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The Congregational Church of Greenwich

The first mention of black persons residing in the village now known as Greenwich, New York is the auctioning of three males slaves on Washington Square in 1802. There was a steady but transient population of black slaves until 1827 (?) when New York abolished slavery. Some of the newly freed men stayed on, but more moved into the area from the south, all as refugees from oppression.

Job Whipple, who founded Greenwich in 1790, was a Quaker from Rhode Island. Quakers openly battled the question of slavery with the anti-slavers dominating. This history gave Greenwich a head start over most communities when it came to abolitionist sentiments. Right from the start, Dr. Hiram Corliss of Easton was a staunch abolitionist and his support of the movement easily infected others.

In 1827, Dr. Corliss and eleven members of the Dutch Reformed Church founded their own church, the Congregational Church, based on the principles of abolitionism and temperance. All of our knowledge of Greenwich's involvement in the Underground Railroad is based on writings of and about this church.

Perhaps, because of it's nearness to Canada; perhaps because the founding fathers of the Congregational Church were elite citizens of the village (doctors, lawyers, and mill owners), much was publicized about the intentions and workings of the local abolitionists. These citizens went so far as to host -visits from nationally known freedom fighters (Frederick Douglass and Horace Greeley) and even maintained a mission in Kentucky.

Unfortunately, after the Civil War, the Congregational Church died and mostof the founding members had, too. Thankfully, the black thread in the tapestry of Greenwich, and the tolerance that encouraged people of color continues to this day.

Cliff Oliver