Office of Public Affairs
(315) 312-2265
Feb. 27, 2002
CONTACTS: Darlene Bailey, 625-4479;
Judy Wellman, 598-4387
OSWEGO -- A noted Central New York site on the Underground Railroad may land on the National Register of Historic Places thanks to research by a SUNY Oswego business administration student with a love of history.
Darlene Bailey of Parish did not take any history courses until her final semesters at Oswego, but her online studies with history Professor Judy Wellman last fall inspired the project, which she is continuing beyond her graduation in December.
The James Canning Fuller and Lydia Charleton Fuller house in Skaneateles was a station on the Underground Railroad in the mid-19th century and played a role in the Jerry Rescue. Earlier in that century, the Marquis de Lafayette had stopped at the house, and in 1935 Eleanor Roosevelt toured the by-then historic home, according to Bailey's research.
"When Professor Wellman gave the class suggestions for our projects, I thought J. C. Fuller and his house sounded interesting. Not only that, but it was a project that needed doing, and so I took it on," Bailey said.
To date, she has documented the Fullers' involvement in the Underground Railroad and conducted a deed search back to 1817. The back portion of the home was built in 1815, and the grand Federal-style front portion added in 1824.
"Professor Wellman is good in encouraging her students to dig deep into history, taking off the top layers. You never know what you may find!" Bailey said. "I am still finding more information on the Fullers, even after the paper and the course are over."
She is continuing to work with Wellman, the Preservation Association of Central New York and the current owners to complete and submit the nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
"The house is in excellent condition, with very few changes done to the original structure. Such things as a modern kitchen and baths have been added. The current owners are replacing items that have deteriorated, but are trying to keep as close to the original material as possible," she said.
The Fullers were Quakers and prosperous farmers who came to America from England, buying the home at 98 W. Genesee St. (Route 20) in Skaneateles, together with its 156 acres and outbuildings, for $9,500 in 1834.
"The Fullers were deeply involved in the Temperance Society, the Anti-Slavery Society and the Underground Railroad," Bailey said, and supported their causes generously. "They are absolutely fascinating people."
In her paper, she wrote that "as early as 1839, James C. Fuller may have opened his home up as an Underground Railroad station. It is the only documented Underground Railroad station still standing in Skaneateles. The slaves came through the Underground Railroad route from Syracuse to Marcellus to Skaneateles, and then to Auburn."
Fuller took his lumps for his beliefs. According to a newspaper account, while returning from an abolitionist meeting, he was "surrounded by a tumultuous mob" and "abundantly showered" with "mud and missiles."
But while he espoused nonviolence, Fuller may have given verbally as good as he got. The well-known abolitionist Gerrit Smith wrote a rebuke to Fuller for his counterproductive, "egotistical and clamorous" contentiousness. And Fuller's obituary in 1847 read, "Although his views were often in conflict with the popular sentiment, he advocated them with an earnest boldness, which if it failed to convince, denoted his sincerity and honest conviction of their soundness and importance."
The home continued a role in the abolitionist movement after Fuller's death. Lydia Fuller harbored the Underground Railroad leader Jermain Loguen as he fled from Syracuse to Canada after his part in the Jerry Rescue of 1851. Upon her death in 1857, the new owner, James Allen Root, continued abolitionist activities, according to Bailey.
Bailey said she always had an interest in history, expressed in genealogy research on her family and her husband's family, but a history course last summer taught by Johanna Moyer awakened an academic interest.
"The encouragement that I have received from Professor Wellman, Professor (Paul) Will and Dr. Moyer just may lead me back to SUNY Oswego in the future," Bailey said.
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