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Northeast / Massachusetts

1. Town/City Hall In January 1834, a small group of abolitionists gathered in the Town Hall (1829-1830) also know as Old City Hall to discuss the formation of the Lowell Anti-Slavery Society. Among them were Congregationalist ministers Asa Rand, William Twining, Giles Pease, and Daniel Southmayd, Deacon Jeremiah Varnum and Oliver Varnum of Dracut, and Abram Merrill, pastor of Lowell's Methodist-Episcopal Church. Aaron Safford, owner of a drygoods store, and Royal Southwick, a Quaker and an overseer of the Lowell (carpet) Manufacturing Company joined them. In March 1834 the Lowell Anti-Slavery Society was held its first meeting in the Congregational Meeting House on Market Street. Its initial membership numbered 75 and included clergymen, businessmen, and skilled artisans. Town Hall was the location of a series of lectures delivered in the early 1830s by well-known abolitionists, including the prominent English activist George Thompson in 1834. A speech delivered by Thompson in early October received broad press coverage in local and Boston newspapers, based upon its controversial nature. According to several accounts, a "brickbat," or masonry projectile object, being thrown through an open window by foreign immigrants disrupted the event. The Boston abolitionist paper, The Liberator, ran a series of articles describing the incident. Widely known for his reformist and revolutionary tactics, owner and founder of the "Liberator," William Lloyd Garrison lectured at Town Hall on at least five documented occasions. Town Hall was the site of The Middlesex County Anti-Slavery Fair of 1839. Among the managers of this widely publicized event was Mrs. Abel Rugg, a well known citizens and active supporters of the Anti-Slavery Movement who opened her home to slaves escaping on the Underground Railroad. Proceeds from the sale of household goods, toys, and women's and children's clothing and accessories, were donated to William Lloyd Garrison and the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society in Boston. In the 1840s and 1850s, Town/City Hall became an important site of organized abolitionist activity in Lowell. Free Soil meetings were held in its public rooms in 1850. The "Middlesex Standard Newspaper" followed efforts of the Torrey Committee formed to raise money for the defense of Charles Turner Torrey. Torrey was a minister and reporter from Massachusetts, who was arrested, tried, and convicted in Maryland for aiding escaped slaves. The committee included Harriet Farley, Editor of the Lowell Offering; Sarah Clay, a tailoress and Secretary of the Lowell Female Anti-Slavery Society; Mrs. Royal Southwick, a prominent citizen, Quaker, and active supporter of the abolition movement; John Levy, black barber and agent for the "Liberator;" Horatio Foster, black hairdresser and anti-slavery organizer; John Greenleaf Whittier, author and editor of "The Middlesex Standard;" Judge Nathan Crosby, police court judge.


Submitted By:

Martha Mayo, Massachusetts,
martha_mayo@uml.edu