawyer remained in Keeseville for nearly a year after his resignation as pastor. The records show often that he preached or was a moderator or acted on committees. Elder Isaac Sawyer was also active during the time.

With the Anti-Slavery question still waxing strong in the church and the Sawyers trying to reconcile the members, we have this record. (Be it understood that others at this time expressed their views, other than Br. Wm. Taylor, among them was Deacon Jas. Hindes and Wm. Finch, for which they were censured, but readily forgiven.)

Thursday, Feb. 1845.

At a former church meeting, Elder Conant Sawyer made a motion to rescind certain anti-slavery resolutions passed by this church sometime since which was put over to this meeting.

1st. Voted we take up an act upon the above motion when Elder Sawyer withdrew his motion and presented the following communication to the church.

To the Baptist Church in Keeseville:

Dear Brethren,

At our last church meeting but one those who were present will remember and all of you have undoubtedly heard that I made a motion that the resolution adopted by this church on the subject of slavery be recinded with those resolutions. I well knew that many of our brethren were dissatisfied and I made the motion that the resolutions be recinded in hopes that the church would removed that cause of dissatisfaction out of the way and that a better state of feeling would be the result. But as my motives have been misunderstood and I have been charged with a wish and intention to destroy the church, which is untrue, as I have no such wish or intention. I withdrew the motion that I have made for the reason that I have been charged with improper motives. I consider it inconsistent with the place that I occupy in the church to urge that measure while any in the church suppose me to be actuated by motives which have been assigned.

Signed Conant Sawyer

2nd. Voted we do not excuse Br. Sawyer on his withdrawing his motion.

Under date of Feb. 22 1845,

Wm. Taylor sent a written confession to the church, in which he admits that certain charges are true, that were stated in Br. Lansing's charge against him. The church was not satisfied and did not accept. They voted, however, that they were satisfied with the confession made some time back by Ahaz Hayes and he was reinstated to the fellowship.

Saturday, Feb. 22, 1845.

Church met agreeably to adjournment.

7th. Voted that the following resolutions presented by Br. Lansing be laid on the table for the next meeting.

Resolved, that the first and second charges against Br. Wm. Taylor presented by Br. Lansing having been amply sustained and his confession not being satisfactory to this church, he be hereby excluded from this body.

Friday, Feb. 28th, 1845

Church met agreeably to adjournment

3rd. Voted that the motion to exclude Br. Taylor be laid on the table.

4th. Voted that we excuse Br. Taylor in the following confession:

Dear Brethren,

I have reason for wishing all I say to you by way of confession to be in writing that the whole may be a matter of reference on examination for a future day and if it is written there can be no mistake about how much and what I have confessed. I wish to repeat what I have said before by way of confession (Feb. 22, 1845) which supposed covered the whole ground inasmuch as I admitted all that the brother who commenced the labour pretends that he could prove and confessed that I was sorry for every improper word that I have spoken and I still further state that I am sorry for every improper word I have spoken about my Brother and ask his and their forgiveness and forgiveness of the church and God unto whom I have soon to give an account for every idle word, and whether you forgive me or no, I can freely forgive all those who are unwilling to forgive me and I pray that God may extend  to them the favor for which they refuse to extend to me. Should you allow me to remain in the Church, I can and (will) act toward all the members of the Church as brethren who lives and walks according to the rules of the Gospel.

(Signed) Wm. Taylor

6th. No one objecting, Br. Lansing withdrew his 3rd charge in his complaint against Br. Wm. Taylor

March 28, 1845

20th. Voted to adjourn.

Names of Brethren who voted for the exclusion of Wm. Taylor.

Calvin Cook                                    Wendall Lansing

Norman Rowe                                Wm. Rowe

Orrin Hindes                                    George HIndes

Fitch Day


There were many in the church who were very dissatisfied with the exclusion of Wm. Taylor and the manner in which it was done. 

It was not until March 5, 1861 that the Keeseville Church finally voted "to recind the vote that the church was not satisfied with the confession, and to recind the vote of Wm. Taylor's exclusion."

He was out of the church six years, After this, he never seemed to take much part in the affairs.

Source: A History of the First Baptist Church of Keeseville, N.Y. 1788-1968, Eleanor A. Spaulding, Under the Auspices of the Baptist Ladies Guild, January 1, 1959.

















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