North Star Underground Railroad Museum celebrates its 10th anniversary | News, Sports, Jobs
AUSABLE GOUFFRE – “Keep the lantern on” is Saturday’s theme for the 10th Anniversary Celebration, 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., of the North Star Underground Railroad Museum in Ausable Chasm, located at 1131 Mace Chasm Road.
Operated by the North Star Underground Railroad Historical Association, the museum’s slogan is “Road to lighting freedom.” “
“The North Star Underground Railroad Museum has been in existence for 10 years”, Bobbi Perez, president of development, said.
“We celebrate the founders, Don and Vivian Papson, the board members who worked with them to make this happen and run, and all the supporters over the years.”
Take a village
The program begins with a release ceremony by Robin Caudell, administrator.
Celebration host John Mitchell, 1st Vice President, will deliver welcoming and closing remarks.
“Journey on the Underground Railroad” will be introduced by Jacqueline Madison, President.
Musical selections will be offered by the Voices of Faith – founder Bobbie Criss, manager Brett Carpenter, Nora Ray, Desiree Terrell and Janice Tobin.
Memories will be shared by Helen Nerska, Director of the Clinton Historical Association & Museum and First Director of the North Star Museum; and Peter Slocum, journalist, bus driver, volunteer.
A dedication will be given by Martha Swan, Executive Director of John Brown Lives!
“We are delighted to share our vision with people, the vision to inspire everyone to overcome their differences and celebrate the importance of freedom for the survival of the human spirit”, Perez said the organization’s mission statement was excerpted from it.
Area businesses contributing to Saturday’s event include Adirondack Hardware, Chasm Rock, Kevin A. Hall, Land Surveying, Livingston Farm, Loremans’, Morrisonville Septic LLC, Pepsico, and Sweet Little Things Bakery Cafe.
Due to the recent increase in COVID in the region, masks are mandatory both in the tent and in the museum. Free masks are available on site.
“The fact that people come out to be with us means a lot to us, and we honestly try to be as safe as possible for the sake of everyone.” said Perez.
The Union Soldier’s House
The North Star Underground Railroad Museum is located in the heritage center of the city of Chesterfield.
The museum was inaugurated on May 21, 2011 and among the guests were descendants of Herbert Estes, who built the 19th-century Potsdam sandstone mansion. The Massachusetts native was a machinist, inventor, stationery owner, church leader, bricklayer, AuSable Grange member, and Union soldier journalist.
Inside the former residence of Estes, the museum explores the submerged history of “Champlain Line” of the international network of underground railways.
The exhibits present compelling stories of fugitives from slavery who crossed northeastern New York State and the Champlain Valley en route to Canada East and Canada West.
Key to the museum’s success has been the support of the City of Chesterfield City Council and former City of Chesterfield Supervisor Gerald Morrow, as well as the museum’s strategic location adjacent to Ausable Chasm, according to Madison.
“If we had to give anyone a lot of credit, it would be Jerry Morrow because he wrote the grant,” she said.
“The city council, they managed to do it. They haven’t done everything. Some funds have not been received, but we have received most of it. It is quite an accomplishment for me. We were nobody if you really think about it. They took a chance on us. This is probably the most important thing to achieve this.
Ten years ago, the association was at the right crossroads at the right time.
“We had what at the time was considered the ideal arrangement”, Madison said.
“Many museums own their buildings and properties and they struggle to maintain them. They had no funding. Sometimes they didn’t have enough staff.
Museum professionals pleaded for sustainable management with the support of a government entity coupled with private companies.
“We fell into this with Ausable Chasm as a business unit, and we had the town of Chesterfield as a government unit, and we were the non-profit organization,” Madison said.
“This was seen as an ideal arrangement to support museums. It was the other thing that was really good for us.
The Champlain Line encompassed the headwaters of the Hudson River, the Champlain Canal and Lake Champlain, a “Gate of freedom” according to the museum website.
The museum’s interpretive exhibits include an iron leg, found hidden in a nearby Quaker house, the centerpiece of the “Church hall”.
“We have a phenomenal number of visitors”, Madison said.
“I thought in the first year we would probably end up with a few hundred, but we ended up with thousands. The first year I think it was something like 4,500. At the top we had almost 6,500 visitors. It takes about six months. It’s almost 1,000 a month. So that’s really good, especially when you look at the other museums around.
Museum founder Don Papson oversaw the installation of the Object Theater, which tells the story of John Thomas, a freedom seeker who escaped from the Ezekiel Merrick plantation in Queen Anne County, in Maryland. Dealer Gerrit Smith sold his Franklin County lot and eventually owned over 200 acres in Bloomingdale.
“This is perhaps our most popular exhibition, without a doubt”, Madison said.
“And not just with adults, even with children.”
Owners since 2019
The officers of the board are Madison, president; Mitchell, 1st vice-president; James Kloiber, 2nd Vice-President; Barbara Criss, treasurer; and Kathleen Lavoie, secretary. Directors include Julius Archibald, Member of Parliament Emeritus; Andrea Baer, Caudell, Margaret McGannon (lawyer), LeGita Scott-Williams, Perez, Frank Perusse (emeritus) and Dick Ward.
The association received the deed of ownership for the building, signed by the City of Chesterfield and the Ausable Chasm Co., in 2019.
“We now have our museum” Madison said.
“We don’t have to worry anymore as long as we are doing our job. We don’t have to worry about that, maybe we have stepped down if a new city council comes along and decides they want to do something else with the building.
“If you think about it to have the support of the Ausable Chasm board and city council to feel confident enough that you can get this building back to us in eight years, that’s really impressive.”