We don’t have many records of Black History in Jericho. We do know that Elias Hicks, the famous Jericho Quaker, was quite successful in getting the local families to free their slaves in the 1770s. By 1791 he had convinced enough of his fellow Quakers to free over 154 enslaved people.
After the enslaved people were free, it meant they had to find work, housing and needed education to survive. Many Quaker families stepped up to assist them. Our only documented story is of Florence Bates who was taken in by the widow Lydia (“Lottie”) Willis.
Florence’s mother had done sewing for the Willis family for years. In 1896 Lydia’s son-in-law, Robert Seaman, moved in with his baby daughter, Phebe. Her mother (his wife) had died in childbirth and Lydia invited them to live with her. From that day on, Florence Bates became a friend and companion to baby Phebe. They were close even after Florence married and moved away. Florence writes that she always came back to Jericho “when called” for different events and occasions until Phebe’s death in 1957.
Florence donated a whole collection of papers, objects, letters and photos to the Jericho Library archives for which we are very grateful.
—Submitted by the Jericho Public Library