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Dreaming and teaching of Timbuctoo

New exhibit on 19th-century black settlers opens at John Brown Farm

July 14, 2016
By ANTONIO OLIVERO - Staff Writer ( , Lake Placid News

LAKE PLACID - Martha Swan turned the key to the padlock on the double doors of the 19th-century hay barn at the John Brown Farm State Historic Site. Lowering her head to enter, the executive director of John Brown Lives stepped into what is now the permanent home to the legacy of "Timbuctoo."

Almost two centuries prior, this homestead of the famous abolitionist Brown was the central location of Timbuctoo, which totalled 120,000 acres of Adirondack land set aside by prominent upstate reformer and philanthropist Gerrit Smith, given to 3,000 black New Yorkers in 40-acre lots. Owning land worth at least $250 qualified them to vote.

One hundred and seventy years after the settlers of Timbuctoo first moved to Essex and Franklin counties, almost no trace of their agrarian lifestyles remains to say where exactly throughout the North Country, including on this state historic site, they resided. Archaeological work is currently being done to find out more about the people of Timbuctoo.

Article Photos

News photo — Antonio Olivero
Martha Swan, executive director of John Brown Lives, holds up one of of 16 double-sided banners from a new “Dreaming of Timbuctoo” permanent exhibit at the historic homestead of 19th-century abolitionist John Brown.

New information has been uncovered. For now, 16 double-sided banners hanging in the hay barn tell the story in the exhibit dubbed "Dreaming of Timbuctoo." It opened Sunday and will be on permanent display as the latest free history lesson people can take in at the farm.


READ THE WHOLE STORY in the Adirondack Daily Enterprise at

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