Category Archives: Florence, MA; public history model

Basil Dorsey: Involvement on UGRR in Florence

Lot #12 of Bensonville Village Lots

Lot #12 of Bensonville Village Lots

On our forth focused research endeavor, the class brought attentions back to David Ruggles, which we did not previously touch based in depth. Given the fact that we used “David Ruggles” as our Twitter account name, it is explicit that he played a key role in the UGRR. Therefore, while waiting for John Hooker’s letters, and other resources to come in, we worked on the relations with David Ruggles as Mr. Sullivan provided us with the website of the David Ruggles Center in Florence, Massachusetts, which we will go for a tour in the near future.

From the experience of investigating John Hooker’s history, I chose to research on Basil Dorsey, who was also an abolitionist. What was special about Dorsey was that he was being enslaved, and as he gained his freedom, he started on supporting the Underground Railroad. After some online research, I found an article, written by Steve Strimmer, which provided a great deal of brief but important information regarding Dorsey. This included Dorsey’s early life, where he met a benefactor who bought his freedom, and over many twists and turns, Dorsey got to meet David Ruggles in New York, then moving to Massachusetts with the help of Ruggles and before finally settling in Florence, MA.

bill of sale basil dorsey

The Bill of Sale Of Basil Dorsey (Friends Intelligencer 55 by Edward Magill)

The article also explained that Dorsey appeared in the 1850 federal census so we should certainly make good use of our communication skills and seek for these records. There were also other readings suggested, for sure it will be beneficial if we can look into those resources as well. Last but not least, it was shown in one of the sites Mr. Sullivan sent us that Dorsey had a house in Florence in sheltering runaway slaves. I think exploring this historical site will give us more clues about Dorsey and Ruggles. I am sure Strimmer, being our tour guide, could answer much more parts of Dorsey’s later life, especially about his house.


Florence and David Ruggles – The Connection to UGRR


David Rugg;es

After reading various online source, I learned that David Ruggles lived as a legend in the UGRR movements without being reported in our history book. The fact that he sued the railroad company at the time when racism filled the culture and when most people would not help him, nevertheless he sustained a sense and reason of being right or wrong. Although he has lost the case, his actions give us an indication of the courage with which he lived his life. Before David Ruggles build up his connection with the utopian community in today’s Florence, he lived in New York City where he opened the nation’s first African-American bookstore. He tends to be the savior of many African American slaves to acquire their freedom, theses people include Frederick Douglass. Regard to his actions so far, what he has done was significant and his determination as a abolitionist is unshakable. His courage for an abolitionism and made him stand at the front line of UGRR to bring freedom to fugitive Africans was significant since he had operated before the Civil War and therefore slavery was a serious deal and he could got into trouble, even death by doing so. After David Ruggles, a guy named Basil Dorsey as a escaped slave, joined the Florence community from escaping his way out of Maryland, helped develop the UGRR and further more extended what David Ruggles didn’t have time and energy to achieve due to his injury to his body and eyes, which he experienced while protesting UGRRs.


The Bridge between Connecticut and Massachusetts


Book cover from ” Places of the Underground Railroad” by Tom Calarco

As we explored into the David Ruggles Center, we get to know the history about Florence, Massachusetts. Because Florence is the key center of abolitionist sentiment in Massachusetts, we are thinking if it has any connection with our current research on the other Underground Railroad back in Suffield, Connecticut. As we dig into the history of Florence from different sites, I found a book named “Places of the Underground Railroad: A Geographical Guide” by Tom Calarco, which illustrates some of the fugitive runaway routines and also provides some freedom trails. From this section about “Route to and from Farmington”, we are informed that most of the fugitive slave were trafficked in Connecticut moved through the western part of the state. Many administer and pastors took part in the abolitionism activities. For example, the pastor of the North Church in New Heaven, took fugitive slaves to Farmington. Also, there are many stations all the way through Connecticut to Massachusetts, in which fugitive slaves are believe to have found shelter at the Chaffee House in Windsor and Suffield. Rev. Osgood also worked in the area of Springfield as the coordinator, in which he sent the fugitives to J.P. Williston in Northampton or to some agents in Florence. Finally, those abolitionists settled in Northampton and started the Northampton Association of Education and Industry (NAEI) in 1842, where Frederick Douglass, David Ruggle and Rev. Osgood all have participated in. Because there’s a connection between Connecticut and Massachusetts, I believe that as we continue to research the process of sending fugitives to the safe places and the helping station where they were stopped, there will be something interesting to discover.



  1. Calarco, Tom. “Places of the Underground Railroad.” Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 18 Feb. 2016.


Lydia Maria Child – Abolitionist Novelist


Lydia Maria Child was an American abolitionist, women’s right activist, Native American rights activist, and novelist. She wrote one of the earliest American historical novels, the first comprehensive history of American slavery, and the first comparative history of women. Her literary career began with the publication of her 1824 novel “Hobomok”, A Tale of Early Times, which portrayed an interracial marriage between a white American woman and a Native American Indian man. In 1826, she founded the popular children’s magazine, the Juvenile Miscellany. Lydia Maria Child also spend time on Florence which became a refuge with Frederick Douglass and other abolitionist

In the 1830s, Child joined the Boston abolition movement and published a wide range of works on the rights of African-Americans, Native Americans and women including “An Appeal in Favor of That Class of Americans Called Africans” in 1833, it argued in favor of the immediate emancipation of the slaves without compensation to slaveholders. “The History of the Condition of Women, in Various Ages and Nations” in 1835; and “Evils of Slavery” in 1836.

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Although best known for her antislavery writings, Child evinced an interest in all areas of social reform. Throughout her long career she commented on such issues as Indian rights, equal rights for women, educational reform, and religious toleration. She sacrificed a burgeoning national career in the 1830s by remaining true to her own conscience and becoming one of the first Americans to speak out against the institution of slavery.