Recreating the Freedom Trail

Rochester students will attempt to recreate the trail traveled by a man escaping slavery in Bath, New York. The Rochester-Monroe County Freedom Trail Commission is sponsoring the project as part of its mandate to interpret the Underground Railroad freedom movement in this region of New York State. Commission Chair, Dr. David A Anderson said that “After fleeing Bath, New York, Steward worked for an Ontario County farmer, Otis Comstock. It was critical preparation for Steward’s relocation to what he described as a ‘small forbidding place, surrounded by trees.’ Despite his lack of formal training, Steward chose to make his bid for independence here. He operated a successful produce and grocery store, earning the respect of some of the leading citizens of the boom town that become Rochester.”

In preparation for students’ June-July field trips, Anderson has established liaison with archivists in Bath and in Ontario County. His April 27 field trip led him to the Austin Steward burial site in Canandaigua. “I was surprised to see the grave marker (substantiated by records) bearing the names of five adult children, plus those of Steward and his wife. Before that, I had assumed that only one child was buried in Canandaigua, and three here in Rochester. So I am learning about the man.”

The Commission hopes the students will also find the Steward family interesting and inspiring enough to design a tour to help others enlarge upon their appreciation for freedom. The project is facilitated by a grant secured by Senator Robert A. Dollinger.