Gerrit Smith was a nationally prominent and influential abolitionist and social reformer who played a critical role in the operations of the Underground Railroad. He lived at the estate in Peterboro, New York and conducted business out of his land office. At the Utica Conference of 1835, where 600 antislavery advocates assembled at the Bleeker Street Presbyterian Church, a mob of 80 rioters stormed the church, forcing the group to flee the building. The events surrounding the Utica Conference moved Smith to serve as president of the New York Anti-Slavery Society between 1836 and 1839.
By the end of his term, Smith was calling for abolitionists to defy the law and help fugitive slaves escape into freedom. During the 1840s and 1850s, Smith acted as a "station master" in the Underground Railroad. His Peterboro estate provided a widely recognized safe haven for runaway slaves enroute to Canada and was recognized as a financial and intellectual center of the antislavery movement. Out of the Land Office, Gerrit Smith sold farm tracts for one dollar each to 3000 poor African Americans, many of whom he had helped escape into freedom, with approximately 140,000 acres being transferred between 1846 and 1850. Now owned by the Town of Smithfield, the building provides a tangible link to the life of one of the Underground Railroad's most active participants. Click here for more information.