Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)

After escaping from slavery in 1838, Frederick Douglass became a leader in the abolitionist movement through his renown oratory and literary skills.1  In 1841 he became an agent of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society and, two years later, traveled throughout New Hampshire, Vermont, New York, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania while writing his first autobiography.2

It was during this period that he came to Peterborough on one or more occasions, staying at the home of Deacon Moses Cheney (1793-1875) who lived in the western half the double brick house on Union Street [277] from 1835-1845.3  According to the History of Peterborough (1954), “Cheney was an ardent abolitionist and for several years this little brick house was one of the stations on the famous Underground Railroad.  Many were the fugitive slaves who had supper, lodging and breakfast in this house and then were spirited up Windy Row by one of the Cheney boys who directed them to the next station in Hancock.  Frederick Douglass, one of the most active members of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, stayed at this house when he addressed a meeting in the Town House on Concord Street [37-39], probably early in 1840.”4  It is believed that Douglass returned some ten years later and delivered a speech at Union Congregational Church.5

Moses Cheney was the father of both Oren Burbank Cheney (1816-1903), founding president of Bates College in Lewiston, ME, and Person Colby Cheney (1828-1901), Governor of New Hampshire; and the great-grandfather of Amy (Cheney) Beach (1867-1944), America’s first successful female composer.6

1 Frederick Douglass:, retrieved September 6, 2014.

2 Timeline of the Life of Frederick Douglass 1841-1860:, retrieved September 6, 2014.

3 History of the Town of Peterborough (1876), Genealogical and Historical Register, page 36

4 History of Peterborough New Hampshire (1954), Vol. 1, page 781.

5 Monadnock Center for History and Culture, historical lobby display.

6 Block, Adrienne Fried.  Amy Beach Passionate Victorian.  Oxford University Press, New York: 1998, page 15.