What is it about the towns along the Erie Canal* corridor -- walking the old main streets in Palmyra or Seneca Falls energizes the soul for outrageous quixotic romantic crazy brave adventures of the mind, the heart, the spirit. During the 19th century upstate NY was still on the frontier of America but also on the frontier between a little knowledge and a lot of imagination.
- Self-styled Quaker preacher Jemima Wilkinson founded the Society of Universal Friends utopian communities near Penn Yan (1790s).
- Joseph Pelham founded the last of the long-lived Shaker communities at Sodus Bay and Groveland.
- Charles Grandison Finney found welcome territory for his Revivals during the Second Great Awakening (1820s - 1830s) of American Evangelicalism and established himself in Rochester.
- William Miller was a Millennialist who moved to Rochester to convert thousands in a tent revival and gave rise to the Adventist sects.
- Joseph Smith was visited by the Angel Moroni in Palmyra and went on to found the Morman Church.
- In Hydesville, and later in Rochester, the Fox Sisters provided oxygen to the popular Spiritualist movement -- mediums and spiritualist circles in every town.
- The Oneida Community was founded by John Humphrey Noyes as a Utopian community based on a formalized free love ("complex marriage" and "ascending fellowship"), mandated birth control ("male continence") and community morality ("mutual criticism"), along with total equality for women. (About 1840 - 1880)
- At Seneca Falls, Elizabeth Cady Stanton (Wesleyan Methodist), with help from women in the ultra-liberal Progressive Friends branch of Quakerism, wrote the "Declaration of Sentiments," presented at the Seneca Falls Convention (First Women's Rights Convention). Also attended and supported by abolitionist Frederick Douglass of Rochester NY. Also the inspiration for Rochester's Susan B Anthony.
Religious concerns over the sinfulness of slavery blossomed into active abolitionism and service in the Underground Railroad, assisting escaped slaves with passage into the North and into Canada. Gerrit Smith (Peterboro) , Frederick Douglas (Rochester) and Harriet Tubman (Auburn).
This region got the nickname of the Burned Over District because so many movements had swirled through this area that there were no souls left to save.
I'm trying to pull these thoughts together to see if I can create some powerful images for the one-minute "I Love NY" contest: the New York Minute. Stay tuned...
6.1.2008 (rev. 6.4.08)
* 1st passage from Erie to NYC in 1825