Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Summer and a visit to the Sandy Pond - where slaves once escaped to freedom!

Sandy Pond

With the snow storm, the cold and the first day of spring about to arrive... I guess it is not surprising that I thought of summer and the prospect of going to Lake Ontario and the beach. 

One of my favorite destinations is one of today’s summer retreats, Sandy Pond.
Most people don’t realize that Sandy Pond and the area that it encompasses with Big and Little Sandy was actually an area that was used as a boarding place for slaves to escape to Canada. Many of these fugitives came from routes here in Madison County including Peterboro..

I found the story in an old Gipp’s Gazeteer of New York and it was a firsthand account by one of the participants in that particular route, a route that smuggled many slaves to Canada before and during the Civil War.

The well-known conductor who lived on Main Street in Phoenix, New York, was Mr. Thomas Dutcher.  Mr. Gonverneur M. Sweet who was Dutcher’s neighbor across the street, who also harbored runaways in his house when Mr. Dutcher’s house’s facility were unable to hold a large number, and it is he who related the story.

The story says is that the Thomas Dutcher family received runaways from Syracuse and Peterboro, usually at night, and would house them until they could be transported along the Oswego River until they reached their final stop before Canada, which was located at Sandy Pond.  Mr. Sweet noted that the people of Phoenix could be trusted for the most part not to divulge the whereabouts of runaways, and that Phoenix to Sandy Pond was much safer than Oswego where agents were always on the look out for UGRR trafficking.

The route passed along through Mexico, Richland and Sandy Creek until it the cargo could be secreted into the home of Mr. George Bragden, located a mile and a half north east of Selkirk.  Reaching this destination; usually in a lumber wagon covered with straw.  On the second night of their journey they were transported to Big Sandy Pond where they could be placed aboard a pre-arranged sailing boat that would convey them to Canada.

Selkirk Lighthouse
Mr. Sweet noted that it was necessary to avoid all of the ports on the lake, and that Sandy Pond was favorable to small craft whose owners new their way in and out of an area not favorable to larger craft and detection.

Today, Sandy Pond has become a part of Selkirk Shores State Park and is haven for weekenders who seek a getaway of another nature, the beauty of its sandy beaches and the swimming. It is a far cry from the days when slaves sought the beaches for an escape to freedom.

I can only hope that this poor weary of winter person gets to enjoy a warm summer breeze off of the lake soon!

Listen to Seals & Crofts..close your eyes and THINK SUMMER!

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