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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

“Klan Condemned By Legion Post As Un-American: Endicott-Union Members Adopt Smashing Resolve Against Kluxers.”

By Richard White

This was the title of the Binghamton Press’ article on October 23, 1924 regarding the anti-Klan resolutions which were adopted the night before by American Legion Post 82. Endicott was a village adjoining the Town of Union along the Susquehanna River in the Southern Tier of New York, and Binghamton was the area’s major urban center. In the post-war era, the Legion and the K.K.K. differed dramatically on this country’s search for “100% Americanism.” In fact, it reached the floor at the Legion’s national convention in 1923 in San Francisco where Resolution 407—also called the "Michigan Resolution" --was adopted. As quoted in the November 16 issue, of The American Legion Weekly, it condemned “any individuals or organizations which create or force racial, religious or class strife among our people….” However, it deliberately did not mention the K.K.K. by name in order to
avoid a direct confrontation.

When Post 82 was organized in 1919, the “Invisible Empire” was growing nationwide but was not established in the village. In 1922, one year before the Klan formed a chapter, or klavern, in Endicott, the Post composed dramatic anti-Klan letter to its community which was addressed to the Village Board. According to a local newspaper, the News-Dispatch on December 7, the letter—which was read out loud by the Village President--- stated that the Post “stood firmly by true Americanism and declared itself opposed to the type of people who called themselves Americans and hid behind masks.” However, the Legion could not prevent the Klan from gaining a growing, and active, Klan affiliate in its hometown.

On February 20, 1923, the Endicott-Bulletin reviewed the establishment of the Klan in the village, noting that it was “enlisting members here with unremitting efforts….” Cross burnings on surrounding hills became common, as did fully robed Klansmen’s dramatic interruptions of Sunday services at selected churches to make donations. By August, 1924, the Klansmen felt strong enough to nominate two supporters to the Union-Endicott School Board which ended in a near riot, and defeat of the Klan supported nominees. By the early Fall, Post 82’s Commander Leslie Toft became determined to investigate any K.K.K. involvement within the Post. “The question of Klan influence…has been brewing for some time, and it was decided to bring it to a climax,” wrote Binghamton’s The Sun on October 23. The Commander planned to go beyond the Michigan Resolution and directly confront the local Invisible Empire.

Toft’s resolutions unleashed an attack against his Post’s adversary, declaring forcefully that ”…we condemn…as unchristian, un-American and contrary to the teachings of the Bible and the Constitution… the efforts of the Ku Klux Klan…. Therefore, we condemn such societies as the Ku Klux Klan because we believe they would try and render fruitless all the sacrifices made for the further tolerance, brotherhood and respect for the law of God and man for which the Legion stands.” In fact, when the remains of African-American Private Kenneth O. Nelson—who was killed in action in the Argonne Forest—was returned to Endicott in 1921, Post 82 provided a funeral with military honors including a volley from its firing squad, and taps. (However, local black veterans were excluded from the area’s veterans’ organizations, and formed a separate unit named after Private Nelson in nearby Binghamton in 1924).

But how would Toft answer “the question of Klan influence” in the membership? For the 75 assembled members, there would be a “rising vote”—that is, a person must stand to register his approval of the resolution. The vote was overwhelmingly supportive—only three members did not stand. But while the klavern’s direct influence on Post 82 was small, it gained momentum over the next few months.

In February, 1925, there was a regional Klan convention, or klorero, in Endicott at which there were thousands of its robed followers. However, there was no need for the local American Legion to articulate its opposition to the Kluxers and their views because of Post 82’s “smashing resolve” in October, 1924. This action aptly illustrates Californian Charles Kendrick’s words at the convention in San Francisco as recorded in the November 9 issue of the Legion Weekly: “I do not favor the Legion actively combating such movements as the K.K.K. because to do that only tends to dignify them…This, however, does not prevent a forceful denunciation on the part of the Legion, and when this is done no further action should be taken.” In the early Twenties, Post 82 expressed forcefully its Americanism.

About the author: Richard White's articles have appeared in Civil War History, The Journal of Negro History, and other publications.

Samuel Blackwell: Sugar Refiner and Abolitionist

By Joelle Million

Of historical interest primarily as the father of pioneering physicians Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell, Samuel Blackwell was a New York sugar refiner and abolitionist during the six years between his immigration to the United States in 1832 and his death in 1838. During that period, he operated his own small sugar refinery and briefly managed what was “said to be the most extensive sugar refinery in the city if not the country.”1 Bringing his ardent support for the abolition of slavery from his native England, he joined New York’s nascent anti-slavery movement, became an early member of its Vigilance Committee, and succeeded, according to his own account, in experiments to produce high-quality beet sugar, which he hoped would strike a significant blow to American slavery by undermining the profitability of slave-grown cane sugar. The establishment of a refinery to manufacture beet sugar, however, was halted by his untimely death at the age of forty-eight.

Midway through Blackwell’s New York residency, as the nation was moving toward the financial crisis that would become known as the Panic of 1837, fifteen-year-old Elizabeth Blackwell and her twelve-year-old brother Sam began keeping diaries. It is primarily these diaries, supplemented by surviving contemporaneous correspondence and family records, that form the basis for understanding Blackwell family history and dynamics during this period. However, Samuel Blackwell was, as son Sam noted, “uncommunicative concerning his business affairs.”2 The children’s lack of knowledge and understanding of their father’s activities, as well as the subjectivity and incompleteness of what they recorded, have permitted scholars to make assumptions and draw conclusions about Samuel Blackwell that details in other sources, not easily discernable or accessible before the digital age, do not support.

Questionable interpretations include

— That although Blackwell had been a prosperous refiner in Bristol, his New York businesses failed, he incurred considerable debt, and he subjected his family to persistent financial insecurity, even poverty;

— That he suffered a moral conflict between his antislavery principles and a profession dependent upon slave labor, and therefore sought, or was open to, an avenue for leaving the profession; and

— That his interest in beet sugar led to no significant action or result.3

By filling in some of the holes in the puzzle of Blackwell’s business affairs, this paper attempts to clarify his intentions and the results of some of his ventures, thus presenting a basis for reviewing Blackwell’s influence on his family.


Born in Worcester, England, in1790 to a cabinetmaker of the same name, Samuel Blackwell rose above his father’s tradesman status to become a prosperous manufacturer and member of the middle class that emerged from England’s industrial revolution. After moving to Bristol with his parents and five of six siblings around 1811, Blackwell began working at the Counterslip Sugar Refinery on Bath Street. Here he was trained as a sugar-boiler, the position responsible for overseeing the machinery and processes involved in sugar manufacture. He became a partner in the firm around 1815, when he married Hannah Lane and assumed the responsibility of supporting a family. He was most likely managing the refinery when, three years later, he moved his wife, first child, and younger brother, James, into the refinery residence. Setting up an on-site laboratory to experiment with new ways of purifying and clarifying sugar and keeping abreast of innovations through various patent journals, Blackwell became a knowledgeable and talented refiner. In 1824, he and William Harwood, the last of the firm’s original partners, dissolved the firm, and at age thirty-four Samuel Blackwell became sole proprietor of the Counterslip Sugar Refinery.4

Taking his younger brother into partnership and hiring future sugar magnate Conrad Finzel as his sugar-boiler, Samuel Blackwell ran the Counterslip Sugar Refinery until it was destroyed by fire on November 9, 1828. Considered by sugar refiners to be an occupational hazzard, fire was a common occurrence at sugar refineries, where accidental igniting of the “sugar dust” created through refining processes could create a chain reaction of explosions and violent burning. Bristol had seen at least four refinery fires in the previous fifteen years, but the one that destroyed the Counterslip Refinery burned with what the Bristol Mercury called “unprecedented fury.” Nevertheless, with the aid of the yeomen cavalry and brigades from the city’s insurance houses, Blackwell and his employees kept the blaze from reaching valuable sugar stores in his warehouses. In a time when industrialists themselves had to make much of the equipment they used, it took Blackwell several months to rebuild his plant, but the fire was not as catastrophic as it could have been. Newspaper report noted that the refinery was fully insured,5 and because Blackwell leased his premises, he was not encumbered with having to rebuild the buildings themselves. He moved his business to another location and, turning adversity into opportunity, opened a mercantile office in Dublin, where he put James in charge of their trade to Ireland. When ready to resume manufacturing in 1829, Blackwell leased the Nelson Street Refinery and operated there until emigrating in 1832.

Accompanying Blackwell’s steady rise in the refining industry was his family’s improved lifestyle. After becoming proprietor of the Congress Refinery, Blackwell moved his family from the industrial district to the popular residential district of St. Pauls, then on the outskirts of Bristol. (Today the three-story Georgian house at the corner of Wilson Street and Lemon Lane bears a tablet identifying it as a former residence of Elizabeth Blackwell.) While his family breathed clean air and enjoyed a large garden with apple trees and nearby open spaces, Blackwell made a fifteen-minute walk to and from Counterslip each day. When he began operating on Nelson Street and moved the family into its large refinery residence, he compensated for the retreat to another industrial district by leasing a country home in nearby Olveston. Up to that point, the family had spent summers at seaside resorts, but their distance from Bristol had permitted Blackwell to join them only on Sundays. With Olveston close enough for an easy commute, the family lived there not only in the summer, but for much of the year.

The Blackwell children remembered their homes as having been richly furnished and attended by four or more servants. Although formal education at that time was a privilege of the wealthy, Blackwell saw to it that his young children were educated. While Anna and Marian were very young, he sent them to his sister Ann’s boarding school and started them on piano lessons. On Wilson Street, he hired his sister Barbara to teach the children, but about the time of the move to Nelson Street he sent sons Sam and Henry to his sister Mary’s day school and Anna and Marian to a nonconformist boarding school outside the city. After Anna contrived to have herself removed and eight-year-old Elizabeth sent to complete the term in her stead, Blackwell placed the three elder daughters under the tutelage of private masters in the city and hired a governess to teach the younger children at home.

A member of the denomination called Independent Dissenters (which was just becoming known as Congregationalists), Blackwell was a leader of Bristol’s large nonconformist population, which spearheaded the city’s benevolent and reform efforts. A staunch advocate of opening educational opportunities to the working classes, he participated in the Sunday school movement, where he met Hannah Lane as a fellow teacher. Identified by his children as a “Clarkson abolitionist,” Blackwell joined the Bristol Auxiliary Anti-Slavery Society that was formed in 1823 when Thomas Clarkson spoke in Bristol as part of his nation-wide speaking tour to rouse public demand for the worldwide abolition of slavery. He served as a secretary of Bristol’s interdenominational Missionary Society and on the central committees of the city’s Peace and Bible societies. He was a lay preacher for the Bristol Itinerant Society, and it was probably for the Independents’ Irish Evangelical Society that he traveled through south-central Ireland in 1824, assessing the religious needs of the region’s impoverished population.6

Blackwell was also active in Whig politics, which championed the abolition of slavery as well as the removal of political and civil disabilities imposed against nonconformists. He served as an auditor for two city commissions, one for poor relief and another for paving and lighting, and in the summer of 1832, four years after Parliament repealed the ban against nonconformists holding public office, his name, according to daughter Anna, was put forth for mayor of Bristol.7

By that time, however, two financial blows had determined Blackwell to emigrate. Book tallying in the summer of 1831 revealed that his Irish trade had incurred serious losses. Accusing James of mismanagement, Blackwell closed the office and ended their partnership. Feeling wrongly blamed, James spent a year in London before disappearing into the Scottish Highlands without telling anyone where he was going, creating fear in his father that he had been murdered. When he suddenly reappeared on his brother John’s doorstep nine months later, he was, according to John, in rags but totally rational. Gradually, though, his continuing rage at Samuel took the form of violent paranoia, and John’s sons placed him in a private asylum for a number of years. Only shortly before his death in 1866 was James able to forgive Samuel for wronging him.8

Blackwell’s children accepted their father’s perception that James was to blame for the failure of the Irish business, and with hindsight concerning James’s mental illness they added it as a possible factor. But the losses could also have been due to the effect of England’s new bilateral trade agreements with continental countries, which were blamed for the failure of several shipping companies during the early 1830s. One of these shipping failures soon delivered the second blow to Blackwell’s business. In the fall of 1831 the Bristol shipping firm of Edward Bevan and Michael Yates went bankrupt while owing Blackwell nearly seven thousand pounds.9

While Blackwell was able to cover the losses of his Dublin operation by liquidating its assets, he could not absorb the second loss. Unfortunately, his sugar-house was an early instance of English refineries forced to operate at a loss or declare bankruptcy in 1832 and 1833, presumably also affected by the bilateral trade agreements.10

Rather than declare bankruptcy himself, Blackwell wanted to use his remaining capital to establish a refinery in America that might eventually enable him to repay his creditors. In this ambition he was influenced by H.C. Howells, a close friend and fellow abolitionist who had immigrated to the United States, from where he sent back enthusiastic letters describing boundless opportunity in America. Some of these were published as advice to emigrants, but the descriptions sent personally to Blackwell made his entire family “agog for change.”11

Blackwell’s plan for a refinery in New York is revealed in surviving correspondence from fellow refiner Samuel Guppy, whose assistance and financial backing he recruited. Son of wealthy merchant Samuel Guppy Sr. and his wife, inventor Sarah Beach Guppy, Guppy operated Bristol’s Friars Refinery with younger brother Thomas. To give a New York sugar-house an edge over competitors, Blackwell wanted to use a newly patented evaporation apparatus called a “blowpan,” then recommended by the Journal of the Franklin Institute as the best of several substitutes for Edward Charles Howard’s costly vacuum pan. Howard’s system, which used steam heat and partial vacuum at reduced pressure to boil cane juice in enclosed vessels, could operate at much lower temperatures than traditional boiling in open kettles over open flames, making the process safer and more fuel-efficient, and resulting in higher quality sugar. However, although patented twenty years earlier, it was still too costly for all but the wealthiest of concerns. William Godfrey Kneller’s blowpan, which used pipes to blow air into the boiling liquid, produced a similarly high grade of sugar and was much more affordable.12

In addition to investing start-up funds, Samuel Guppy agreed to consult with the London sugar-house of Widders & Co., which Blackwell knew was using Kneller’s apparatus, and to procure and test a blowpan before shipping it to Blackwell in New York. Guppy would also obtain letters of introduction for Blackwell from A.A. Gower, Nephews & Co., a prominent London shipping house with which the Guppy family was associated, and see if he could obtain backing from them as well. Guppy would settle Blackwell’s remaining Bristol affairs, including sub-letting the Nelson Street premises, and deposit Blackwell’s funds with Masters and Markoe, a New York firm with which the Gowers were associated. With this support, Blackwell turned down an offer made by other Bristol businessmen for a loan at minimal interest for whatever sum he needed to stay afloat. Although he did not seek a legal discharge from his business debts, most of his creditors assured him they would not demand payment and signed a letter approving his emigration.13


Arriving in New York in mid-October 1832 aboard the merchant ship Cosmo, the Blackwell family took residence at 93 Thompson Street, on the city’s northern outskirts near what is now known as Washington Square. In addition to Samuel and Hannah’s nine children—Anna, Marian, Elizabeth, Sam, Henry, Emily, Ellen, Howard, and George Washington (the latter born just weeks after they settled into their new home), the household included nursery governess Eliza Major; two housemaids; and Samuel’s younger sisters Mary and Lucy (Barbara joined them two or three years later). Blackwell hired fellow Cosmo immigrant Dennis Harris to move the furniture shipped from Bristol into their new home, which included two pianos on which the daughters immediately resumed instruction.

Blackwell leased refinery premises at 108 Duane Street, to which Guppy shipped the blowpan, pots and molds, and iron bar for making equipment.14 Blackwell again hired Harris—a bricklayer, Methodist lay-preacher and fellow abolitionist—to assist him, taught him sugar-boiling, and, with no additional funds coming from the Gowers, began a small refining operation.

In July 1833, a refinery just a block from Blackwell’s—the Congress Steam Sugar Refinery— was put up for sale to satisfy a lien against it. Evidently Blackwell informed Guppy of the opportunity, for Guppy, whose wife had recently died and whose brother was withdrawing involvement in their sugar-house, obtained financial backing from Frederick and Lewis Gower, of A.A. Gower, Nephews & Co., and authorized Blackwell to purchase the business in his name and negotiate a longer lease on the buildings. Guppy shipped all the equipment from both the Friars and Nelson Street refineries, and with Stephen Gower, a junior member of the Gower family, came to New York to take over the Congress Refinery.15

Blackwell worked with Guppy to expand and operate the Congress Refinery, which three years later was considered the largest refinery in the city. His children believed he was responsible for installing vacuum pans there, a claim repeated by many Blackwell family scholars, but a government report on sugar manufacture written in May 1833, before the Gowers purchased it, identified the Congress Refinery in New York as one of three U.S. refineries already using vacuum pans.16

Blackwell’s children also believed that their father became a partner in the firm of Samuel Guppy & Co., but he did not. Rather, Blackwell entered a formal agreement to work at the Congress Refinery for 500 pounds per year plus one-third of the profits, expected to be at least $4,000 per year, with no liability for losses.17 When he pressed for some documentation of his standing in the operation, Guppy drew up a codicil to his will and gave Blackwell a copy. Saying it was his “wish and hope that the arrangement you have entered into with my House may prove the source of comfort and independence to yourself and family,” Guppy bequeathed Blackwell a mortgage on the sugar-house to render his situation more secure in the case of Guppy’s untimely death. This mortgage, Guppy said, along with the capital Blackwell had invested and the “proofs of management and exertion which you will no doubt continue to give,” would be sufficient to guarantee either Blackwell’s becoming a partner in the future or his prosecuting his separate business with “respectability and profit.”18

Blackwell leased the seven-acre Long Island estate of John Ebbets, former commander of John Jacob Astor’s merchant fleet, and moved his household out of the city in May 1834. Sometime after that, he ended his connection with the Congress Refinery to concentrate on his own operation, which he moved to 249 Washington Street.19 During the family’s time on Long Island, Hannah’s younger brother, Charles Lane, retired from the British military, paid them a visit, wooed away Eliza Major to be his wife, and together they set up a school. Anna was then made governess for the younger children. Mary Blackwell took up residence on Prince Street, where she, too, took pupils, and after Barbara Blackwell came to New York, she and Lucy Blackwell established a dry-goods and millinery shop and moved out of the household as well.

In November 1835, Guppy asked Blackwell to take charge of his affairs while he spent the traditional three-month hiatus in sugar production in England. In addition to the Congress Refinery, Guppy now owned two smaller refineries, all of which had been operating at a loss and which he wanted Blackwell to restore to a “footing of making a profit”—“working down” the operations, stopping all expenditures, and laying off workers as needed.20 Having suffered a nearly fatal illness the previous summer, which the family attributed to the effects of a marsh lying very near the Ebbet estate, Blackwell must already have been thinking of moving his residence before Guppy’s request. In December 1835, Blackwell sublet the Long Island property and moved his family to Jersey City, just a short ferry ride across the Hudson River from his and Guppy’s west-side refineries.

Blackwell expected to devote only a few hours each day to Guppy’s concerns, but shortly after Guppy’s departure the Great Fire of 1835 swept through New York’s business district, destroying hundreds of buildings. Blackwell’s and Guppy’s refineries were not in the fire’s path, but the refineries’ insurers were ruined by the deluge of claims. With no insurance coverage on the large operation, Blackwell and Stephen Gower, who kept the Congress’s books, took turns staying overnight to guard against fire until Guppy could obtain insurance elsewhere, which took nearly five months.21

Charged with restoring the Congress’s profitability, Blackwell proposed alterations aimed at maximizing the refinery’s steam and vacuum power, and in January Guppy asked him to draw up his plans. When Guppy became engaged to remarry and decided not to return to New York, he asked Blackwell to take charge of the Congress and authorized him to proceed with his plans.22 Blackwell asked Dennis Harris, who had been operating his own sugar-house on Chambers Street, to manage the Washington Street Refinery so Blackwell could devote all his energy to the Congress. In September he told English relatives that that refinery had “utterly tied [him] down like a galley slave” so that, with the exception of a one-day summer outing, he had not been able to leave the city since assuming its management. Initially operating the refinery at a profit, Blackwell restored Guppy & Co.’s credit. But by summer he was struggling to keep the Congress profitable during what he referred to as a “prostrated condition of mercantile affairs”—the inflationary boom and credit contraction of the Jacksonian era economy.23

Despite Blackwell’s dedication, Guppy became displeased with the Congress’s performance and accused Blackwell of ignoring instructions not to process unless at a profit, and of operating at a heavy loss. Although refining at a loss while awaiting better markets was not an uncommon practice (Guppy himself deliberately worked the Friars at a loss in the months before coming to New York),24 Blackwell maintained that he was still making a profit. He also cautioned that shutting the Congress down in the middle of the production season would not only result in certain and heavy losses, but would also kill the concern. As yet, the Congress was the only New York refinery using vacuum pans, but Blackwell believed that unless it operated with unwavering strength, competitors would soon remove that advantage.25

In the midst of an exchange of accusations and explanations, fire struck the Congress Refinery on September 28, 1836, the blaze spreading from a workshop in an adjacent building.26 Blackwell immediately set up an off-premises office and began salvaging machinery and equipment. But in January 1837 Samuel Guppy & Co. decided not to rebuild, released Blackwell of all responsibility, and directed Masters and Markoe to liquidate the refinery’s assets and settle its accounts.27 Blackwell turned his attention to his Washington Street Refinery and, again pulling opportunity out of adversity, to an exploratory venture he had been contemplating—the manufacture of beet sugar.


Sugar beets interested Samuel Blackwell as both a sugar refiner and an abolitionist. Although he probably obtained his raw sugar from British growers after Parliament abolished slavery in the British Carribean in 1833, at the docks he talked with plantation owners from Louisiana, Cuba, and other places where slavery was still intact, and was shocked by their frank admission that they found it most economical to work their slaves to death and replace them with African imports.28 In an insightful treatise on New York City that he intended for publication in England, Blackwell criticized the brutality of American slavery, its sanction by the United States Constitution, and its defense by the general populace. Repulsed by the country’s attitudes, he told his English relatives, “The Spirit of slavery blackens and curses everything here morally and politically, and I fear will work like a canker until perfect rottenness will be the end and ruin of these states.”29

Blackwell joined the Anti-Slavery Society of New York, which was established a year after his arrival in the United States and which made New York City a center of both abolitionist activity and opposition to it. In July 1834, when mobs rampaged the city attacking churches, businesses, and homes of abolitionists and African Americans, the Blackwells’ minister and family doctor, brothers Samuel H. Cox and Abraham L. Cox— both officers in the American Anti-Slavery Society—took their families to stay at the Blackwells’ country home until the threat of violence passed.30 William Lloyd Garrison, whom Blackwell met at the March 1835 annual meeting of the American Anti-Slavery Society, stayed overnight at the Blackwell home during the society’s 1836 meeting. As a member of the antislavery Vigilance Committee, Blackwell harbored an escaped woman in his home until her passage to England could be arranged. A few nights after he and Theodore Weld attended hearings for William Dixon, a New York man being claimed as a runaway, the pair dined at the home of Dr. Cox with the British abolitionist Joseph Sturge. It would not be unreasonable to assume that the men discussed the Dixon case and that Blackwell contributed to the Vigilance Committee’s defense fund for Dixon. Blackwell also gave money to another runaway sent to him for assistance in making his way further north. Blackwell served the anti-slavery cause in several ways, but mindful of public prejudice against Englishmen preaching to Americans about slavery, he tried to stay out of the limelight. So when he completed a book of slavery rhymes in 1837, he had it published anonymously.31

The rest of his family served the cause openly. As members of the New York City Female Anti-Slavery Society, Hannah and Anna, along with Mary Blackwell, who had rejoined the household, circulated petitions and distributed anti-slavery tracts. Anna was a delegate to the May 1837 Anti-Slavery Convention of American Women and appointed to the committee to coordinate anti-slavery petitioning in and around New York City. The Blackwell daughters made items to sell at fund-raising fairs and also sold sugar kisses undoubtedly donated by their father. Sam joined the Young Men’s Anti-Slavery Society, while younger children attended meetings of the Juvenile Anti-Slavery Society. When James G. Birney moved to New York to assume a leadership role in the American Anti-Slavery Society, the Blackwells were asked to take his family into their large home as boarders, an arrangement that Hannah approved but which never materialized.

Manufacturing beet sugar offered Blackwell a venue for striking a blow to slavery. Beet sugar had emerged as an alternative to cane sugar in France and Germany during the Napoleonic Wars, when a British embargo kept tropical produce from reaching continental Europe. Napoleon had subsidized both beet agriculture and beet processing as an economic necessity, but with no similar incentive in England or the United States, neither the industry nor the agriculture to support it had developed in either country. Anna Blackwell surmised that her father’s experiments at the Counterslip Refinery in the early-1820s had included trying to make beet sugar. But if so, he did not succeed, and surviving letters about his plans in America make no mention of beet sugar.

In the summer of 1836, however, U.S. interest in sugar beets was ignited by a group of Philadelphia investors who had sent an agent to France to gather information on the feasibility of manufacturing beet sugar in the United States. Based on the agent’s favorable report, they established the Beet Sugar Society of Philadelphia and distributed six hundred pounds of imported seed to farmers across the country. Soon the agricultural press was publishing accounts of growers’ experience with the new crop and experimenters’ attempts to make beet sugar.32 In what Elizabeth referred to in her diary as her father’s “Michigan beet idea,” Blackwell bought 320 acres of land in Michigan on which, he told English relatives, he might someday grow beets and manufacture beet sugar for the rapidly growing state.33

Two weeks after the Congress Refinery’s destruction, abolitionist David Lee Child stayed with the Blackwells on the eve of his departure to France to examine beet sugar production, which he planned to pursue.34 His conversation with Blackwell could only have deepened Blackwell’s interest in manufacturing beet sugar himself. Success in sugar refining depended as much on the sugar-boiler’s judgement and intuition as on his knowledge of chemistry, and as an experienced refiner who enjoyed a “high reputation as a skillful refiner,”35 Blackwell had an advantage over novices such as Child. If Blackwell had already experimented with beet sugar, he may also have had the advantage of some experience with its unique attributes.

When Guppy and his London backers decided not to rebuild the Congress Refinery, Blackwell was free to explore the feasibility of manufacturing beet sugar. He brought home French books on beet processing for his daughters to translate and conducted small tests in his kitchen, during one of which, Elizabeth noted, he burned his face. His only obstacle in going forward was money. Having initially expected to devote little time to Guppy’s affairs as a favor to a friend, Blackwell had not asked for payment, and when he agreed to assume management of the Congress, he had not sought a written agreement, trusting that he would be compensated on a basis similar to the 1834 agreement. Although Thomas Masters assured Blackwell he would be treated fairly in the settlement of the Congress’s accounts, apparently the Gowers did not want to compensate what they viewed as mismanagement. After waiting three months for the Gowers to settle with him on their own terms, Blackwell submitted a bill for his service to Samuel Guppy & Co., justifying the amount of his claim not only on the terms of his earlier agreement, but also on the lost profitability of the Washington Street Refinery, which had suffered from the lack of his attention. In August, Masters suggested submitting the matter to arbitration, but it appears that ultimately Blackwell received nothing for his nine months’ management of the Congress Refinery.36

In March 1837, with no money forthcoming from the Gowers, Blackwell sold the Washington Street Refinery to his foreman, Dennis Harris. It is clear that Blackwell made the sale to enable him to fight slavery in a way uniquely open to him as a sugar refiner. There is no evidence for the assumption that Blackwell struggled with the “moral dilemma” of earning his livelihood in an industry dependent upon the system he abhorred. A free produce movement encouraged abolitionists to give up products such as sugar, rice, and cotton because they were produced by slave labor, and Anna and Elizabeth recalled refusing sugar in their tea for that reason while in Bristol. But the daughters’ boycott did not extend to New York, where they sold sugar kisses wrapped in antislavery slogans at abolitionist fund-raising fairs.

Having worked in England to end slavery on British sugar plantations and seen the success of that campaign in the Caribbean, Blackwell did not view the sugar industry as innately dependent upon slavery. He used the resources earned in his business to try to end slavery on American plantations as well as to assist fugitive slaves, in the same way that Dennis Harris continued to do after purchasing Blackwell’s sugar-house. A few years after that transfer, Harris survived an attempt to strip him of his ministerial responsibilities because of his antislavery activities, and he subsequently became a leader of the Wesleyan movement, which in the United States separated from the Methodist Episcopal Church over the issue of slavery. Harris later bought the vacant lot upon which the Congress Refinery had stood, built a refinery and rebuilt it after it too was destroyed by fire, and made the Congress a busy station on what would later be called the Underground Railroad.37

After Blackwell sold his sugar-house, he purchased his Jersey City home, constructed a furnace and boiler in its cellar, and prepared half of his large garden for beet cultivation. During the first week of April, James J. Mapes, a renown agricultural chemist and expert on sugar refining, made the first of several visits to Blackwell, during which he showed him “some beautiful specimens of sugar,” presumably beet sugar. Mapes was accompanied by Edward Bevan, the former Bristol shipper whose bankruptcy had precipitated Blackwell’s emigration. After the failure of his firm, Bevan had learned refining at Guppy’s sugar-house, followed Blackwell to America for a fresh start, set up a small refinery in Jersey City, and, evidently wanting to make amends for his role in destroying Blackwell’s Bristol business, helped with Blackwell’s new venture. Their discussions three weeks before Blackwell sold the Washington Street Refinery must have bolstered Blackwell’s resolve.38

In May, Blackwell made the first of several visits to Philadelphia, where he thought of locating his beet sugar refinery, and returned with descriptions of extensive, well-cultivated farms and a growing season two to three weeks earlier than New York’s. Retaining what was needed for his experiments and household expenses, he put the rest of his capital in some arrangement in Philadelphia.39 By June, however, the household budget was so constricted that Hannah dismissed their servant and did not purchase alcohol for their spirit lamps (which they had previously obtained for free at the sugar-house), so that the family had to go to bed in the dark. Blackwell negotiated an arrangement with James Mapes and his associate Stephen Moulton, evidently exchanging his services as a refinery inspector and evaluator for money to rent part of a sugar-house on Leonard Street, where he set up a small operation just to keep the household running. Within two weeks Hannah had a new servant, and although she still had to run the house frugally, there were no more complaints from the children.40

Blackwell told his family so little about his activities and plans that they perceived their situation to be worse than it was. After recording in her diary that her father had “condescended” to tell his wife about the fait accompli sale of the Washington sugar-house, Elizabeth said, “What his plans for the future are we do not know. I suppose something about beets.” Although Elizabeth declined an offer of a part-time teaching post, Hanna encouraged her to accept it, “Papa being so poor.” Unaware that her father’s business capital had been reinvested, Elizabeth misunderstood his intentions with the Leonard Street Refinery and bemoaned, “What a pity it is that Papa has not sufficient capital to carry on his new sugar-house on an extensive scale.”41

Elizabeth’s and Sam’s diaries describe pressure on the family budget during the spring and summer of 1837 while Blackwell pursued his experiments. It is a misunderstanding, however, to characterize the financial constraint of these months as “persistent financial insecurity” stemming from “dwindling business prospects.”42 There is every evidence that the family prospered before this period and, despite forced frugality, lived well during it. Blackwell sent money to England toward his father’s support. He sent his older children to some of the city’s finest schools. The daughters attended a school that Elizabeth described only as “excellent” (There is no documentary basis for the assumption that it was a public school.), and Sam and Henry attended the Protestant Episcopal Academy run by Dr. Edmund Barry, “one of the finest classical scholars and most successful teachers in the country,” who had been preparing young men for college for over two decades.43 When Blackwell leased the Ebbet property, he bought its furnishings for $750 and stored a great quantity of family furniture and household articles with Samuel Guppy. Elizabeth described their Jersey City home, which references suggest sat on the fashionable west side of Hudson Street, as a “spacious mansion.”44 The family entertained house guests, sometimes large parties and for weeks at a time. The children received pocket money with which to purchase gifts, books, sheet music, ice skates and fireworks, and they enjoyed a busy social life of parties, literary meetings, lectures, exhibits, and excursions.

After March 1837, the household budget became restricted by both the lack of income and the turbulence leading to the May financial crash. Elizabeth noted the business failure of a man who owed her father money, and Sam, his father’s obligation to pay a $170 bill of Dr. Cox’s for which he had signed a surety note. Despite such pressures, Elizabeth, Sam, and Henry continued in their schools. Elizabeth and Marian continued with a ten-week course of dance lessons, and new music masters were engaged in May and September. Blackwell continued his custom of buying the family a new book each month, Hannah engaged a dressmaker, Sam and Henry received new clothes and hats, and Elizabeth recorded that Henry “wasted a quantity of money on fire crackers.”45

By August however, the economy had grown so precarious that Charles and Eliza Lane, along with two of their boarding pupils, moved in with the Blackwells. As of February their school had been so prosperous that they employed a servant and hired a new French master. But now they were forced to sell their school and auction off household belongings. Hannah helped them out by purchasing some of their household items and charging them nominal room and board. When Anna left home in September 1837 to teach at a girls’ seminary in Burlington, Vermont, it was not to help support the family. Rather, never having wanted to leave England in the first place and having reached the age of majority, she intended to earn her passage back to England as quickly as she could.46

By the time Anna left for Vermont, Blackwell had succeeded in producing loaves of crystalized beet sugar that he described as “equal in whiteness, compactness and brilliancy” to cane sugar. He had also succeeded in removing the bitter flavor from beet molasses, a feat Blackwell said had not yet been accomplished even in France, where it was consequently used only for distilling. Ready to establish a production facility, he placed notices in the agricultural journal Farmers’ Cabinet seeking growers in the Philadelphia area who would sell beets at a price low enough to warrant the investment of capital for requisite equipment.47

Although Blackwell had initially expected to establish his new enterprise in Philadelphia, the spring visit of Samuel J. Browne changed his mind. A relative of Hannah Blackwell and a leading resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, Browne presented that city as a favorable location. Its advantages were compelling: state support for the beet sugar industry and a number of area farmers already engaged in sugar beet cultivation, easy access to farms and markets afforded by the Ohio River and the newly constructed Miami Canal, and the abundance of low-cost water power for running a refinery. So, despite his call for beets in Pennsylvania, Blackwell ended his September 15 notice in the Farmers’ Cabinet with the announcement that if he could not obtain beets at a sufficiently moderate price, he would go west.

Obviously doubting her husband’s prospects for supporting the family with a new enterprise in the relatively primitive West, Hannah thought it might be best for Sam and Henry to go with their father to attend some cheap school there while the rest of the family remained east. She and the four youngest children could go to a boarding house while Marian and Elizabeth took governess positions. But she must have been reassured by Samuel Browne when he visited them again in October. After this visit, Elizabeth announced in her diary, “Our western schemes seem about to be fulfilled,” and a month later, that her father had left for the West “to spy out the land.”48

At this point, however, Blackwell’s plans at last fell victim to the recession. From Philadelphia, intended as the first stop on his westward journey, Blackwell wrote to Samuel Browne that although he had recouped his money from the Leonard Street operation, he might not be able to recover enough capital from his Philadelphia venture to both transport his household west and establish a refinery. Disappointed, Blackwell returned home thinking he would have to locate in Philadelphia as originally planned. Elizabeth mournfully recorded that her father could no longer afford her music lessons and that Marian was seeking a teaching position.49

In reply to Blackwell’s dispirited letter, Browne forwarded an enticing offer from James E. Ludlow, a Cincinnati businessman and abolitionist who had also been experimenting with the manufacture of beet sugar. Ludlow had invested a great deal of money in planting sugar beets, purchasing the latest refining equipment, and hiring a Frenchman to process the beets, but his effort had utterly failed to produce good sugar. Learning through Samuel Browne of Blackwell’s success, Ludlow said that if Blackwell would come to Cincinnati to make a “full and fair experiment with our western Beets,” he would give him the one hundred tons of beets he had on hand, plus his machinery, and even the use of his house for the family home.50

Fortunately, in late January, Blackwell emerged from his Philadelphia venture on favorable terms. Noting her father’s return from that city, Elizabeth recorded that “He has given up the Philadelphia scheme and intends to proceed to the West.”51 With funds enough not to be dependent upon Ludlow’s generous offer, Blackwell stopped en route to Cincinnati to investigate the possibility of locating at Pittsburgh, where H.C. Howells was now a land agent, as well as at other sites along the Ohio River.52 But settling on Cincinnati, he returned home to seek someone to lease the Jersey City house. The family packed their books, china, silverware and glassware but stored or auctioned off the rest of their household goods— except a piano, which Blackwell shipped along with a new $400-dollar rosewood piano purchased days before embarking.53 Leaving Marian in a temporary teaching position in New York, the Blackwell family embarked on a nine-day journey by steam ship, rail, and river boat and arrived in Cincinnati on May 12.

The family moved into Samuel Browne’s hilltop mansion that overlooked the rapidly growing commercial and cultural center on the Ohio River, the gateway to the West. Warmly welcomed by the city’s English and antislavery circles, the Blackwells resumed a busy social life, and Elizabeth began giving piano lessons to children of their new friends. Declining Ludlow’s offer of rural accommodations, Blackwell leased a residence in town and a river-side building for his refinery, which he began setting up for processing the September harvest of sugar beets. But in July, Samuel Browne fell desperately ill, and Blackwell spent most nights sitting up with him. Anticipating death, Browne committed his affairs to the care of Blackwell, and his children to Hannah. But on July 31, returning home from Browne’s sickbed, Blackwell collapsed and had to be carried into his house. He declined rapidly, died on August 7, 1838, and was buried in Samuel Browne’s family plot.54

On his deathbed, Samuel Blackwell encouraged his wife to take the family back to England.55 Having used all his capital to move the family west and establish a refinery, he had only twenty-five dollars in cash to leave them. This in itself was not as stark as it might appear, for in the nineteenth century’s credit economy, cash played a minimal role. With their Cincinnati home leased through the end of the year and no big expenditures expected before then, Hannah could use the next few months to sell the Jersey City house, the Michigan lands, and the stored furniture, and use the proceeds to settle family accounts. However, going through Blackwell’s papers the day after his funeral, Hannah and Elizabeth were surprised to find a statement of losses suffered by the Gowers and a debt owed to Guppy. The statement of losses incurred by the Congress under Blackwell’s management could have been the Gowers’ justification for not paying him, but it might also have been a basis for charging Blackwell for the losses—the “debt” owed Samuel Guppy. Although no record of a debt to Guppy survives in the Blackwell Family Collections, there is a letter from Blackwell’s Bristol attorney, Francis Short, concerning another charge in which Guppy was involved—£250 owed for repairs to the Nelson Street refinery.56

The letter explains that after sub-letting the building to himself, Guppy established a starch factory in it and paid Blackwell’s quarterly lease payments through September 1837, the month of the Congress Refinery fire. When the payments stopped, the landlord inspected the property and discovered not only that the building had been vacated, but that its floor had been cut away, its doors and fixtures removed, and several windows broken. Guppy claimed all had been done with Blackwell’s authorization so Blackwell alone was responsible for repairs. Postmarks from Bristol and Boston show that Blackwell could not have received the letter until after his arrival in Cincinnati, and whether he replied is unknown. Hannah had to settle both Guppy matters, and with no knowledge on which to challenge the Nelson Street bill, both surely comprised the bulk of debt with which the family struggled after Blackwell’s death.

Samuel Blackwell’s death brought an abrupt end to his dream of undermining American slavery and deprived him of any historical note as an innovator in the beet sugar industry. Manufacturers typically guarded their particular methods, and James Ludlow had told Blackwell he would not ask him to reveal his secrets unless he accepted compensation for them. Knowledge of whatever unique methods Blackwell used to achieve his success, therefore, died with him. The honor of manufacturing the first beet sugar in the United States went to David Lee Child, who successfully produced beet sugar the following winter in Northampton, Massachusetts. Beet sugar operations followed in other states during the ensuing years, but neither Child’s nor any of these other operations survived more than four or five years. Samuel Blackwell appears to have been the only experienced refiner in the United States to attempt a switch to beet sugar, but whether he would have achieved lasting success and hastened development of the country’s beet sugar industry is impossible to know.

Although Blackwell’s sixteen-month commitment to manufacturing beet sugar came to nothing, he cannot in justice be characterized as a business failure. He deliberately sold his New York refining operation, thoughtfully invested part of its proceeds in an exploratory venture, received expert advice, and succeeded in producing a quality product beyond his expectations. The depression that began in 1837 affected his plans, but he possessed the knowledge and skill to establish a beet-sugar operation and succeed at it. His death, not a lack of business talent, prevented this.

The Blackwell children inherited their father’s entrepreneurial traits, in addition to his social consciousness and cultural values. The initiative that characterized their father’s business life— what son Henry Blackwell playfully referred to as “go-aheadedness”—was apparent in all of the siblings. Their father’s determination to push society forward while achieving personal goals set an example that Elizabeth and Emily Blackwell followed in their perseverance to earn medical degrees, establish medical practices, and found the New York Infirmary for Women and Children and its Women’s Medical College. Henry Blackwell, too, as an indefatigable campaigner for woman suffrage, displayed the drive and commitment that he witnessed in his father.

Samuel Blackwell’s interest in beet sugar also lived on through Henry Blackwell. Proud of his father’s accomplishment and an equally fervent abolitionist, Henry took up the challenge of producing an alternative to slave-grown cane sugar. He learned sugar refining from Dennis Harris when he was twenty-two but was disappointed in efforts to make it his profession. A decade later, though, he was digesting books about beet processing, growing beets in his garden, and conducting experiments in his kitchen. In 1862, he rejoined Harris at the Congress Refinery, recruited farmers to grow beets for him, and set up a small beet sugar operation that by 1864 was turning a small profit. After the Civil War, having achieved an income through land sales, Henry Blackwell retired from business and joined his wife, woman’s rights leader Lucy Stone, working for woman suffrage. Continuing his side interest in beet sugar, he obtained a patent for asaccharine syrup in 1877, and in 1878 he helped establish the Maine Beet Sugar Company. After the factory’s first day of production, Blackwell jubilantly telegraphed his wife: “Beet sugar manufacture a success. Slavery in Cuba is doomed.”57 Although the Maine Beet Sugar Company profitably processed what beets it could get, it ultimately folded for lack of supply.

As an admired father who helped shape the character of his remarkably achieving children, sugar refiner and abolitionist Samuel Blackwell had a lasting and significant effect on American society.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Author of Woman’s Place, Woman’s Voice: Lucy Stone and the Birth of the Antebellum Woman’s Rights Movement, Joelle Million is now at work on a biography of Stone’s husband, Henry B. Blackwell. Holder of a masters degree in American history from Minnesota State University–Mankato, she is an independent scholar residing in Massachusetts.

1.Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics, 15 Oct 1836, 1.
2.Blackwell Family Papers, Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America (BSL), Sam’s diary, 26 May 1837, M-35, folder 88.
3.Eg., Elinor Rice Hays, Those Extraordinary Blackwells: The Story of a Journey to a Better World (New York: 1967), 15, 30-31; Nancy Ann Sahli, “Elizabeth Blackwell, First Woman M.D.”, Ph.D. diss (University of Pennsylvania, 1974), 17-19; Margo E. Horn, “Family Ties: The Blackwells, A Study in the Dynamics of Family Life in Nineteenth-Century America”, Ph.D. diss (Tufts University, 1980), 21-24, 34, 103, 173, 298-99; Julia Boyd, The Excellent Doctor Blackwell: The Life of the First Woman Physician (Gloucestershire, England: 2005), 1, 22-25, 29-32; Hélène Quanquin, “Innovation As Moral Victory: Henry Blackwell and Sugar,” Revue LISA/ LISA e-journal 4, no. 1 (2006): 220-233.
4.Blackwell Family Papers, Library of Congress (BLC), Anna Blackwell, “Early Life of the Blackwells,” Microfilm Reel 72, frame 322; Brian Mawer,
5.Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette, 12 Nov 1828, 3; Bristol Mercury, 11 Nov 1828, 3; Brian Mawer, Sugar Refiners and Sugarbakers Database, http;//,
6.BLC, Anna Blackwell, “Early Life,” frame 311, 331. Bristol Mercury, 10 Sep 1827, 19 Apr 1831; Herald of Peace for the Year 1831, vol.3, 273; BSL, Samuel Blackwell Diary of Trip to Ireland [1824], MC411 folder 1.
7.Bristol Mercury, 3 Jul 1820, 11 May 1830; BLC, Anna Blackwell, “Early Life,” frame 374.  
8.BSL, “Payments in liquidation of engagements,” MC411 folder 7; James Blackwell to Samuel Blackwell, 30 Nov 1831, MC411, folder 8; John Blackwell to Samuel Blackwell, 22 Dec 1832, 9 Aug 1833, MC411, folder 8; (Grandfather) Samuel Blackwell to Marian Blackwell, 10 Feb 1833, MC411, folder 8; Sam’s diary, 1 Aug 1842. BLC, Anna Blackwell, “Early Life,” frames 320-21.
9.Grahame E. Farr, ed. Records of Bristol Ships, 1800-1838 (1950), 4, 151; BLC, Anna Blackwell, “Early Life,” frames 373, 375. Anna put the debt owed her father at £70,000, but she must have meant £7,000, as Bevan’s half of the debt was referred to as £3,200 in Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 15 Jan [1833],  MC411, folder 9.
10.BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 21 Oct, 18 Nov, 30 Dec 1832 and 14 Jan, 17 Feb 1833, MC411, folder 9; Stephen George to Samuel Blackwell, 14 Jan 1833, MC411, folder 9.
11.BSL, Samuel Blackwell to Francis Short, 1 Sep 1837, BSL, MC411.7; BLC, Anna Blackwell, “Early Life,” 373, 375, 387; H.C. Howells, ed., Advice to emigrants, who intend to settle in the United States of America, 2d ed. (Bristol, [1832]).
12.BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 14, 29 Nov 1832, MC411, folder 9. “Practical Observations on the Pneumatic Process of Expelling Molasses and Sirop from Sugar,” Journal of the Franklin Institute... (Philadelphia, 1831), 55-60; The London Journal of Arts and Sciences...  3 (London, 1830): 321-23.
13.BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 1, 16, 18, 29 Sep; 21 Oct, 3 Nov 1832, MC411, folder 9, and 1 Nov 1832, folder 8; Samuel Blackwell to Francis Short, 1 Sep 1837, MC411, folder 7. BLC, Anna Blackwell, “Early Life,” frames 373-74.
14.Longworth’s New York City Directory for 1833; BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 1, 16, 29 Sep; 21 Oct; 3 Nov 1832; 15 Jan [1833]; 17 Feb 1833, MC411.9 and 1 Nov 1832, folder 8.
15.“Shirley v. Congress Steam Sugar Refinery,” Charles Edwards, Reports of Chancery Cases, decided in the First Circuit of the State of New-York ... 2 (New York, 1837): 505-13; BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 8 Sep, 1 Oct 1833, MC411, folder 9.
16.Portsmouth Journal of Literature and Politics, 15 Oct 1836, 1; Benjamin Silliman, Manual on the Cultivation of the Sugar Cane, and the Fabrication and Refinement of Sugar, prepared under the direction of the Hon. Secretary of the Treasury... (Washington, 1833): 97.
17.BSL, Drafts of letters, Samuel Blackwell to [Thomas Masters], [Feb, May 1837], MC411, folder 7.
18.BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 9 Mar 1834, MC411, folder 9.
19.BSL, Lease Agreement between Samuel Blackwell and Sarah Ebbets, 29 Mar 1834,  MC411, folder 8. Longworth’s New-York City Directory for 1834 and 1835.
20.BSL, Samuel Guppy & Co. to Samuel Blackwell, 3, 6 Dec 1835, MC411, folder 9.
21.BSL, Sam’s diary, 13 May 1836.
22.BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, Jan 18[36], MC411, folder 9; Draft of letter  Samuel Blackwell to Stephen Gower, [13 Jan 1837], MC411, folder 7.
23.Longworth’s New York City Directory for 1835; BSL, Samuel Blackwell to Kenyon Blackwell, 27 Sep 1836, MC411, folder 5; Samuel Blackwell to Francis Short, 1 Sep 1837, MC411, folder 7.
24.BSL, Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 20 Jul, 18 Nov 1836,  MC411, folder 9.
25.BSL, Samuel Blackwell to A.A. Gower, Nephews, and Co., 10 Aug 1836, MC411, folder 7.
26.“Fire in New York,” Portsmouth [N.H.] Journal of Literature and Politics,15 Oct. 1836, 1; Connecticut Courant, 3 Oct. 1836, 2.
27.BSL, Thomas Masters to Samuel Blackwell, 21 Jan 1837, MC411, folder 8.
28.BLC, Autobiography of Henry B. Blackwell, Microfilm Rel 51, frame 153. Theodore Weld, American Slavery As It Is, Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses (New York, 1839), 39.
29.BSL, Samuel Blackwell, Two Years Residence in New York, Containing Observations on its general appearance, Commerce, Civil Institutions, and peculiar Customs, and Remarks on Emigration, M-35, 3; Samuel Blackwell to Kenyon Blackwell, 27 Sep 1836, MC411, folder 5.
30.BLC, Henry’s Autobiography, frame 151; BSL, Samuel Blackwell, Two Years, 71.
31.BSL, Sam’s diary, 8 Jun, 8 Jul, 29 Nov 1836; 18, 20 Apr 1837; Elizabeth’s diary 8, 9 Jul, 29 Dec 1837; Samuel Blackwell to H.C. Howells, 13 Jan 1838, folder 7. Slavery Rhymes, addressed to the friends of Liberty throughout the United States, by a Looker On (New York, 1837), James Birney Collection of Anti-Slavery Pamphlets, The Johns Hopkins University Sheridan Libraries.
32.James Pedder, Report Made to the Beet Sugar Society of Philadelphia (Phila., 1836); The Farmers’ Cabinet: Devoted to Agriculture, Horticulture and Rural Economy (Phila.) vol. 1 (July 1, 1836-July 1, 1837).
33.BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 6 Feb 1837; Samuel Blackwell to Kenyon Blackwell, 27 Sep 1836, MC411, folder 5.
34.BSL, Sam’s diary, 9-15 Oct 1836.
35.BSL, Manager of the Jersey City Eagle Sugar Refinery [illegible signature] to Samuel Blackwell and Stephen Moulton, 3 July 1837, MC411, folder 8.
36.BSL, Samuel Blackwell to Stephen Gower [13 Jan 1837], MC411, folder 7; Thomas Masters to Samuel Blackwell, 21 Jan, 10 Aug 1837, MC411, folder 8; Samuel Blackwell to Thomas Masters, drafts [Feb and May], 8 Aug 1837, MC411, folder 7.
37.Lucius C. Matlack, History of American Slavery and Methodism from 1780 to 1849 (NY: 1849), 291; Don Papson and Tom Calarco, Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad in New York City (McFarland, 2015), 46.
38.BSL, Sam’s diary, 25 Feb, 5 Apr 1837; Samuel Guppy to Samuel Blackwell, 15 Jan, 17 Feb 1833,  MC411, folder 9.
39.Samuel Blackwell to Samuel J. Browne, 30 Nov 1837, John W. Browne Collection and the Walter Havighurst Special Collections, Miami University Libraries.
40.BSL, Manager of the Jersey City Eagle Sugar Refinery [illegible signature] to Stephen Moulton and Samuel Blackwell, 3 July 1837, MC411, folder 8; Stephen Moulton to Samuel Blackwell (addressed from 28 Leonard Street), 26 Jan 1838, MC411, folder 8; Elizabeth’s diary,   24, 27 Jun, 1837.
41.BSL, Sam’s diary, 24 Mar 1837; Elizabeth’s diary, 21 Mar, 6 Apr, 19 Jun 1837.
42.Margo E. Horn, “Family Ties”, 21-23.
43.BSL, John Blackwell to Samuel Blackwell, 9 Aug 1833, MC411, folder 8; Sam’s diary, 12 Mar 1836. Elizabeth Blackwell, Pioneer Work in Opening the Medical Profession to Women (London, 1895), 9; BLC, Henry H. Blackwell to Anna Blackwell, 26 Jan 1853, Microfilm Reel 50, frame 213; Greenough White, An Apostle of the Western Church: Memoir of the Right Reverend Jackson Kemper... (New York, 1900), 11.
44.BSL, Receipt from Sarah Ebbets, MC411, folder 8; List of Blackwell possessions stored with Samuel Guppy, MC411, folder 7; Elizabeth’s diary, 21 Mar 1837.
45.BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 27 Jun 1837.
46.Anna Blackwell to Samuel J. Browne, 12 Dec 1837, John W. Browne Coll.
47.Samuel Blackwell to Samuel J. Browne, 30 Nov 1837, John W. Browne Coll.; “Beet Sugar,” Farmers’ Cabinet 2, no. 4 (15 Sep. 1837): 55.  Also, in an article copied from the Boston Advertiser and undoubtedly written by Henry Blackwell, the Journal of the Franklin Institute (108, no. 648 [Aug 1879]: 119) reported that Samuel Blackwell “made some excellent loaf sugar from beets raised by him in his garden at Jersey City from imported seed.”  
48.BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 30 Sep, 12-24, 27 Oct, 1837.
49.BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 5, 16-19 Dec 1837. Samuel Blackwell to Samuel J. Browne, 30 Nov 1837, John W. Browne Coll. 
50.BSL, Samuel J. Browne to SB, 15 Dec 1837, and James E. Ludlow to Samuel J. Browne, 8 Dec 1837, MC411, folder 8.
51.BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 28 Jan 1838.
52.Samuel Blackwell to H.C. Howells, 13 Jan 1838, MC411, folder 7; Samuel Blackwell to Family, 4 Feb 1838, MC411, folder 96; Samuel Blackwell to Hanna Blackwell, 24 Feb, 5 Mar 1838, MC411, folder 5.
53.BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 28 Apr 1838.
54.Samuel J Browne to “aged Mother” [Mrs. Farmer, his mother-in-law in England], 25 Aug 1838, John W. Browne Coll.; BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 31 Jul- 8 Aug 1839. 
55.BLC, Excerpts from Sam’s dairy, 7 Aug 1838, Microfilm Reel 76.
56.BSL, Elizabeth’s diary, 9 Aug 1838; Francis Short to Samuel Blackwell, n.d., postmarked from Bristol 1 Mar 1838, and from Boston 27 Apr 1838, MC411, folder 8.

“Only God Can Make a Tree”A History of Lewis County’s Hough Memorial Forest

By Mitch Fidler 

“Poems are made by fools like me, but only God can make a tree”. When American poet Joyce Kilmer penned these lines in February of 1913 he was no doubt inspired by the power and beauty of one of God’s greatest gifts to man. Since he wrote the poem at the family residence in Mahwah, New Jersey, scholars believe he was motivated by the well-wooded lawn of the family residence that overlooked the forested Ramapo Valley. The forests of the Black River Valley have likewise motivated people from Lewis County. The New York State Conservation Department entitled Martinsburg native Franklin B. Hough the Father of American Forestry. His son, Romeyn, published a fourteen volume masterwork , American Woods, a book that remains invaluable to silviculturalists. Lewis County’s first Forester, Castorland native Theodore P. Woolschlager, has done more than most, on the local level, to advance the importance of forests and to honor the memory and contributions of the Houghs. Ted Woolschlager was the driving force behind the creation of Lewis County’s Hough Memorial Forest

The elder Hough’s contributions to forestry are enormous and well known to many in the area. An 1843 graduate of Union College, Hough began publishing scientific writings shortly thereafter. He obtained his MD in 1848, but was drawn more to research and writing. By 1862 he had published histories of St. Lawrence, Franklin, Jefferson and Lewis counties. He returned to medicine as a surgeon for the 97th NY Infantry during the Civil War. In 1855 and 1865 Hough oversaw the compilation of the New York State census. This is where he noticed an alarming decline in the availability of timber in that ten year period. Hough then began to lobby Congress on the dangers of deforestation and to regulate the use of forests and establish forestry schools. His 650 page Report on Forestry (1877) was widely read and in 1881 the U.S. Department of Agriculture created the Division of Forestry. Lewis County’s F.B. Hough was chosen to be the first United States Forester.

Hough’s second son, Romeyn Beck Hough, is also a noted student of botany and forestry. He obtained degrees from Cornell University and studied medicine at Columbia. Like his father he set aside the practice of medicine to be a writer. In 1888, three years after his father’s death, he published the first volume of tree studies titled American Woods. This work, totaling fourteen volumes and featuring twenty five trees each, is invaluable to botanists, technical schools, libraries and industry because it identifies properties, use and distribution of 354 varieties of trees in the U.S. and Canada. Hough provides three samples of each tree studied in the form of a wafer-thin, translucent slice. This slicing machine itself became so popular that a factory was built to produce them after Romeyn obtained his patent. R. B. Hough died at his summer cottage on Brantingham Lake in 1924. In 2009, appraiser Ken Sanders valued a complete set of American Woods at $30,000.

To honor the memory and contributions of the Houghs, Theodore P. Woolschlager planned the Hough Memorial Forest in New Bremen. Ted was Lewis County’s first Forester. He grew up on the family farm on the Merz road in Castorland. He graduated from Carthage High in 1913. He then attended one year of teacher training at a normal school and taught for two years in Castorland. He then enrolled in the college of Forestry at Syracuse University but was drafted in 1917 as the U.S. prepared for World War One. He served in the78th Infantry Division. He finished college in Syracuse in 1922 and began a twenty nine year career with the U.S. Forest Service and Department of Agriculture. His specialty was pathology where he studied tree diseases in New York and cartography where he created property maps so that regions could manage their forests now and in the future.

It is only in his retirement that Ted planned and carried out the creation of the Hough Memorial Forest in New Bremen. In 1958, Mr. Woolschlager had recently completed a project on picnic area with stunning views of water falls on Fish Creek as it tumbles towards the Black River. This popular 105 acre tract in the Town of Greig is known as Singing Waters. He then turned his attention to a 61 acre parcel then for sale as part of the Sam and Mary Kieffer estate located one mile east of the hamlet of New Bremen on St. Rt. 812. Theodore encouraged County leaders to purchase the aging sugar bush with the specific purpose of creating an arboretum and encouraging botanical study. This area would not be like Singing Waters with its 100 camp sites. This property would host forty two, one acre plots in checker board fashion each planted with a different tree species. Eventually there were sixty different varieties. The plots are labeled for study and observation. On many occasions Hough Forest has become an outdoor classroom for local schools and colleges. This focus on learning would certainly have delighted the Houghs.

Mr. Woolschlager called the memorial project an “experimental forest”. It consisted of native and introduced conifers and hardwoods. Most of the trees were grown from seed collected by the County Forester in seed beds at the Lowville State Nursery at Dadville. Some of the seeds were western varieties sent East by Woolschlager’s son, Hawley, a forester in Washington State. Other tree species came from exotic seeds collected by Ted. The first trees were planted in the fall of 1958. Visitors today can see labelled examples of sugar maple, soft maple, red oak, white oak, white pine, Austrian pine, white spruce, Norway spruce, black walnut, white ash, Japanese Larch, red cedar, elm, yellow poplar, white cedar, red pine, blue spruce, silver maple, black locust, Norwegian maple, Jack pine, hemlock, horse chestnut, butternut, yellow birch, white birch, gray birch, tamarack, Scotch pine, hickory, beech, Douglas Fir and balsam fir. The old sugar bush hardwood was thinned out in 1975, the balsam fir stands were selectively cut in the 1990’s and some of the red pine was harvested after falling over in 2004.

On July 1, 1963 dignitaries and citizens gathered to dedicate the arboretum to the memory Franklin and Romeyn Hough. Folks have enjoyed the scenic walking trails there ever since then. Later County Foresters have kept the significance of the forest alive, especially Randy Kerr. He wrote several articles about Ted Woolschlager’s efforts and organized work details at the site. In 1990, the County Highway Department built a gravel road leading into the forest and the County Historical Society assisted in the replacement of the identification signs. Some of the original signs can be seen at the Historical Society. This fitting tribute to Lewis County natives with a national impact remains a treasure to be enjoyed by all for generations to come.