Quaker presentation fundraiser for historical marker

PERU In 2006 , an historical marker at the Keese Homestead was struck and shattered by a speeding vehicle. In order to raise money to replace it, the North Country Underground Railroad Society hosted a discussion by Neal Burdick titled Quakerism, the Peru Quakers and the Underground Railroad, at the Peru Community Church Nov. 8. The lecture, given by Burdick, a practicing Quaker, explains the Underground Railroad as a part of local history and how Quakers played a major role in freeing slaves and the anti-slavery movement in general. Burdick began with a history of Quakerism, noting its start in Great Britain during the 17th century. As a result of religious persecution amongst Christian denominations and sects, Quakers, also known as the Religious Society of Friends, separated themselves believing all people were equal. Burdick then segued into the beliefs of Quakers with the key belief being there is God in each person. They call it the Inner Light, explained Burdick. Every other belief stemmed from that. One of the most relevant beliefs was against owning another person and egalitarianism. They believe that all people are equal, Burdick said. There was no social hierarchy. Nobody was better than anybody else. Because of these beliefs, Quakers felt it necessary to be a part of the abolitionist movement, beginning in England. They didnt really write legislation or anything like that, Burdick explained. But, they worked very hard behind the scenes to persuade parliament to pass a law abolishing slavery. And that belief came to [the colonies]. Burdick also pointed out Quakers are strong in their convictions. Because of this, they wanted to get involved in something that would contribute to the end of slavery, including the Underground Railroad. Burdick credited his great-great-grandfather, Stephen Keese Smith, with being a Quaker who did more than just pray for the end of slavery. He also used his own barn as a place to hide slaves on their route to Canada. Burdick read from Smiths memoir noting I had large buildings and concealed the Negroes in them. I kept them, fed them, often gave them shoes and clothing. I presume I have spent a thousand dollars for them in one way and another. After the early 1900s, Quakerism in the area had all but disappeared, with many Quakers having migrated elsewhere. Burdick himself was raised Presbyterian, having converted to Quakerism during college. All thats left of the Quaker Union now are a few buildings, Burdick pointed out. The Quaker Homestead ... the meeting house ... and, of course, Stephen Keese Smith's barn is still there, and a cemetery. Following a question and answer period, local singer and music teacher Lita Kelly took the stage to perform some folk songs about slavery and freedom and one about Smith, at the request of Burdick. The evening brought in $630 to replace the historical marker at the Keese Homestead; the overall cost is unknown. However, Jon Rulfs of Adirondack Farms has since agreed to pay the remainder, said Burdick.

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