Maxwell Settlement

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Photos of descendants of the Newport family that originally lived at the Maxwell Settlement as depicted in the February 1, 2009 edition of the Democrat and Chronicle:

 

http://www.historicsoduspoint.com/slaves-in-sodus-point/the-newport-family

 

The following information about the Maxwell Settlement comes from Marge Perez who is the former Wayne County Historian. The “colored settlement” as it was often referred to at that time was located on North Geneva Road across from  what is now the Steger Haus:

 

On the Outlots of Sodus Point:
The Making of an African American Community in Upstate New York

 

A small hamlet located just west of Sodus Point, New York in Wayne County was never assigned an official name – one that would be found on maps – but it existed as a place and touchstone in the lives of hundreds of African Americans from the early 1800s through the first quarter of the twentieth century and beyond. Many local residents simply referred to it, in the vernacular of the time, as the “colored settlement.” Its physical boundaries fell within Sodus School District #2 which was also referred to as the Maxwell District, taking its name from the mill site developed by William N. Lummis in the early 1800s. The Maxwell area got its name from Dr. Lummis in honor of the family name of his wife. Some vital records for its residents placed their birth place as “Maxwell.”

 

The heart of the community occupied a portion of land that had been divided into eighty 10 acre lots in a survey completed in June 1813 by Joseph Colt and in deeds identified as the “out lots.” The out lots straddled the main road leading south from Sodus Point (then called Troupville) to the settlements at Lyons and Geneva, now called the North Geneva Road.

 

The settlement was concentrated on about 60 acres, comprised of Lots 10, 11 and 12 in the 3rd and 4th Ranges of the out lots. Little remains of the physical fabric of this community except an abandoned road bed going east from North Geneva Road down to a creek, perhaps one small house, and an unmarked burying ground (now in the middle of a field across the creek). What does remain is the collective memory held by the children and grandchildren of the last residents of this once vibrant community that was home to generations of African Americans. And because those who hold the memories are aging, it is more important than ever that the story of this community be documented and shared.

 

In 1800 the census recorded only 52 households within the entire town of Sodus which at the present towns of Arcadia, Lyons, Williamson, Ontario, Marion and Walworth. It appears that at most six households, containing 40 persons, were actually counted by the census takers as being in the immediate Sodus Bay area. The Moses Sill household of ten persons, included two free persons of color and one slave. Ten years later the territory that was the town of Sodus had shrunk to include the present towns of Sodus, Lyons and Arcadia and the population was numbered at 1957, with 37 enslaved blacks and 37 free persons of color.

 

The first Southerner to reach Sodus Bay with his slaves was Captain William Helm of Virginia, who arrived about 1801. By 1803, Helm had relocated his base of operations to Bath, New York, leaving a small contingent of slaves on Sodus Bay, under the charge of his brother Thomas Helm. Following closely behind Helm was Peregrine Fitzhugh, who had purchased land on the western shore of the bay, bringing with him about 35 slaves.

 

It is the Fitzhugh slaves that would form the nucleus of the African American settlement of Maxwell. The African American settlement on the out lots of Troupville began to take shape sometime after the death of Peregrine Fitzhugh.

 

Main Families:

 

Abraham and Ven Bradington – daughters – Molly, married Alexander Lee; Nancy, married Joseph Wilbur, Margaret, married Robert Provost. Abraham Bradington left his 20 acres of land within the settlement to his three daughters and two grandchildren of a deceased daughter. Last of that land sold off in 1950s.

 

David and Polly Cooper – children – Ellen/Nelly, never married; Julia, married Taylor; Betsy, married Cornelius Hardin; Benjamin, married Julia A. Allen; George, may never have married; Sally A., married Titus Newport. David Cooper once paid taxes on 20 acres, but no deed was found. In 1855, daughter Nelly Cooper purchased a little less than 4 acres, which appears to be carved out of those 20 acres. The last of that parcel was sold in the 1920s or 30s.

 

Tom and Rosetta Lloyd – children – Jane, married Mr. Anthony; Lancaster, Thomas W.; Luther Abram; Julia, married Philip Newport; Margaret, Betsey, Henrietta. Jane, Lancaster and Luther A. all purchased land within the settlement.

 

William and Sarah Jane Newport – children – Titus, Hiram, married Sylvia Taylor; Philip, married Julia Lloyd; Polly Ann, Richard McKinney; Chloe Jane, married Charles Oakley; Margaret, James A. Potter; William, Mary, married John Wooby. Only deed located for purchase of land in settlement was by Margaret Newport Potter.

 

Civil War Soldiers with ties to Settlement:

 

• James A. Potter, husband of Margaret Newport, son of James and Chloe Potter; died while in service; 1st USCT
• William Newport, son of William and Sarah J. Newport; 29th Connecticut
• William T. Lloyd, grandson of Thomas and Rosetta; died in service, 8th USCT
• Charles Cooper, grandson of David and Polly Cooper, 8th USCT, Sgt.
• Prime Cortright and three sons – family lived in Huron, but had ties to Sodus through marriages; Prime buried in settlement cemetery – Prime, John Wesley and George Whitfield Cortright served in 11th USC Heavy Artillery; William Freeman served in 38th USCT. John W. Cortright died while in service.
• Six sons of James and Almira Gregor – family lived in Walworth, Ontario and Sodus between 1820 and 1870. David and Samuel Gregor served in 11th USCHA; Bradley and Elijah Gregor served in 8th USCT; Abram Gregor served in 43rd USCT; William Wilson (stepson of James, son of Almira) served in 31st USCT. Bradley and Elijah died while in service; Abram died within a few months of his return from service.
• Joseph Bulah, married to granddaughter of Tom and Rosetta Lloyd, 11th USCHA.
• John G. Hill, married granddaughter of Tom and Rosetta Lloyd, 11th USCH

 

Maxwell Settlement Involvement in the Underground Railroad

 

I’d categorize it as substantial circumstantial evidence that the Maxwell settlement may have served as “safe haven” for freedom seekers. . Polly Ann and Chloe Jane Newport (daughters of William and Sarah J. Newport) both worked for Dr. Wm. Cooke (1850 census); Polly Ann married Richard McKinney, who traveled from Loudoun Co., VA – they married in Canada in 1858 and returned to Sodus about 1863. Chloe Jane married Charles Oakley and they also moved to Canada – don’t have any proof that Charles was a former slave, but he may have felt in danger. There is the story of Charles Dorsey, who married a granddaughter of Abraham Bradington, daughter of Molly and Alexander Lee, escaped from slavery in Maryland in 1836 and thought to have gone from Philadelphia to Canada about 1838, but may have returned to Sodus by 1840. There’s another story about Robert Provost, husband of Margaret Bradington Provost, taking freedom seekers by wagon from Pultneyville (Cuyler’s home) to Sodus Point, but I haven’t found any proof of it. It would have been natural hiding place for UGRR travelers, waiting for transportation by water to Canada. I have a vague memory of a clipping which refers to Elijah Allen transporting fugitives – think it came from Green’s scrapbook – will have to see if I can find it. Elisha was a Stockbridge Indian and may have been of mixed race – he was tied into the Taylor family, which also had ties to Gregor families – also Indian and mixed race families.

 

The following two photo are from

Uncovering  the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism, and African American Life in Wayne County, New York, 1820-1880

by Judith Wellman and Marjory Allen Perez, with Charles Lenhart and others

 Sponsored by the Wayne County Historian’s Office, Peter Evans, Historian

 

Maxwell Settlement Geneva Road, east side, corner of Halcus Road (across from Steger Haus) Town of Sodus, New York   Significance: African-American settlement established on the outskirts of the village of Sodus Point as early as 1817, by people who were formerly enslaved.

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Possible home of E. Cooper
Maxwell Settlement, Geneva Road
Looking north, April 2008

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If you would like to learn more about the Underground Railroad experience in Wayne County, New York, I highly recommend:

 

Final Stop, FREEDOM! by Marj Perez