Robert Green Ingersoll Gives Lecture in the Woods outside Corning
According to Margaret Sanger’s autobiography, Michael Higgins (Sanger's nonreligious father) once invited agnostic orator Robert G. Ingersoll to speak in Corning, New York. Her account suggests that when Margaret was approximately fourteen years of age, her father had arranged to rent a hall that was owned by a Catholic priest; when Ingersoll arrived, Higgins found that the hall had been padlocked so that Ingersoll’s speech could not proceed. But Ingersoll and Higgins would not be deterred by this setback. They led an attentive crowd into the woods just outside of town, and Ingersoll delivered his lecture outdoors.
Like other stories of Sanger's childhood in her autobiography, this event cannot be substantiated. But based on available records, we suspect the hall involved in this story may be Columbus Hall. Later a convent house attached to St. Mary Mother of Mercy, the church Margaret Sanger attended as a child, the structure was razed in 2017 and in 2019 replaced with a large parking lot.