Niagara Gazette


April 3, 2013

BRADBERRY: Still holding these truths to be self evident


Niagara Gazette — Unfortunately, as some hasten to point out, the film fails to sufficiently emphasize the equally critical role that the fervent abolitionists, both in the Congress and, in some important cases, in Niagara County played in the process which, most regrettably took nearly 600,000 lives on both sides of the War to eventually settle.

The film reminded me that, although Niagara Falls and Western New York never saw any actual physical battle at home, considerable evidence of our literal participation in some of the fiercest conflicts surround us.

Indeed, some of our very own Niagara natives of every conceivable race, culture, religion and economic station sacrificed their lives on the battlefields of Bull Run, Cold Harbor and Fredericksburg all not that long ago, none all that far away.

In fact, as many before me have clearly documented, Niagara County, and more specifically what eventually became the City of Niagara Falls was a virtual and literal hotbed of high-pitched anti-slavery, abolitionism hosting, as historian-writer Fergus Bordewich has written, as many as “21,000 members of the Niagara County Anti-Slavery Society” as far back as 1837 nearly twenty-five years before the War began, voicing their vociferous opposition to slavery adding substantial fuel to the fire in the form of dollars and good sense in a sustained effort to fight the best way they could in support of the cause for freedom.

The movie reminded me that-well told stories can serve as powerful motivators toward action; it also served to remind me that some of the churches and other landmarks built here during the height of the developing conflict successfully escaped the 1970s Urban Renewal bulldozers giving us precious historical treasures which could, if properly and respectfully preserved will add to this Region’s tourism and economic development assets.

Houses of worship such as the First Congregational United Church of Christ at 822 Cleveland Avenue begun in 1853, the same year that the now famous Cataract House and International Hotel waiters came to the rescue of escaped slaves like “Martha” who, with the help of head waiter John Morrison and many others made their way across the river to freedom in Canada.

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