Tag Archives: Gerrit Smith Estate

Event: Spiritualist Fox Sisters in Petersboro


By on

2 Comments

Spiritualism was born in the spring of 1848 when Margaret and Kate Fox heard strange rappings in their Hydesville NY bedroom. Within two years the two “Rochester Rappers” with their sister Leah were touring the country communicating with spirits. The Free Church of Peterboro was one site for the rapping demonstrations. “Scraps of paper in the Gerrit Smith Papers showing questions posed to a spirit medium … revealed that the family attempted to communicate with their loved ones, including Fitzhugh and Peter, after they had died,” according to one historian.

At 2 pm on Sunday, July 24 the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark in Peterboro will host programs on 19th Century spiritualism with particular attention to the Fox Sisters and Peterboro’s connections to the spiritualism movement. The program is open to the public and free.

The featured speaker Nancy Rubin Stuart (Osterville, Mass) will present Maggie Fox, Victorian America’s Reluctant Spiritualist. Upstate New York teenager Maggie Fox (1833-1893) rose to national fame as Victorian America’s “reluctant spiritualist.” Young and beautiful, Maggie’s alleged ability to communicate with spirits in America’s first séances of 1848 astounded the press, and made Maggie and her sisters the darlings of Broadway. Maggie inspired hundreds of imitators, and fascinated the most prominent men and women of her era, among them Horace Greeley, James Fenimore Cooper, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Mary Todd Lincoln, William Lloyd Garrison, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and William James. After a passionate love affair and secret marriage to distinguished Arctic explorer Dr. Elisha Kent Kane in 1856, during which Maggie promised to give up mediumship, her life took surprising twists and turns, culminating with a startling confession in 1888 at the New York Academy of Music. The lecture is accompanied by slides of Maggie Fox and her era.

Rubin explains that her purpose is neither to prove nor disprove the veracity of spirit communication, but rather to illustrate how 150 years ago the Fox sisters’ introduction of that idea swept through America and why it continues to fascinate people today. Maggie’s story is important, Rubin believes, because of passion – the passionate longing that 19th C. Americans had to once again talk with their beloved dead, and the passionate romance between Fox and Kane.

This Speakers in the Humanities event, which is free and open to the public, is made possible through the support of the New York Council for the Humanities, a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Speakers in the Humanities program has linked distinguished scholars with diverse audiences since its launch in 1983, bringing the best in humanities scholarship to thousands of people at hundreds of cultural organizations in virtually every corner of New York State. This program is just one of the ways the New York Council for the Humanities helps all New Yorkers to lead vibrant intellectual lives by strengthening traditions of cultural literacy, critical inquiry, and civic participation.

After Stuart’s presentation, popular local performers and sisters Darothy DeAngelo and Sue Greenhagen will provide a light-hearted look at early spiritualism with a vignette of the Fox Sisters during a rapping session enticing the spirits of some “dearly departed.” DeAngelo portrays Maggie, and Sue portrays Kate.

Beginning at 1 pm, Michael Keene will sell and sign his recently published book by The History Press: Folklore and Legends of Rochester: The Mystery of Hoodoo Corner & Other Tales. The book includes the story of the Fox Sisters, as well as the anti-Masonic hysteria of the early nineteenth century and the unexplained disappearance of former Mason, Captain Morgan. Keene worked for twenty-five years in the financial services industry as a financial planner. He is also the producer of an award-winning 2008 film Visions, True Stories of Spiritualism, Secret Societies & Murder, which, in part, inspired his new book.

Copies of Town of Smithfield historian Donna Burdick’s paper “Spirited Women – and Men & Their Unpopular Causes” will be on sale at the Peterboro Mercantile for the benefit of the Peterboro Area Historical Society. Burdick’s document describes Spiritualism as it was introduced and “practiced” in Peterboro. Burdick refers to written accounts of medium sessions and spiritualism conferences.

The Gerrit Smith Estate and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum in Peterboro are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays until October 23, 2011. Admission to each site is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. For more information:

Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134-006; call 315-280-8828 or visit www.sca-peterboro.org

Gerrit Smith Estate’s Family Day of Croquet


By on

0 Comments

Abolitionist Gerrit Smith liked to play croquet daily during the summer. In honor of Smith’s summer recreation, the Grounds Squad of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark plans to hold its second Family Day of Croquet on Sunday, July 17 from 2 – 6 p.m. on the grounds of Smith’s 19th Century home. The event will be attended by local croquet enthusiasts and a group dressed in croquet outfits. Croquet can be played by amateurs of all ages, and is enjoying a national resurgence. The public is urged to join in reviving this tradition. Croquet attire of the 19th – 21st Century or all white outfits are encouraged but not required.

During the afternoon, croquet courts and equipment will be available. Three buildings on the Gerrit Smith Estate with Heritage New York State Underground Railroad exhibits and the Peterboro Mercantile will be open. The National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will also be open from 1 – 5 p.m. The daily court fee is $2 per person. Gerrit Smith Estate tours cost $2 per person. Ice cream, beverages a 50-50 raffle, boxed lunches and baked goods will also be for sale.

Proceeds from the event support the preservation and promotion of the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark which is a site on both the New York State Underground Railroad Heritage Trail and the National Park Service Network to Freedom. Family Day of Croquet is one of a series of programs provided by the Stewards for the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark during 2011 and partially supported by a PACE grant from the Central New York Community Foundation. For more information on the croquet event contact Lisa Louisa Bryant at 917-578-9674 or at lisalouisabryant@yahoo.com. For a complete listing of programs, contact www.sca-peterboro.com or mail@sca-peterboro.com

Peterboro: Harriet Tubman, Maggie Fox Lectures


By on

0 Comments

The New York Council for the Humanities Speakers in the Humanities Program will provide two free presentations for the 2011 Peterboro Heritage Summer Programs.

On Sunday, July 17 at 2 p.m. at the Smithfield Community Center (5255 Pleasant Valley Road in Peterboro) the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum will host Harriet Tubman: Myth, Memory, and History presented by Milton C. Sernett Ph.D. Syracuse University professor emeritus. Then, on Sunday, July 24 at 2 p.m. the Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark (4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro) will host Nancy Rubin Stuart and her program Maggie Fox, Victorian America’s Reluctant Spiritualist.

Milton C. Sernett’s illustrated talk tells the story of how a black woman, once enslaved but self-liberated, became the dominant symbol of the Underground Railroad and an inspiration today for American of diverse backgrounds and reform interests. The audience will hear of the exciting findings of the latest research regarding Tubman the historical person, and of the many ways in which her life has been celebrated by writers, artists, and other creative spirits. Dr. Sernett has completed a book on the interplay of myth, memory and history during the years when Tubman was being canonized as an American saint.

On Sunday, July 24, in a talk accompanied by slides, Stuart will describe the Fox Sisters’ rise to national fame as communicators with spirits, the prominent people that followed Spiritualism in the 19th Century, and the history of young and beautiful Maggie Fox after she gave up her mediumship. Rubin will illustrate how 150 years ago the Fox sisters’ introduction of spirit communication swept through American and why it continues to fascinate people today.

These programs are free and open to the public. More information can be found online, by e-mailing mail@sca-peterboro.org or calling 315-280-8828.

The Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark and the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum are open from 1 – 5 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays from May 14 to October 23 in 2011. Admission to each site is two dollars. Stewards and students are free. For more information: Gerrit Smith Estate National Historic Landmark, 4543 Peterboro Road, Peterboro NY 13134, National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum, 5255 Pleasant Valley Road, Peterboro NY 13134.

Launched in 1983, the Speakers in the Humanities program brings the best in humanities scholarship to thousands of people at hundreds of cultural organizations in virtually every corner of New York. Speakers in the Humanities lectures are made possible with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Legislature, and through funds from the Gladys Krieble Delm.