Peterboro, New York

Hamlet in New York, United States / From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Peterboro, located approximately 25 miles (40 km) southeast of Syracuse, New York, is a historic hamlet and currently the administrative center for the Town of Smithfield, Madison County, New York, United States. Peterboro has a Post Office, ZIP code 13134.[2]

Quick facts: Peterboro, New York, Country, State, County, ...
Peterboro, New York
1875 map
1875 map
Peterboro, New York is located in New York
Peterboro, New York
Peterboro, New York
Peterboro, New York is located in the United States
Peterboro, New York
Peterboro, New York
Coordinates: 42°58′00″N 75°41′10″W
CountryUnited States
StateNew York
1,296 ft (395 m)
Time zoneUTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
  Summer (DST)UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)315 & 680
GNIS feature ID960231[1]
Smithfield Town Hall and town clerk's office (small sign at right), Peterboro, New York. On upper floor, the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. Built in 1820 as Presbyterian church.

Because of its most famous resident—businessman, philanthropist, and public intellectual Gerrit Smith—Peterboro was before the U.S. Civil War the capital of the U.S. abolition movement. Peterboro was, according to Rev. Henry Highland Garnet, the only place in the country where fugitive slave catchers did not dare show their faces,[3] the only place the New York Anti-Slavery Society could meet (a mob chased it out of Utica),[4] the only place where fugitive slaves ever met as a group—the Fugitive Slave Convention of 1850, held in neighboring Cazenovia because Peterboro was too small for the expected crowd. Abolitionist leaders such as John Brown, Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, and many others were constant guests in Smith's house. So many fugitive slaves headed for Peterboro, and Smith, that there is a book about them,[5] and some never left Peterboro, forming a Black community from an early date.

Here is the comment of a minister, visiting in 1841:

At Peterboro (the residence of Gerrit Smith), I found as may well be expected, it was all Abolition—Abolition in doors and out—Abolition in the churches and Abolition in the stores—Abolition in the field and Abolition by the wayside. If I should use a figure, I would say that Peterboro is Bible-baptized into Abolition, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.[6]:5

According to abolitionist Julia Griffiths:

I always breathe more freely in Peterboro, than elsewhere. The moral atmosphere is so clear here...[7]

This was not true elsewhere in Madison County.[6]:5

In the 1850 census, the population of Peterboro was 347. In 1859 there were two drug stores, a tailor's shop, two groceries, a country dry goods store, the Peterboro Academy, the Fay House (a hotel), and the closed Peterboro Hotel.[8]

The Town Hall, in a former Presbyterian church, houses the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. Gerrit Smith's mansion was lost to fire in 1936, but his office, the Peterboro Land Office, has survived. A Peterboro Area Museum is located in the former schoolhouse of the Home for Destitute Children of Madison County; in 2022 it is open only on Sundays.[9]