Episode 36 “Burial Grounds in a Segregated City”: with Tom Angotti,
Professor Emertis, Hunter College.
During the period of Dutch and English settlement, New York City was one of the nation’s largest urban centers for the slave trade and served as a financial patron, of the plantation economy, in the South. In the Dutch colony, as many as 40 percent of the population were slaves.
Slaves had no choice of residence, were treated like a commodity, and even in burial were denied equal access. At the end of the 17th century, Trinity Church formally banned blacks from its cemetery in lower Manhattan as land in the fortified city became scarce. The African Burial Grounds in lower Manhattan were a result of this process. And perhaps most shocking of all, it even limited their access to New York City’s Potters Field, Hart Island. Even in death their discrimination persisted.
Cadiz, the Tiny Town that Hid Big Secrets
by Maggie Fredrickson
Cadiz is a tiny hamlet located within the Town of Franklinville, New York. If you travel south along Route 16 toward Olean, New York, you will pass a sign for Route 98.
Turn right and you will cross Ischua Creek and find yourself back in history to the 1800’s. At one time it was a bustling center of activity, with two hotels, stores, a Methodist Church and school. There were various businesses, a blacksmith, a mill, and a cheese and cheese box factory. Later at the end of the 19th century it became the first home of the Ontario Knife Company. Today Ontario Knife is located several miles away and is the oldest knife company still in operation in the United States.
Now the businesses, Methodist Church and factories are gone and travelers only see a hand full of houses. Turn left at the crossroad and a short distance down the road a New York Historical sign stands in front of the Cadiz Cemetery. It is the final resting place of the early pioneers and brave citizens of Cadiz, with the first burial recorded in 1837.
The cemetery is filled with men who volunteered to serve their country in several wars. There are three patriots who fought in the American Revolution, seventeen men who answered the call when the War of 1812 threatened the new country’s freedom and over 50 men who volunteered during the Civil War. Although Cadiz never had a large population, it is amazing to see the large number of graves of men who served in the military.
Life in Cadiz was definitely not dull. Old letters and newspaper articles tell of picnics, festivals, parades, sports activities and late-night surprise parties. The small one room school house, that still exists today as a private home, produced a large number of scholars who went on to become very successful and wealthy business owners, entrepreneurs and professional men.
But for over one hundred years, the tiny town hid a big secret. Many of the residents were Abolitionists and became involved in the Underground Railroad Movement. Runaway slaves, who were able to follow the Allegany River to Olean, would be rafted up Ischua Creek to the Cadiz area. Today, the creek is a famous spot for trout fishing, however in the 1840’s it provided a safe route for slaves seeking freedom.
When the slaves reached Cadiz, they found refuge on the Searle Farm, Mead homestead, Burlingame house and the Stagecoach Inn. There was once a tunnel that led from the creek to the inn, but it has been blocked.
According to the law, anyone found harboring a slave or providing transportation could be fined, jailed or forced to forfeit their property. Neighbors who knew of this type of activity were required to report this to the authorities or risk the same punishment, even if they were not involved in the Underground Railroad.
Everyone in Cadiz kept this secret for many years. In 1929, Alfred Rice, a school teacher from East Aurora, revealed the names of the people in Cadiz who were active in the Underground Railroad. Rice would come to Cadiz and take the escaping slaves to the next spot in his horse-drawn wagon, hiding them beneath hay. Eventually the slaves would arrive in Buffalo. Many of them would cross to Canada, where slavery had been abolished long before The Emancipation Proclamation.
Many of the Abolitionists are buried in Cadiz Cemetery, taking their secrets to the grave. Alfred Rice was the last surviving member of the group and revealed the secrets shortly before his death.
Isaac Searle, whose farm on Route 16 still exists, owned 2,000 acres and was very wealthy. He was willing to risk his fortune for his religious belief that all men are created equal. He lies in Cadiz Cemetery. The Burlingame home is gone, but the Stagecoach Inn and Mead homestead still exist. Today, the Mead home is known as the Howe-Prescott Pioneer House. It was built circa 1812 and is the home of the Ischua Valley Historical Society. The original barn is still standing and these two buildings are believed to be some of the oldest in Cattaraugus County.
The village blacksmith, William White, was a devout Abolitionist. His son, George White was raised in Cadiz. He became a teacher at Fisk University, an early college for freed slaves and organized the Jubilee Singers. Using his musical talents he was able to save many of the early songs and spirituals by transcribing them. He arranged to have the Singers tour throughout the world and raised enough money to help the college survive. The Jubilee Singers continue to perform and record.
One of the graves in Cadiz Cemetery belongs to Theophilus Howard Jr. His father was only fifteen years old when he dressed as an Indian and dumped tea in Boston Harbor, taking part in the historic event we know as The Boston Tea Party.
Today the Ischua Valley Historical Society honors the war veterans during a Flag Day Celebration. A community picnic is held and then the ceremony begins. There is a flag raising, followed by the Star Spangled Banner. The Rushford Band plays patriotic music and a program is presented to honor the military men buried in Cadiz Cemetery who have served their country. Sometimes there is a speaker and at other times a school chorus performs. In good weather small flags decorate the veteran graves.
In 2019, we honored the young men from Cattaraugus County who were our fallen heroes in the Vietnam War. A bell was rung after each name was read. The story of a young man from Franklinville who had been listed as missing for many years was shared. Sadly, after many years his body was found and returned home. It was an emotional time for the Vietnam Veterans who attended.
Afterwards, people have the opportunity to tour the Howe-Prescott Pioneer Home and the barn with its extensive tool collection. Visitors who would like to tour this stop on the Underground Railroad and the cemetery are asked to call for an appointment. We can be reached at 716-676-2590 or 716-699-2781.
We also have a Victorian Queen Anne Mansion in the Village of Franklinville that can be toured. In December we will be opening our new site, 3 Park Square which will eventually house our collections and be used as a genealogical center.
We are proud of our three sites and welcome new members. Donations are also appreciated to assist us with our restoration projects. For information or genealogical assistance, please call the above numbers or write us at IVHS, P.O. Box 153, Franklinville, New York 14737. Email: MaidLynn@aol.com
Michael T Keene
“Talking Hart Island”