One More River to Cross at Underground Railroad Heritage Area

 

When fleeing slaves from the southern U.S. reached Niagara Falls, they knew they had one more river to cross. But what a river it was with its roiling cataract. The new Underground Railroad Heritage Area in Niagara Falls, NY. chronicles some of the notable African-Americans who escaped across the river and helped others to make their way to freedom.

Recently I had the privilege of touring the new museum. For those unfamiliar with the term, “Underground Railroad” refers to a series of places where escaping slaves could receive shelter and assistance after leaving the South. Following the North Star, they headed for the northern U.S., where slavery was outlawed.

However, after the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, bounty hunters could recapture slaves in the north and return them to bondage. For this reason, it was far better for these fugitives to go all the way to Canada. When they reached Niagara Falls, they had one more river to cross.

Anthony Involvement in the Underground Railraoad

The Anthony family approved of this civil disobedience of helping slaves escape. They hosted many antislavery dinners at their farm home in Rochester, and three of their children (Susan, D.R., and Merritt) campaigned against slavery with speeches, petition campaigns, and physical warfare. Among the family’s closest friends were Undergound Railroad “conductors” (owners of safe houses) Amy and Isaac Post and Frederick Douglass.

Active or Passive Escapees?

Sometimes conductors used the code word “parcel” for a fugitive needing assistance. This term erroneously suggests that freedom seekers were passive goods carried away from slavery by other (usually white) people’s initiatives. The term gives little credit to the courage and intelligence exhibited by fleeing slaves themselves. (I strove for the correct balance in The Truth About Daniel, when I wrote about the escape of Randall Burton on Martha’s Vineyard.)

The Underground Railroad Heritage Area tips the racial balance by showing black abolitionists at work, united in the effort to help freedom seekers cross their last barrier  to freedom, the Niagara River.. A daring feat, to say the least. More next time.

 

 

Susan B. Anthony’s Brother Worked near Frederick Douglass

Correction: The Anthonys worked in the Reynolds Arcade, across the street from this building. Frederick Douglass had his office in the Talman Building. Sorry for the confusion.

was home to Frederick DougThis is the Talman Building in Rochester, NY, where Susan B. Anthony’s brother and father ran an insurance business. The brother will be the focus of my talk this Saturday, April 21 (details below). It features  Daniel Read Anthony, who emigrated to Leavenworth, KS. There he served as  mayor, postmaster, and publisher. But those meager facts don’t begin to tell his life story!

This talk recounts some of the research I did in Rochester and Leavenworth for my 2017 historical novel The Truth About Daniel. It’s hard to describe my excitement as I explored museums, scrapbooks, maps, and newspaper articles on this controversial man. As I walked the streets where he lived, my image of him became clearer. I learned how he:

  • ran a highly-political newspaper,
  • spirited slaves away from their owner,
  • traded insults and gunshots, and
  • supported his sister Susan’s campaign for women’s rights.

I was stunned to discover that he left Leavenworth in the winter of 1864 to marry a refined woman heiress from Martha’s Vineyard, who left everything familiar to make her home with him in that Wild West town. Come see my collection of images that include rare photos of Daniel himself and his wife Annie at this talk on Saturday:

Powerpoint presentation by Jeanne Gehret

The Truth About Daniel: Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother

Saturday, April 21, 1-2:30

Rochester Public Library, Central (Rundel) branch

115 South Avenue

Sponsored by Rochester’s Rich History Series

Library Talk on Susan B. Anthony’s Contentious Brother

This desk at the Leavenworth County Historical Society belonged to Daniel Read Anthony, publisher of the Leavenworth Times.

Susan B. Anthony and her brother Daniel Read Anthony remained close all their lives. Daniel  lived in Rochester for several years before starting a contentious newspaper in Leavenworth, Kansas. This roll top desk where I am sitting belonged to him. I like to think that he penned some of his flaming editorials right here.

My visit to his adopted home will be one of the topics I’ll discuss this month at my Powerpoint talk at the Central (Rundel) Library’s “Rochester’s Rich History” talk. Here’s the scoop:

“The Truth About Daniel: Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother”

Powerpoint presentation by Jeanne Gehret

Saturday, April 21, 1-2:30

Rochester Public Library, Central (Rundel) branch

115 South Avenue

Sponsored by Rochester’s Rich History Series

D.R., as he was called, sold insurance in Rochester for several years while saving money to move to Kansas. His own life was anything but risk-free as he rushed into burning buildings, spirited slaves away from owners, and traded both insults and gunshots on the streets of Leavenworth. Meanwhile he encouraged and supported Susan B. Anthony’s campaign for women’s rights.

Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother

The “The Truth About Daniel: Susan B. Anthony’s Forgotten Brother”

Powerpoint presentation by Jeanne Gehret

Saturday, April 21, 1-2:30

Rochester Public Library, Central (Rundel) branch

115 South Avenue

Sonsored by Rochester’s Rich History Series

Preparing this presentation has been fun, since it offers another opportunity for me to gather facts in one place on this many-faceted man. This blog has offered many sound bytes about him. However, the Powerpoint talk will present a concise overview of his long and controversial life.

It’s always a pleasure to talk about Rochester’s rich history. Hope to see you there!

P.S. The talk is based on my 2017 historical novel The Truth About Daniel.  You can get a signed copy at the presentation. Or order it on Amazon or Kindle.

 

 

Book Signing Tomorrow

Simply New York Store will hold a book signing tomorrow (Sunday, Dec 3) by Jeanne Gehret at their store near Seabreeze. Come met Jeanne and hear some surprising stories about Susan B. and her family. Ask Jeanne about her costumed portrayals of Miss Anthony, too.

Jeanne’s books make great gifts for anyone interested in Rochester, antislavery, woman suffrage, Martha’s Vineyard, the border war in Kansas, and even romance!

Click here for a description of these two books:

  • The Truth About Daniel
  • Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All

Jeanne will also have copies of her Coping Series (children’s books on dyslexia and ADD} for your favorite special needs child.

Simply New York carries only items made in NY State, including food items, jewelry, books, and fascinating gadgets. Jeanne’s books were not only  written in New York, and they also feature famous people who lived here!

Book Signing Sunday, Dec. 3, 1-3 pm

Simply New York, 4364 Culver Road, Rochester

 

 

“Impressively Crafted” Novel Now on Kindle

It’s so rewarding when a professional book reviewer “gets” the book that you’ve worked on for several years. That happened recently when Midwest Book Review praised The Truth About Daniel. And to celebrate, we made the book available on Kindle! Click here to get a copy on your own device. And PLEASE review it. Reviews convince Amazon that it’s worth publicizing.

Here’s what Midwest had to say:

Synopsis:

Jeanne Gehret became acquainted with Susan B. Anthony’s family in 1992 when she docented at the reformer’s house museum. After writing Susan B. Anthony And Justice For All in 1994, she curated an exhibit at the Rochester, NY museum and began portraying Susan in costume. She blogs at http://SusanBAnthonyFamily.com

In “The Truth About Daniel” she turns her talents to writing the first volume of what promises to be an impressively entertaining new series of historical novels called ‘The Dauntless”.

Annie Osborn was fascinated by everything about Daniel Read Anthony including his service as a Civil War colonel who battled slavery; his courage and endurance settling the wild West; and his family ties to Susan B. Anthony, Annie’s own heroine. Nevertheless, she has doubts about his suitability as a husband. Did he risk his life for unselfish reasons or because he enjoyed danger?

From the fiery conflict of Kansas to the prim parlors of Martha’s Vineyard, “The Truth About Daniel” portrays lovers who forge new bonds through their willingness to take chances as author Jeanne Gehret deftly weaves historical strands about D.R. Anthony to delve into his improbable choice of a bride, a socialite half his age from the whaling capital of Martha’s Vineyard.

Critique:

As a novelist, Jeanne Gehret has a genuine flair for deftly creating memorable characters and embedding them into an original and consistently entertaining story. The descriptive writing brings a bygone era in American History to vivid life. An impressively crafted and consistently entertaining read from beginning to end, “The Truth About Daniel” is unreservedly recommended, especially for community library Historical Romance collections and the personal reading list of the dedicated Antebellum romance fan.

How losses form bonds between lovers

 

This week marks the sinking of the whaling ship Ocmulgee, owned by Annie Osborn’s father. Thirty years earlier, Daniel Read (D.R.) Anthony’s father went bankrupt, causing him to lose his business and have to start over in another city. I believe that the sadness of those troubles may have formed a bond between Annie and D.R..

Read more about the Ocmulgee here.

What Annie Missed

The Osborns’ loss could have had a two-pronged effect. First, Annie’s family may have had less money to pay for her “coming out” to society and attracting a mate who lived closer to their Vineyard home. Second, seeing the repercussion of such a loss may have made her want to get away from herseafaring community. Why else would a captain’s daughter be willing to leave everything familiar to start life anew with Daniel in Leavenworth?

How Loss Shaped Daniel

The Panic of 1837 caused Daniel Anthony Sr. to lose his entire business and bankrupt the family. This prompted 18 year-old Susan to quit her private education and take up teaching, where she learned self-reliance. Like his sisters, D.R. also had to end his private education, but he had fewer years of expert instruction than his older siblings. He finished his education at a normal school and helped his father in the mill instead.

Throughout his several terms as mayor of Leavenworth, he made bids for the post of governor. But he never realized that high position. Would he have achieved his dream if he had had the benefit of a law degree?

 

 

 

Quelling Charlottesville Fury Avoids Historic Mistake

 

 

In Charlottesville young white nationalists tossed verbal grenades against blacks and Jews that quickly exploded into injury and death. Sadly, it coincided with the August 1863 Lawrence Massacre, which I discussed in my last post. Then, a band of racist ruffians killed 180 men and boys. Unlike this month, the 1863 officials made a historic mistake by upping the ante on revenge.

They may have felt justified in attacking Lawrence. After all, the two states had been duking it out on their common border for almost a decade in the escalating conflict over slavery. Those who launched the Lawrence Massacre wanted revenge. And they got it. But like the young demonstrators of Charlottesville, they didn’t bargain for all that they received.

In the wake of Charlottesville, other cities are hastening to remove their Civil War statues to preclude more violence. If what the nationalists really wanted was their statues and their symbolism, they ended up worse than they started.

Upping the ante on revenge

The Missouri ruffians’ satisfaction, like that of the marchers in Virginia, must have been short-lived. On August 25, 1863, General Ewing retaliated by issuing the infamous Order No. 11, which authorized the depopulation of the Missouri farmland where the Confederate raiders resided, foraged and took shelter. Not only that, but Union soldiers burned the very land. They, too, got worse that they gave.

Who started it?

In 1854, the Kansas-Nebraska Act (drafted by Senator Stephen Douglas and President Franklin Pierce) decreed that the Kansas Territory could decide by popular vote whether it entered the Union as a slave or free state. Whenever a vote was taken, proslavery Missourians squatted on the land and stormed the ballot boxes.

In response, eastern abolitionists (including D.R. Anthony) emigrated to the territory, founding an abolitionist stronghold at Lawrence. Anthony later led Jennison’s Jayhawkers to defend Kansas and conduct counter-raids on Missouri.

You could say that the ill-conceived Kansas-Nebraska Act began the border wars in Kansas and Missouri, which escalated into a nationwide Civil War. Let us hope that our legislators respond more wisely than Stephen Douglas and Franklin Pierce in laying down decisions with far-reaching effects. And that those involved in Charlottesville realize that violence begets violence, and that everyone loses.

As a nation, we should treat Charlottesville as a warning and do what we must to heal before it escalates into a tragedy on the scale of the Lawrence Massacre and Order No. 11.

Click here to read more about the artist and painting above.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York State VoteTilla Celebration

Celebrating Susan B. Anthony and Woman Suffrage

What an exciting week it was in upstate New York as VoteTilla made its way from Seneca Falls to Rochester. I met up with the canal boats on a gorgeous day in Fairport (my hometown) and had a chance to greet several old friends who were traveling with the fleet in costume.

In addition to all the excellent programming done by VoteTilla itself, the libraries and town historical societies put on wonderful programs, including debates, author signings, children’s activities, and more. I had the privilege of presenting my reenactment of Susan B. Anthony to full houses at both the Fairport and Pittsford libraries. Thanks to all those who attended and asked great questions! And special thanks to Vicki Masters Profitt and Mary Ann

August Programs:

  • Saturday, August 12, Arnett Branch Library, “Failure is Impossible,” noon
  • Tuesday, August 29, 2017 Pittsford Seniors Lunch, “Failure is Impossible,” noon