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Peter Mott House Being Moved to a New Foundation The Peter Mott House is being restored by the Lawnside Historical Society. Here the house is being moved onto a new foundation, May 5, 1997. Photograph courtesy of the Lawnside Historical Society.


Peter Mott House before restoration
Peter Mott House prior to being moved to a new foundation.
Photograph courtesy of the Lawnside Historical Society.
Peter Mott (c. 1807-1881), an African American farmer, constructed this house around 1844 and resided there until 1879. According to persuasive oral testimonies, Mott and his wife, Elizabeth Ann Thomas Mott, provided refuge to escaping slaves during the years leading up to the Civil War. 1870 census records show that Peter Mott was born in Delaware, and Elizabeth Ann Thomas in Virginia, but do not indicate if they were born into slavery. Their names do not appear in New Jersey records until their 1833 marriage which is possible evidence that one or both of the Motts may have escaped slavery and fled to New Jersey. The Motts settled in a free black community known as Snow Hill which later merged with a neighboring settlement called Free Haven. Snow Hill, founded in the early 19th century, may have take its name from Snow Hill, Maryland, reputed to be the place of origin for many of its founding residents. Free Haven was developed in 1840 by Ralph Smith, a white abolitionist who was the first Secretary of the Philadelphia Vigilance Committee, an antislavery organization founded in 1838. Smith named his development Free Haven to signify its role as a refuge from slavery and sold lots at low prices to free African Americans for homesites. In 1907, Snow Hill and Free Haven were renamed Lawnside which became the only ante-bellum, black community to become an incorporated municipality in the state of New Jersey. Peter Mott bought the first of three parcels of land on which his house was constructed from Jacob C. White, Sr., a wealthy African American dentist and active participant in the Underground Railroad. Mott became an influential local leader and served as a minister to Snow Hill Church, today named Mount Pisgah AME Church, and founded its Sunday School in 1847. Peter Mott's legacy as an Underground Railroad conductor survives because of his prominence in a free black settlement, his ties to other known Underground Railroad participants, and the strong oral history traditions of the remarkable community of Lawnside.

The Peter Mott House is located at the corner of Moore and Gloucester aves. in Lawnside, New Jersey. It was saved from demolition by the Lawnside Historical Society. The house is open to the public on Saturdays from 12:00pm to 3:00pm and for group tours by appointment. A tour request form can be downloaded from the Peter Mott House website, or for further information call 856-546-8850 or e-mail lhs@petermotthouse.org.

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