Sunday, May 03, 2009

Walking Historical Florence


Steve Strimer has been leading history walks around Florence for a while, and I finally went on one of them recently. I've lived in and around Florence (a village of Northampton) for years, driving through at least twice a day, and often neglecting to take the time to consider the rich history beneath the pavement and behind the clapboard facades. The village was the site of a utopian community, a hotbed of abolitionism, a stop on the underground railroad, and home to many escaped slaves and free blacks including Sojourner Truth and David Ruggles. Steve has done much research on all of this, pouring through old documents and poking around in people's attics, and he periodically takes groups on walks to share his knowledge.


David Ruggles was born a free black in Connecticut in 1810 and moved to New York where he opened a grocery store, became a publisher of abolitionist pamphlets and was the first African American to own a bookstore. In 1842 he moved to Florence, where he joined the Northampton Association of Education and Industry, a utopian community. He remained active in the abolitionist movement here and also opened a water cure facility (Northampton had several water cure and spa facilities in the mid-1800s). Near blind and in poor health, he died here in 1849.


This little clapboard cottage will one day be the David Ruggles Center for Early Florence History and Underground Railroad Studies. It's not a house he lived in, but was contemporary with his time in Florence.

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1 comment:

  1. I learned a lot I didn't know from your post. Sounds like it was a very informative tour.

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