Thursday, June 16, 2011

Honeoye, New York

It is late, and I have been in the archive all day, drilling a dry research well. Fortunately, there is a pattern to what I am not finding.

After a disappointing day, I decided to go out to see where Helen Pitts, the second Mrs. Frederick Douglass, grew up. The drive took me off of the interstate (imagine!) and down winding highways to Honeoye.

 This is essentially the whole town, which is a hamlet, actually, complete with a sheriff ensuring that you observe the speed limit. He's the white car on the right in the distance.
 I do know that the Pitts lived along this street somewhere, but little evidence is left of that period of time in this area. So many layers of time can erode small places sometimes.

If you keep going straight down the street, you eventually go up a hill where you can find a scenic overlook. This is the view from there:

I imagine there were fewer trees then, as well.

This is a lovely, small, quiet place; but I imagine for a young woman in the nineteenth century, one with a burning to end slavery, to do good in the world, to do something at all in the world, it was much too small and much too quiet. She went to college at Mt. Holyoke, also a lovely, small quiet place.

Then, in the Civil War, she went south, into the Confederacy, to teach freedpeople in Norfolk, Virginia. After the war, she ended up in Washington, D.C. working on the women's journal The Alpha and in the Recorder of Deeds office where her boss was Frederick Douglass.  She now rests in Mt. Hope Cemetery, next to him and Anna Murray, the first Mrs. Frederick Douglass,  and not too very far from where I am researching.


  1. There is a historic Marker along Main street Honeoye that tells you of the Pitt's home. It is about 1000 yards before the stop light on the left hand side. A great house where I spent so much time searching for ghosts. My family is related to the Pitt's and most of my family still remains in the town of Honeoye. The hill you went up also has a grave yard which is the burial site to many of the original town settlers. It is overgrown and out of the way but a great place to go. Hoenoye is a great little town and was a part of the underground railroad. One of the teachers of the school, Mrs. Blackmer, has a house where you can go and see where the slaves hid away until the cover of the night. I hope you enjoyed your drive through there. It was my childhood and a wonderful place to grow up.

  2. My uncle by marriage lives in the Honeoye area. He is well into his 80's. He told me that his great grandfather helped protect runaway slaves on the Underground RR. He is a Blackmer.