Lecture to focus on local slavery

JOHNSTOWN — Travis M. Bowman, senior curator with the New York State Bureau of Historic Sites, will present “Slavery in the Mohawk Valley” at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Johnson Hall State Historic site.

The talk will examine how slavery evolved in New York under the Dutch, British and American systems of government, and how the institution was used at a local and personal level in the Mohawk Valley.

Refreshments will be served at the conclusion of the lecture.

There is no admission charge, but donations to support Johnson Hall’s interpretive programs and ongoing restoration will be appreciated, according to a news release.

By the mid-18th century, slaves appeared frequently in Mohawk Valley estate inventories, sale documents, journals and letters.

The majority of slave-holding households had only one or two slaves, likely tasked with housework and farming duties. Only a few landowners in the valley held more, the news release said. Jacob Mabee of Schenectady, in his 1755 will, bequeathed five slaves to his children.

Gen. Nicholas Herkimer of Little Falls may have had between 11 and 33 slaves working in his household, farm and portage business.

The largest slave-holder in the valley, Sir William Johnson of Johnstown, had around 30 slaves at his Johnson Hall estate.

Bowman is responsible for the research, care and exhibition of the collections at New York state’s 41 historic sites and parks.

Before moving to the Bureau of Historic Sites, he coordinated the State and National Registers of Historic Places for 14 counties as part of the New York State Historic Preservation Office.

Johnson, who created his English Georgian estate in 1763, was the largest landowner and most influential person in the colonial Mohawk Valley. His success in dealing with the Six Nations had a lasting effect on their relationship with the English, and largely influenced England’s victory in the Anglo-French struggle for control of colonial North America.

Today, the main house and flanking stonehouses interpret Sir William and Molly Brant’s family life through guided tours of the period room settings, educational programs and special events.

Johnson Hall State Historic Site is located at 139 Hall Ave.

By Patricia Older

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