Sunday, May 17, 2015, Ferrisburg, Vermont--
Rokeby Museum's  Opening Day  and Secret Lives of the Underground Railroad

Don Papson opened Rokeby Museum's season on Sunday, May 17th. He spoke about the amazing work of   Sydney Howard Gay and  Louis Napoleon and Gay's Record of Fugitives. Don gave special attention to Vermont native Oliver Johnson, who was assistant editor of the National Anti-Slavery Standard when Gay wrote his Record. Don suggested that Johnson may  have relieved Gay of enough of his duties so that he could  take the time he needed to write down the stories of the fugitives from slavery who were coming to the office for help.

When Gay resigned from the Standard in 1857, Johnson became editor. On May 2, 1860, Johnson wrote a  letter to Philadelphis forwarding agent, James Miller Mckim, in 
reaction to the rendition of fugitives Allen Graff and Josiah Hay. Johnson  said defensively,

"It is indeed a shame that fugitives here are carried off without causing as ripple in public opinion. If there were anybody here to take charge of such business, we might might make as good a “moral row” here as you do in Phil. But I am compelled to shirk the whole business of fugitives. I do not, twice in the year, stop to talk with those that come to the office. William & Napoleon  do all that is done. My editorial cares,and the incidetal (sic) business and correspondence that I cannot escape, use up every iota of my strength. " (Oliver Johnson to James Miller McKim, May 2, 1860, S.J. May Collection, Cornell University.)

Johnson was referring to Louis Napoleon and William H. Leonard, the black man who printed the Standard, and
who had accepted responsibility for the office's UGRR operation upon Gay's resignation three years earlier. (See page 196 of  Secret Lives).

Rokeby'sExecutive Director, Jane Williamson, granted permission for  their image of Oliver Johnson to appear in Secret Lives

Rokeby is a National Historic Landmark which connects visitors with the human experience of the underground railroad and with the lives of Quaker abolitionists  Rowland T. and Rachel G. Robinson, and their descendants, who lived on and farmed the land for nearly 200 years. To learn more,
Watch Gordie Little's interview of Don for Home Town Cable's Our Little Corner.