Sodus Point and the surrounding area were active in the Underground Railroad. From stories passed down, several safe houses were used to harbor “Freedom Seekers” included what is now Maxwell Creek B & B, Silver Waters B & B, the old Cohn Farm and the old Sodus Fruit Farm. Sodus Point ran a Schooner out of the old Ore Dock that would pick up the slaves on its way to Canada.
Here is that story as told by George Arney and Elsie Parsons (the Grandchildren of the Captain of the Schooner) in November 2010:
Captain George Garlock ( 1829 – 1906 ) ran a freight schooner (sail only ) out of Sodus Point, NY named “Free Trader“ in the mid-1800’s. It was a two masted, one deck, 46 ton, squared sterned, carved head schooner with a crew of 4. He would take a load of lumber or ore out of the ore dock in Sodus Point to go across to Canada. The schooner would leave anytime day or night depending on the weather. He would be going on Lake Ontario west and then north toward Canada to Brighton, Ontario (a small town pretty much straight across the lake from Rochester). If he saw a small rowboat off shore with people on it, he would stop and pick them up.
These fugitive slaves would come from the Cohn Farm and Old Sodus Fruit Farm ( Old Swales Farm ) and gather at a bluff overlooking Lake Ontario now known as “Freedom Hill”, then called “Nigger Hill”. If daytime they would see the schooner coming and at night time they used a beacon to get its attention. They would then go out in a small boat. These African-American people would then be “stowed away” on board until reaching Canada. Captain Garlock would then return with a load of grain to one of the local gristmills, or whatever he was bringing back from Canada.
This information above is accurate to the best of my knowledge.
This is the block and tackle used on the riggings of the Free Trader. They were donated to the Lighthouse by Elsie Parson who is the grand daughter of Captain Garlock. They are currently on display at the Sodus Bay Lighthouse Museum and are believed to be the only artifacts of the Free Trader left in existence.
Austin Steward was a former slave who spent a year in Sodus Point (you can read his story on this website). He would go on to become a well known abolitionist and author. He said this about the Underground Railroad: “Is not the necessity of an “under ground railroad,” a disgrace to the laws of any country? Certainly it is; yet I thank God, that it does afford a means of escape to many, and I pray that the blessings of Heaven may ever rest upon those who willingly superintend its interests.”
For more information about the Underground Railroad in our country
Click on this link: http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/underground-railroad/
How do we know so much about the specifications of the Free Trader and what cargo it carried?
There is a rather amazing story that answers this question. In the 1850s, working Schooners had to fill out quite a bit of paperwork. For local schooners, this paperwork was stored in a building at the Port of Rochester, NY. This paperwork laid there for decades gathering dust when it was decided to throw old records out. It just so happens that a friend of the grandchildren’s family was there when the records were being tossed out and looked through the records. This person found the Enrollment , Manifests and Entry of Merchandise records for Free Trader and gave them to the family which subsequently kept them for future generations.
The Free Trader Enrollment record is like a car registration for a schooner. It specifies builder specifications for the schooner, owner’s name, where it was built, etc.
To see the 1854 Free Trader Enrollment record click here: http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/free-trader-enrollment-1854/
When schooners transported cargo between American ports, they needed to fill out a Manifest which showed the cargo and identified the Captain and vessel.
To see the Free Trader Manifest from Sodus Bay to Rochester dated May 3, 1856 click here: http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/free-trader-manifest-may-1856/
To see the Free Trader Manifest from Sodus Bay to Rochester dated Oct 6, 1856 click here: http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/free-trader-manifest-oct-1856/
When schooners transported cargo between Canada and the U.S. ports, they needed to fill out a Entry of Merchandise form which showed the cargo, the departure and entry ports and identified the Captain and vessel.
To see the Free Trader Entry of Merchandise dated Sept. 13, 1856 click here: http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/free-trader-entry-of-merchandise-sept-1856/
There is much more to the story of the Underground Railroad in Sodus Point. For the rest of the story, please click the link: http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/slaves-in-sodus-point/more-underground-rr-in-sodus-point/