Jacob Buys 1805 – 1866
Jacob Buys was a very important part of the Underground Railroad in Sodus Point. He provided a safe house for fugitive slaves and transported the slaves in a small boat to waiting schooners who then took them to freedom in Canada.
From the testimony of Esther Buys (approx. aged 80). Esther was married to Bruce Buys (deceased) and lives on a house that is on Lummis Street Extension in Sodus Point. She related to us a story from Bruce Buys’ grandparents whom they lived next door to when they were first married. They had told the story of how one of the Buys’ ancestors (she wasn’t sure which one) had been transporting fugitive slaves to awaiting ships on the bay that were heading to Canada. The slaves had been transported to Sodus Point hidden in wagons. Undercover of darkness, the slaves were taken from the tunnel on the bluff on her property (near the present day skate board park). At that time the water in Sodus Bay came up to the base of the bluff. The slaves were then put into a small rowboat , covered with a tarp and then he transported them out into the bay where they were transferred to the boat going to Canada. Approximately 1976, when the sewers were being put in downtown Sodus Point, the underground tunnel was uncovered and found to be running diagonally just a few feet north of her house. This tunnel was going to the bluff in one direction and towards the Silver Waters B&B in the other direction. Her husband was given a brick from the uncovered tunnel as a souvenir. She also showed us brass binoculars that were from Jacob Buys who was her husband’s Great Great Great Grandfather. Ester and Bruce’s Grandson (young Jacob Buys) was named after his Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather.
The early years 1839 – 1844
From further research we did, we concluded that the person transporting the slaves was, in fact, Jacob Buys. Jacob Buys fits the correct time frame. He was born in 1805 and died in 1866. In the book entitled “Great Sodus Bay History, Reminiscences, Anecdotes and Legends” by Walter Henry Green (Sodus, NY 1947) Page 195, it states that “…there was a political anti-slavery faction called the Liberty Party. It was short-lived and existed only from 1839 to 1848. In Sodus Township, it had just 6 members..Dr. William D. Cook, Seth Coleman, Dr. Levi Gaylord, Eli Clark, Kitchell Bell and Jacob Buys”. As you will see below, Jacob Buys was a staunch abolitionist and ran a safe house. His out spoken views led to him being “read out” of the the Sodus Presbyterian Church in 1843. Please note that his home listed below is located about 1/4 mile from Freedom Hill where many different references have fugitive slaves being picked up. Based on the the oral family stories and the location, it is reasonable to assume he was transporting the slaves in a boat out to the waiting schooners off of Freedom Hill.
The following story is from the book “Uncovering the Underground Railroad, Abolitionism, and African American Life in Wayne County, New York, 1820-1880 written by Judith Wellman and Marjory Allen Perez, with Charles Lenhart and others. Sponsored by the Wayne County Historian Office, Peter Evans, Historian and funded by Preserve New York, a program of the Preservation League of New York State and the New York Council on the Arts.
Jacob and Lucy Buys Home (tentative identification)
End of Duflo Road, north off Lake Road
Town of Sodus, New York
Significance: This is one of a series of homes on the north side of Lake Road, on the shore of Lake Ontario between Sodus and Pultneyville that were used as Underground Railroad safe houses. With other abolitionists, Jacob and Lucy Buys left the Sodus Presbyterian Church to form a new antislavery church in 1843.
Description: Probably originally a five-bay, story-and-a-half house, this brick home stands near the shores of Lake Ontario, surrounded by farm fields and woods. Dormer windows and porch have been added to the original structure. This is one of three possible homes occupied by the Buys family. Deed searches may pinpoint their home more specifically.
Discussion: The Buys family lived in this area before 1832 and from 1836 to 1844, probably in this house in the early 1840s. In 1843, they were part of the split over abolitionism in the Sodus Presbyterian Church. Local tradition suggests that they were part of a string of families along Lake Ontario who participated in the Underground Railroad. 1
In 1891, an obituary for Lucy Munson Buys described the various farms on which this family lived. In 1827-28, they lived on Dr. William Cooke’s farm, just east of this house. They sold this farm to William Sargeant and moved to Wisconsin in 1844. 2
2 Wayne County Alliance, December 14, 1891, fultonhistory.com.
The Later Years 1847 – 1860
We know from an interview with Jacob Buy’s son (Henry) from the Lyons Republic and The Clyde Times that the family moved to Sodus Point in 1847 into a home located on North Fitzhugh Street. From the oral history of the Buys family, Jacob continued helping fugitive slaves. After the Sodus Point tunnel was completed (sometime in the early to mid 1850s), he would take slaves, undercover of darkness, from the end of the tunnel, put them in a boat, cover them with a tarp and rendevous with a schooner that would take them to Canada.