There were several Underground Railroad agents and safe houses in Warren County. A few miles south of Chestertown along Route 9, one can still find the former home of Quaker Joseph W. Leggett.
Mr. Leggett was the leading abolitionist in the village, and his son remembered seeing fugitive slaves in their home late at night.
Joseph W. Leggett
South of Chestertown are the remains of the Darrowsville Wesleyan-Methodist Church where the Rev. Thomas Baker is believed to have harbored runaways.
North of the village, one finds the site of Oliver Arnold's temperance tavern, and, farther on, the Tyrrell House. During renovations of this house some years ago, a hidden room was discovered. It contained a cot, a dresser, a washstand, a water pitcher, a candle, a folded sheet, a blanket, and a Bible
Gerrit Smith, the leader of the anti-slavery Liberty Party in New York, visited Chestertown in 1845 and shared his high expectations of Judge Tyrrell: "Judge T. is a gentleman of integrity and good sense; and hence my expectation, that he will speedily yield to the claims of the anti-slavery cause."
Gerrit Smith praised Chestertown's citizens:
I am much pleased with this people. They are candid and truth loving. Their ministers are not ashamed, nor afraid, to plead the cause of the enslaved. Here are abolitionists of the truest class. I refer to such worthy men as Mr. Leggett, Mr. Arnold...
Joseph Leggett was the President of the Liberty Party in Warren County. He and his wife dined at Mr. Arnold's tavern with two Liberty Party lecturers in 1843--the Baptist abolitionist Rev. Abel Brown, and Louis Washington, a fugitive slave who often shared the podium with Rev. Brown.
"Gerrit Smith Anti-Slavery Tour." Albany Patriot June 25, 1845.
John W. Leggett image, courtesy Craig Leggett.
Leggett House, Darrowsville Church, Tyrrell House photos by Laura Sells Doyle.
In Johnsburgh, fugitive slaves were sheltered by Rev. Enos Putnam, a Wesleyan Methodist circuit rider, and his wife, Sybil.
Rev. Enos Putnam
Freedom seekers arrived at the Putnam's at night in wagonloads of hay. After being restored with rest, sleep and food, they continued their journey to freedom. Rev. and Mrs. Putnam's adopted daughter, Lucia Newell, wrote in her diary, "Bobby Brown says my father keeps a black devil in his cellar and that my father will go to jail if he don’t look out." Lucia remembered the first time she saw a runaway when she was about four years old.
I came down the stairs in my nightgown. Father was just opening the cellar door. He had a lighted candle in one hand and a plate of food in the other. He did not see me and I followed him part way down the cellar stairs. He set the plate of food on a box and took a key from his pocket and unlocked the door of a room in the cellar where Mother kept her preserves. I could see from my perch, two or three steps down, that there was a kind of bed in the room and a young man, very black, sat on it. I was frightened for I had never seen a black man before and I hurried to go back to bed.
Mr. Cutler, a black man, built a barn and a cabin a couple of miles away from the extinct community of Igerna. According to local legend, he was sometimes joined by freedom seekers. A military road out of Igerna would have provided them with a direct route north to Ogdensburg on the St. Lawrence River where they could cross into Canada on a steam ferry.
For more information on the history of the UGRR in Warren County, contact the Warren County Historical Society at 195 Sunnyside Road, Queensbury, New York 12804, (518) 743-0734.
"Gerrit Smith Anti-Slavery Tour." Albany Patriot, June 25, 1845.
"Rev. Enos Putnam Sleeps in Churchyard at Johnsburg," Warrensburg-Lake George News, August 12, 1962.