Monday, February 8, 2016

The American Anti-Slavery Society

1893 Reunion of the
Danvers Anti Slavery Society
Danvers, Massachusetts

The majority of my ancestors lived in or near Salem, Massachusetts at the time of the Underground Railroad. There were three major secret Underground Railroad routes through Salem, heading north to New Hampshire. The first went through Danvers, to Andover and South Lawrence; the next from Danvers to Georgetown to Haverhill; and the last through Beverly, Ipswich to Newburyport (and water routes to Nova Scotia). This was a secret route, so many places are still unknown, but 33 stops have been identified in Essex County.

On April 26, 1893 there was a reunion of the abolitionists of Danvers, Massachusetts. It was a celebration of the men of the town, Isaac Winslow, Joseph Southwick* and others, who had helped to form the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1833 in Philadelphia. By 1837 the women of Danvers had formed “The Female Anti-Slavery Society", made up of sixty members from just the town of Danvers, some of whom had survived until the reunion in 1893. Famous abolitionists, as well as regular townspeople united for the celebration at the old town hall. At the meeting Dr. Andrew Nichols remembered how as a young man he was stoned in the streets for subscribing members to the anti-slavery newspapers. I was surprised to find the name of Isaac Munroe on the list of original subscribers to the “Liberator” newspaper- he was the brother to my ancestor Luther Simonds Munroe. A letter was read to the guests from Frederick Douglass, who was still alive, but elderly, retired and living near Washington DC.  

A large number of the Danvers members of the Anti-Slavery Society were part of the Underground Railroad. Their homes in Essex County were “stations” on the path north to New Hampshire and Canada. As I perused the photographs of some of the homes on the National Park Website, I recognized most of them that are still standing today. One, on 7 Central Street in Manchester-by-the-Sea, is located right across the street from my Aunt Shirley’s house! Another home was the subject of a term paper on the Underground Railroad that my father wrote as an undergraduate at Boston University in the 1950s.

Sons of these Massachusetts Abolitionists were recruited as officers for the Massachusetts 54th Regiment in the Civil War. This is the regiment made famous by the Hollywood movie “Glory.” I am a distant cousin to Colonel Robert Gould Shaw through the Perkins family, but more interesting to me was my family relationship to his fellow officer, Captain Lieutenant Luis Fenollosa Emilio, son of Spanish immigrants. My own great grandfather was Professor Caleb Rand Bill, a Salem Music professor, and Luis F. Emilio’s father was Manuel Emilo, a Salem music teacher from Spain. This story charmed my husband, who is also the son of Spaniards. Luis F. Emilio gave his age as 18, when he was really only 16, to enlist in the 23rd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. He was promoted to be one of the original officers of the famous 54th all black regiment (except for the officers!). He died in New York in 1918, but he is buried in Harmony Grove Cemetery, Salem, his place of birth. I am a distant cousin to Captain Emilio through the Kinsman family. Luis F. Emilio wrote the book A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment in 1894.


By contrast, as I write this story from Manchester, New Hampshire, I was surprised to learn that although the runaways from slavery were passing through New Hampshire, they were not very welcome in this state. Of course, rural New Hampshire was much more conservative than liberal Massachusetts, even though we are only about 45 miles from Danvers. The Anti-Slavery Societies were not well supported in New Hampshire before the Civil War.

The Reverend Parker Pillsbury in his Anti Slavery Apostles wrote about a visit made to West Chester, New Hampshire (now Auburn, bordering Manchester) by the Anti-Slavery orators Mr. Stephen S. Foster and the famous Lucy Stone. Lucy Stone is well known for making bloomers popular, and for keeping her maiden name after marriage (women known by their maiden names in the 19th century were known as “Lucy Stoners”). Mr. Foster said of West Chester that “No town ever more sternly or successfully resisted the anti-slavery, or other unpopular reforms.” They were locked out of the meeting house, and a mob covered their carriage with cow dung. They fled to Derry, where they were again locked out of a meeting house and another mob threatened them to leave on foot, through the snow. Lucy Stone said to Mr. Foster that her “bloomer dress and calf skin boots, like mine, would carry her safely…”

For a previous blog post about how the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society sent Frederick Douglass to the small town of Pittsfield, New Hampshire in 1842, where he was at first very unwelcome, please click this link:

For a previous blog post on Captain Luis Emilio, please click here:

Click here to read about the paper my father wrote for Boston University about the underground railroad house in Andover, Massachusetts (this story is in 4 parts/posts, and the link will bring you to part one):

*This link is a blog post about the abolitionist Joseph Southwick (a distant cousin):


For More Information:

Anti-Slavery Apostles,  by Rev. Parker Pillsbury, Concord, NH, 1883

A Brave Black Regiment: The History of the 54th Massachusetts,  by Captain Luis Fenollosa Emilio, Boston, 1891.

Old Anti-Slavery Days, by The Danvers Historical Society and Alfred Porter Putnam, pages vii- xi.


Heather Wilkinson Rojo, "The American Anti-Slavery Society", Nutfield Genealogy, posted February 8, 2016, ( accessed [access date]). 


  1. I do know the Underground Railroad ran through Lowell and the Tyng Mansion in Tyngsborough, MA.

  2. I do know the Underground Railroad ran through Lowell and the Tyng Mansion in Tyngsborough, MA.