The Anti-Slavery Society of Cattaraugus County

Both Everts 1879 and Adams 1893 History of Cattaraugus County, New York recounts the formation of an Anti-Slavery Society in the village of Ellicottville in 1836 which caused quite a stir.  Despite the fact that Adams noted that the conservative population of the village outnumbered the anti-slavery element 50 to 1, it is apparent that the society continued on its mission.

In September of 1839, the following notice was published in the Cattaraugus Republican (Ellicottville) Newspaper:

This was followed by an article published in that same newspaper outlining that the Cattaraugus County Anti-Slavery Society had met at the Court House in the Village of Ellicottville on Wednesday the 25 of September with Constant B. Allen, President in the chair.  The meeting was opened with prayer by Elder Foot(e).  Delegates from the following towns appeared, viz: Ellicottville, Franklinville, Farmersville, Mansfield, Napoli, and Humphrey.  Rev. Wm. Waith was appointed Secretary pro. Tem.  A committee was appointed to prepare business and reported five resolutions.  Another committee of three was appointed to draft questions to be proposed to those candidates who shall be put in nomination for the State Legislature at the coming election.  The Society also resolved that a vote of thanks from this meeting be given to the Editor of the "Cattaraugus Republican" for his readiness in publishing a notice of meeting in his paper.  This article was signed C.B. Allen, Ch'n (Chairman) and Wm. Waith, Cl'k pro. Temp. 

On August 20, 1840, Eben S. Colman, Cor. Sec. published a notice on behalf of the Cattaraugus County Anti-Slavery Society that a meeting was to be held on the 1st and 2nd days of September at Franklinville.  Myron Holley of Rochester and W.L. Chaplin were engaed to attend and address the meeting. 

Another notice was published on January 4, 1841:

And again the following year, a meeting was announced:

A report of that year's meeting was published later.  According to the report the meeting was held on in Ellicottville on February 10, 1842 at the Presbyterian meeting house and called to order by Vice President H. Seymour with an invitation prayer offered by Rev. Mead Holmes.  On motion of O. Thomas, a committee of three was appointed to prepare business for the meeting, A. Bentley, E. Rogers, and B.B. Webber were appointed that committee and the meeting then took a recess for an hour and a half.  After recess, the meeting was called to order by C.B. Allen, President of the Society and prayer offered by Rev. E. Rogers.  The business committee presented a series of resolutions and the report was accepted.  The following names were reported as officers of the society, viz. C.B. Allen, President; E.S. Colman, Recording Secretary; F. Rogers, corresponding secretary; O. Thomas, Treasurer; A. Bentley, E. Eddy and L. Latin, Directors.  Another resolution that the society would hold meetings quarterly with the first to be held at East Otto was also adopted. 

Information on the movements of this society in later years has not been readily found in the available newspapers to date and further research is required. 

We do know from research done on Anti-Slavery Activists in the 1800s (see and the Foote papers from the McClurg Museum of Chautauqua County, that E.S. Colman was listed in Foote's 1843 Liberty Friends List.  In a letter of 11 November 1844, Pettit noted that "Mr. Coleman of Ellicottville last eve informed me the Lib (Liberty Party) vote in that Co (County) is 500."  Colman himself wrote from Ellicottville to Foote in January of 1845 that a liberty convention is to be held at this place on the first Tuesday of February next at 10 o clock and would "perhaps continue two days."  Mr. Colman urged Foote to meet with them and asked that he write "immediately in regard to it."  There is a letter written the following year on 6 February 1845 from Ellicottville and signed by the five men that discussed raising money for the purchase of the wife and child of Joseph Norton.  The five men listed were: B Chamberlain, W.P. Angel, H. Colman, E.M. Pettit and E.S. Colman.  (See for more information). 

Thus we have a record of the activities of this society for nearly ten years. 

Information submitted by Dawn Westfall, Ellicottville Historical Society. 

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