Black History: Mexico, NY and the Underground Railroad

by | Feb 9, 2024 | Blog

During my research for my biography of Rev. George E. Stone, A Modest But Crucial Hero,[i] I learned about Mexico, New York’s stop on the Underground Railroad. Mexico is located near the southeastern shore of Lake Ontario. It served as a convenient stop near Oswego to flee by boat to Ontario, Canada.

Two key players at this stop were Starr Clark (1793-1866) and his wife Harriet (d. 1873). They moved to Mexico in 1832 and he operated a tin shop. The Clarks used the tin shop and their house next door for the Railroad. Starr also recruited other residents to make their houses available for run away slaves.

He wrote the first antislavery petition sent from Mexico. He was a member of the Mexico Vigilance Committee, assisted a runaway named George to go to Canada. He worked to strengthen the anti-slavery wing of the Whig party. He signed several antislavery petitions. A free Black man, James Watkins Seward, was imprisoned in New Orleans. Clark petitioned New York Governor William Seward to contact the Governor of Louisiana to demand the man’s release.

Clark established the first Anti-Abolitionist Society in town. He was a friend of Gerritt Smith and Harriet Tubman. His shop received the only newspaper that he read to interested residents. Starr Clark died in 1866. His one political tenant was impartial justice for all.

The tin shop serves as a museum. It includes a first edition of Frederick Douglas’s story  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas, An American Slave and 1800s manacles used for slaves. [ii]

My ancestor George Erwin Stone heard the news in Muscat, Oman in 1899 that the African-American barber, William H. Hall, in Mexico had died. Hall arrived in Mexico a few years after the Civil War, so he lived there for approximately thirty years. George responded to the news, “I remember he was always interested in what we boys were doing and used to ask us intelligent questions regarding our work.” [iii] Did Mr. Hall cut the boys’ hair? Did George’s comment contain a tinge of racism? Did white people expect Black people to ask intelligent questions?

George attended Auburn Theological Seminary in Auburn, New York from 1895-1898. Auburn was the home of Harriet Tubman and other Black residents. I have not found any evidence that George met her. Following graduation, he served as a missionary with the Arabian Mission in 1898-1899. From February to June 1899, he served as the headmaster of the Mission’s Rescued Slave Boys School in Muscat, Oman. The African boys were rescued from slave traders by the British in 1896. He gained first-hand experience in seeing Africans being educated. Several of them showed intellectual giftedness. How did this impact George’s attitude toward Black people in general? I will probably never know, but I can keep working on my attitude.

[i] A Modest But Crucial Hero: The Life and Legacy of Rev. George E. Stone (1873-1899), Lake Placid, N.Y.: Aviva Publishing, 2023.

[ii] Discover Starr Clark Tin Shop & the Underground Railroad in Mexico, NY (; Aboard the Underground Railroad– Rush R. Sloane House (

[iii] A Modest But Crucial Hero, p. 165. See also, Mexico Independent, May 17, 1899, p. 8.





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