Notes on African American Families
of the 19th Century in Cazenovia, Fenner and Nelson
Madison County, New York

Compiled by Daniel H. Weiskotten
Last Modified January 3, 2004

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        Most of the information available regarding African Americans in 19th century Cazenovia, Fenner and Nelson is in its rawest form - single entries in primary records such as census lists, vital statistics, and cemetery records.  I have found only four instances where African Americans are even mentioned in our local history books outside of a few confused references to the Anti-Fugitive Slave Law Convention in Cazenovia in 1850 and various abolitionist activities of the mid-19th century (Hugh Humphrey's incredible work on the Convention excepted)
        Most Blacks in Cazenovia, like anywhere else in 19th and early 20th century America, remained on the lowest rung of the socio-economic ladder.  Because of this status they, like their white tenant farmer counterparts, rarely owned land, usually worked for other people, often moved from place to place, and were generally absent from or did not take an active part in community affairs.  I have a feeling they attended functions but they hung to the sides and kept quiet knowing they could not fully participate.  For these reasons they never ended up with mentions in the newspapers or history books.  In addition to the lack of historical record there has been little interest in their genealogy and a study of their history has been sorely lacking.
        There have been Blacks and Black families in Cazenovia from nearly the first days of settlement (1793).  By 1800 the census for the Town of Cazenovia lists 9 Slaves and 17 individual Free Blacks (who show in the record as "Other") who lived within the present bounds of the Towns of Cazenovia, Fenner, and Nelson.  Neighboring Smithfield contained two distinct settlements of "Other" Free Blacks.  Slavery was legal in New York until 1827 and several wealthier families held slaves who appear to have worked as house servants, and in shops and mills in the village.
        Two of the families listed in the 1800 census are exceptions to what is typical for Free Black families in the uplands region of Central New York.  James Peters and Nathan Gilbert, listed as "other" in the 1800 census, lived next door to each other (or in the same house?) on what is now No. Nine Road south of Cazenovia Village.  Holland Land Company records show that they purchased Lot 57 of the Road Township Reservation in February 1800.  They also show up on the 1805 Town Tax List with personal property.  A blacksmith shop that stood on their property in later years indicates that they might have been blacksmiths by trade.
        These two men are also the only mentions of Blacks in any of our histories.  In 1883 Henry Severance wrote in his "History of School District No. Nine" that two colored men, named only "Jim and Nathan," lived along No. Nine Road, which was at one time called "nigger street."  It appears that both men left Cazenovia by 1810 as they are not on the census and Severance notes that they went to the "Genesee Country"
        Some of the Slaves and Free Blacks in the various records are listed only by a single name.  John Lincklaen had a Slave named Caesar (another had an equally Roman name, but I can't recall it now).  One of the Blacks in Lincklaen's household at the time of his death in 1822 was a young woman named Harriet.  She was listed in his will as "a mulatto girl, Harriet, not considered a slave".  Interpret from that what you may.
        A Black man in Nelson was named simply Plymouth in the 1800 census but later records show that he adopted an appropriate surname and became known as "Plymouth Freeman".  Some other men are known by first name only.
        Two other Blacks that have some record which will allow us to construct more history than to note that they were here are Peter A. Tousaint and Nannette Hill Bromley, both of whom lived in the Village of Cazenovia in the middle of the 19th century.
        Peter A. Tousaint was a barber in a shop on Albany Street and was an apparently popular fellow.  Tousaint, listed in records as a mulatto, was a native of Massachusetts who came to Cazenovia in and was active in the village for a decade or so following.  I do not know the date, but when he was on a visit to New Orleans he got involved in a riot and was killed.  His son, John Tousaint, carried on his barbershop through the 1880s.
        Nannette Hill came to Cazenovia from Cantn, NY and was married to John Bromley in Cazenovia in 1847, at the age of 41 years.  He appears to have died or left her shortly after their marriage, for in 1850 and thereafter she is noted as simply Nannette Bromley on maps, census records, and other sources.  She lived in a small house on Nelson Street in the Village for many years.  One source indicates that she had come to Cazenovia in 1825, but this is probably an error as she was seems to have lived in Canton until she was married.  She died in 1879, age 90 years.
        Most of my research on local history has focused on the several generations immediately following pioneer settlement (1793 to c. 1860) and thus I have little information on local residents of African American ancestry in the late 19th and throughout the 20th century.  In fact, this period is marked by a shrinking population of blacks in the community, although at least one or a few remain present at all times, and they still remaining among the lower class and working poor.
        I do, however have some information gleaned from later census records:
        On the 1880 Census of the Town of Cazenovia there are 38 individuals whose Race is given as Black.  These fall mostly into eight different families who primarily lived in the Village of Cazenovia.  The families were named Brown, Brush (orBruce), Douglas, Haines, Henderson, Johnson, Persette (?) and Stevenson.  Some appear as individuals in other households.  None had particularly skilled occupations, being in what we would today call the service industry.  Mostly servants or laborers, but five were barbers, three were hostlers, and one each were coachman, cook and hairdresser.  Place of birth of the individual as well as their parents is given and although I expected that the majority of them would be former slaves or their descendants.  Twenty seven were old enough to have been born before 1865, but only four (4) of the 38 Blacks had a been born in a slave state, 14 had a Father born in a slave state (1 "South, rest VA and MD, two others not known), and only eight (8) had a mother born in a slave state (5 MD and VA, 2 TX, 1 AL, two others not known).
        Examination of the 1920 Federal Census shows that there were no black families in the Towns of Fenner or Nelson and none outside the village of Cazenovia, and then only two families, the extended Douglass family, and the elderly Johnsons are found.

        I hope this listing of notes regarding the African American families and individuals of Cazenovia, Fenner, and Nelson can help us to better understand their role in the early community.

Names of African Americans in Cazenovia, Fenner and Nelson

Names Unknown
"Lucas"
"Plymouth" (see Plymouth Freeman)
Bennett, Benjamin & Family
Bromley, Nannette Hill & Family
Brown, Joseph
Brown, John
Brown, Thomas (son of Joseph Brown)
Bruce, James (child)
Conway, George 20:00 7/24/05
Curtis, Ellura
Deaver, Isaac
Douglass, Buena Vista & Family
Dunbar, Theodore
Freeman, Loyal (Friman)
Freeman, Plymouth
Gardiner, Jane A.
Gilbert, Nathan and wife Lucy Gilbert
Haines, Ariette & Family
Hill, Nannette (see Nannette Hill Bromley)
Jackson, Diana & Family
Johnson, Elias & Family
Johnson, Frank
Johnson, George & Family
Johnson, Isaac & Family
Johnson, Milton Lionald (child)
Johnson, Uriah & Family
Langley, Dinah & Family
Patterson, William & Family
Perkins, Almon
Peters, Duane
Peters, James
Peters, Samuel
Robinson, James
Robinson, William & Family
Stevenson, John & Family (Stephenson)
Tousaint, Peter A. & Family
Tousley, Alice
Tucker, Thomas & Family
Tyler, John & Family
Tyler, Joseph & Family
Waggoner, James
White, Anna Douglass & Family
Wood, James
Wright, William
 
 


Compiled Notes on the African Americans






Names Unknown


 

Known Individuals and Families

"Lucas"


Bennett, Benjamin & Family


Bromley, Nannette Hill & Family


Brown, Joseph (see also son Thomas Brown)
Brown, John
Brown, Thomas (son of Joseph Brown)
Bruce, James (child)
Conway, George
Curtis, Ellura
Deaver, Isaac
Douglass, Buena Vista & Family
Dunbar, Theodore
Freeman, Loyal (Friman)
Freeman, Plymouth & Family
Gardiner, Jane A.
Gilbert, Nathan (see James Peters) Wife Lucy Gilbert
Haines, Ariette & Family
Hill, Nannette (see Nannette Hill Bromley)
 


Jackson, Diana & Family


Johnson, Elias & Family
Johnson, Frank

          Death Notice in "The Pilot" "a colored man" died December 19, 1820 (no place of death is given, but it is assumed it is in Cazenovia area)


Johnson, George & Family
Johnson, Isaac & Family
Johnson, Milton Lionald (child)
Johnson, Uriah & Family
Langley, Dinah & Family
Patterson, William & Family
Perkins, Almon
Peters, Duane


Peters, James (see Nathan Gilbert)


Peters, Samuel (see Nanette Hill Bromley)
 


Robinson, James


Robinson, William & Family
Stevenson, John & Family (also spelled Stephenson)


Tousaint, Peter A. & Family


Tousely, Alice
Tucker, Thomas & Family
Tyler, John & Family           In Hope of Liberty: Culture, Community, and Protest Among Northern Free Blacks, 1700 -1860
                by James Oliver Horton, 1997, pub. by Oxford Univeristy Press (page 233 and source in foot note 135).
"Occasionally rescues were arranged by abolitionists who did not go into the South themselves but financed others who did.  Former slave John Tyler, of Cazenovia, New York related the story of his escape.  Posing as cattle drovers, abolitionists agents employed by New York's Gerrit Smith had visited his plantation in eastern Maryland.  They instructed Tyler and ten members of his family to leave their cabins after dark and meet them in the woods.  By morning fifty men with dogs were searching for the fugitives.  A few fearing capture decided to return to the plantation, but the abolitionists reached them first and were able to bring them safely through Pennsylvania to New York.  Tyler revered Gerrit Smith for his efforts on behalf of the slaves.  As he put it years later, 'Massa Garry Smith was a great man.'" (footnote 135 gives the source of this as an unidentified and undated newspaper clipping in the Gerrit Smith Papers, Box 152, Syracuse University Archives.)


Tyler, Joseph & Family
Waggoner, James
White, Anna Douglass & Family


Wood, James


Wright, William