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Looking for Timbuctoo

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You may have heard of “Timbuctoo” but do you know where it is? With the help of Amy Godine and Margaret Bartley we will follow the trail. Inspired by outrage at a discriminatory state law which withheld the vote from black New Yorkers in 1846-57, abolitionist Gerrit Smith gifted 120,000 Adirondack acres to 3,000 black New York men owning less than $250 in real property. His “gift land” brought eager pioneers to Essex and Franklin Counties from all over New York. Timbuctoo was one of several black farm communities inspired by Smith’s philanthropy.

The day will begin at John Brown’s farm where historian Godine will lead a tour of its Dreaming of Timbuctoo exhibit, then we will travel to the historic home of abolitionist Iddo Osgood, then to the grave of Timbuctoo’s best-remembered black pioneer in the North Elba Cemetery. We will then head to New Russia to explore more grantee sites. In Elizabethtown’s county archives and history museum, we will discover a portal to the lives of the grantees in court reports, school attendance sheets, and land records.  Few Adirondack stories express so movingly the interwoven themes of class, race, and regional identity.  Through a tour melding site visits with a documentary trail, “Looking for Timbuctoo” urges us to see this story in terms of the fellowship of husbandry, interracial community-building, a persistent laissez-faire racism, and the harsh constraints of class.

This tour will be led by independent scholar and Adirondack Life contributor Amy Godine and Adirondack History Museum trustee Margaret Bartley.

The tour begins at 9:15 AM and ends at 3:30 PM.

The tour fee is $50 for AARCH members and $60 for non-members.


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