The Liberals and Freethinkers of Central and Western New York (later the New York Freethinkers Association) held its first convention, or “Grove Meeting,” on August 17–19, 1877, at the farm of freethinker James Madison Cosad in Huron, New York. (Some sources give the place name as Wolcott.)
The event featured leading freethought speakers from all over the Northeast. Scheduled speakers included D. M. Bennett, editor of The Truth Seeker, a national freethought paper published in New York City; Horace Seaver and J. P. Mendum, respectively editor and publisher of another national freethought paper, The Boston Investigator; C. D. B. Mills of Syracuse; P. O. Hudson of Indianapolis; and freethought publisher H. L. Green from the Buffalo area, among many others. At the meeting, Rochester abolitionist and suffragist Amy Post was elected Treasurer of the group.
The meeting was not without institutional support: the Rome, Watertown, and Ogdensburg Railroad offered free return passage for any who rode its rails to the event.
Sessions were held in a large outdoor tent capable of seating 2,500 persons. An estimated 500 persons attended on Saturday, August 18. A newspaper correspondent reported that “on Sunday there were many more”; Bennett later reported that on Sunday "the tent was completely filled." Town of Huron Historian Rosa Fox has recently estimated the peak attendance at 2,000 persons.
Special thanks to Ruth and James Chatfield and Rosa Fox for historical assistance.