Since I have been involved in researching the family history of the Gage’s, I have come across amazing individuals of their time. One of these individuals was an outspoken woman by the name of Matilda Joslyn Gage. She had many qualities that I’m proud of and one of them was her involvement in the Underground Railroad. A Syracruse conductor of the Underground Railroad by the name, Rev. Loguen approached Mrs. Gage and others in the area for help. Out of the entire town, Mrs. Gage and one unnamed gentleman of Fayetteville were the only two persons that dared to defy the law of the land and rendered themselves liable to fine and imprisonment in the county jail for the crime of feeding the hungry, giving shelter to the oppressed, and helping the black slaves on to freedom. They opened their homes to runaway slaves for aid and comfort on the way to Canada.
At the International Council of Women, Gage reflected on her childhood introduction to abolition: ” I think I was born with a hatred of oppression, and too, in my father’s house, I was trained in the anti-slavery ranks, for it was one of the stations on the Underground Railway, and a home of anti-slavery speakers. Well I remember the wonder with which, when a young girl, I looked upon Abby Kelly, when she spoke of the wrongs of black women and men. Then I remember, before the Round House in my city of Syracruse was finished, a large and enthusiastic anti-slavery convention was held there, attended by thousands of people who all joined in singing the song, I’m an Abolitionist and glory in the Name, and as they rang out that glorious defiance against wrong, it thrilled my heart, and I feel it echoing to this day.”
Matilda’s eldest daughter, Helen stated to a newspaper reporter of the day, (back in the 1880’s), “that her earliest remembrances was of a black man on his knees before her mother, thanking her for a chance of life and liberty.”
The cellar was not much more than a hole in the ground, but it was often the over-night lodging for some escaped Negro on his way to Canada and freedom. The trapdoor was located in front of the fireplace in the back parlor. After the Gage family moved to Fayetteville in 1854, their house at 210 East Genesee Street became a gathering place for workers in the anti-slavery, temperance and woman suffrage causes. Matilda’s husband, Henry Hill Gage displayed a large handbill, Proclaim Liberty thoughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof, in his store. Henry signed at least one petition to oppose the spread of slavery and draped his store in mourning on the day that the abolitionist martyr, John Brown was executed.
We should all be proud of people like Matilda Joslyn Gage and her husband, Henry Hill Gage for their efforts and strong voices in history. Let freedom ring.