Lansingburgh, sadly did have some enslaved people living within its bounds in the Eighteenth Century. Records pertaining to any of Lansingburgh’s residents in its first few decades are limited, records pertaining to any of Lansingburgh’s African-American residents even more so.
The first newspapers to be published in Rensselaer County began in Lansingburgh in the late 1780s and early 1790s. One can find occasional advertisements of people wanting to hire or sell a “negro wench,” or offering rewards for runaways. It is in one of the lattermost that perhaps one of the first African-Americans in Lansingburgh to be identified by name is to be found.
RAN away from the subscriber, a Negro Boy named CHARLES, 15 years of age, well built, and of good size, slow in speech and rather low; he had on an old green baize jacket with sleeves, and lined with homespun, and tow shirt and trowsers: Whoever will take up said negro, and return him to his mistress, shall have Three Dollars reward, and a handsome allowance for expences.
Lansingburgh, July 29, 1791.
American Spy [Lansingburgh, NY]. September 2, 1791: 4 col 4.
One wishes it were possible to know what became of Charles!
Happily, there were some early expressions of abolitionist sentiment in Lansingburgh:
(From an unknown hand.)
I was alone on the fertile banks of the Mohock, in a beautiful green field, a little east of the once flourishing ——–; The sun had just disappeared behind the western hill; the silvan scenes around me already put on a dusky green; and irregular gray clouds flitted thro’ the canopy of heaven—I sat on the verdant banks, and viewed the placid flood; the water glided without a murmur; only man had retired from the adjacent fields; scarce a sound disturbed the deep repose of nature; but the zephyrs whisper’d in the shady trees—I view’d with transport the enchanting scene—Such are thy bounties O GOD, said I; thou alone hast spread the lawns; and flowery vales; the silvan meadows owe their origin to Thee—Thou hast rear’d the lofty mountains, and taught the [silver?] currents where to roll—From Thee flow the blessings of autumn; Thine are the flocks and herds of the earth; and the changeful seasons are under thy controul—Thou hast abundantly variegated nature to gratify our every wish; but above all, Thou hast blest us with that inestimable jewel FREEDOM, which gives superior relish to the whole.—My heart overflowed with grateful sensations; I sat awhile in thoughtful silence, and began to sink into visionary reveries,—when a voice at a small distance rous’d my half-slumbering fancy—I look’d and cou’d just discover a poor African, for it began to be dark: He walked to and fro with much anxiety; sometimes he rais’d his flowing eyes to heaven; sometimes he turn’d and view’d the dusky landscape; then gaz’d attentive on the gliding water; while thus he breath’d the anguish of his soul:
“This is MY time to return from fatigue and hard labor; faint and weary with toil, my feeble knees can scarcely support their burthen—Far from the land of my nativity; far from my friends and dearest connections; far from all who are interested in my fortune, and from all who wish me well—my life is worn out in cruel bondage—This is MY time to return from wasting labour—But to whom do I return; to a fond wife, to endearing pratting children, to enlivening consoling friends; Oh! no, to none of these—-My wife, alas, died in the hold of our prison-ship; my children are slaves in different parts of the continent; my parents were murdered when I was captivated, and my friends are far distant in the land of my nativity: Here I have neither friends nor relatives, and my associates are in the same cruel bondage with myself: I have none to compassionate my woes—No, I am not to return to rest or comfort, but to receive abuse; I must return to the house of a severe master, a haughty and disdainful mistress, and insolent, abusive children; I must undergo a strict examination by my master; I must be abused for not doing more than my failing strength would admit of; my feebleness will be termed idleness; I must receive the opprobious language of a proud mistress, who frequently repays my industry with an undeserved beating—I must in silence submit to the scoffs of children who deride my calamity, and mock my heart-felt woes—I am wretched beyond the power of utterance, without the remotest prospect of relief: Some of my associates, ’tis true, have wives and children; and are they happy; Oh no! far, far otherwise; the fond parent sees with piercing anguish the future slaves of the land in his infant family; every day that brings them to maturity, brings them nigher the fatal time when they are perhaps to be separated forever; higher the time when they are to be sold like horses and oxen; when they are to be battered like merchandise, and fed like dogs; when they are to be subject to the caprice and ill humour of an unfeeling tyrant; when they are to experience wounds, beatings and unremitted toil;—in short, when they are to undergo all manner of hardships, which have already brought the experienced parent to the verge of eternity.—These are some of the many sad reflections of my associates in slavery; these alone are enough to fill the heart with the deepest sensations of grief, exclusive of the daily wants to which they with aking hearts see them exposed, and which with all their industry, even Sundays included, they find themselves unable to relieve; for we poor slaves have no resources, nor even an hour’s time to work for ourselves, except that in which the laws of the land prevent our working for our masters.–I have no wife; I had once a dear and loving wife; I look back with sad regret to the time; my heart bleeds at the remembrance: She had an entire affection for me; I have tasted of bliss; I have for a while enjoyed happiness; but I shall enjoy it no more: I have had an affectionate wife; when I went out her eyes gazed after me with tears; when I return’d she met me with a smile: But now I have no wife; she is dead; she was murder’d she fell prey to those who needed nothing but honest industry to make them rich, and humanity to make them happy.—Oh! that I then had partook her fate; it wou’d have terminated the miseries of one of the many wretches of my miserable nation; but my constitution was too strong; and I have experienced a life of sorrow.”
Federal Herald [Lansingburgh, NY]. September 1, 1788: 2 cols 1-2.