Malone, NY: The Underground Railroad

The Underground Railroad started off as not an organized group. However, federal law inflicted heavy fines and/or imprisonment. In the South, it could mean death. As with any righteous protest system, such as the freedom rides and anti-segregation marches, the Underground Railroad gained momentum.

Neil exploring tunnel
Tunnel in basement of the Congregational Church

The Underground Railroad flourished between 1840-1860, and it did reach Franklin County and Malone–although not to the degree of some other routes. New York’s primary routes were in the east, up to Rouses Point or across central New York to Syracuse. From there, slaves traveled to Oswego or Buffalo. Aside from New York City, many started their New York path to freedom via Elmira.

GE DIGITAL CAMERA Malone, New York
The First Congregational Church
home of tunnels used by runaway slaves

Most fled to Canada; however, a Negro colony was established in North Elba and Franklin by Gerrit Smith.

A less known route passed through Malone, NY. However, it is not known from where the escaping slaves came or to where they fled (644). Scholars have not defined Malone’s route–we must therefore assume it was rarely used. We know, from Seaver’s account and from the tunnels in Malone’s First Congregational Church, it did exist in this village.

According to Seaver, “A former Malone resident whose memory extended back to 1845 state…many of the negroes (sic) to whom Gerrit Smith deeded homes in the town of Franklin reached their properties via Malone, having come here by way of Plattsburgh or Ogdensburg (644).

Two former slaves made their homes in Malone. Two of which were Henry Jones and his first wife, both members of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. She refused to live in the wilderness. She insisted her grant gave her the old Miller House, where the Flanagan now stands, and ordered him out of the house (644).

Seaver, Frederick: Historical Sketches of Franklin County. Albany: JP Lyons, 1918.

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