This trail is located entirely within an eight-mile radius of Syracuse. All sites contain a historical marker, grave site, historic structure, public space, or museum. Note that the Matilda Joslyn Gage Center is a mid-sized museum; allow ample visit time. The Harriet May Mills Art and Home Center is located on the grounds of the New York State Fair just west of Syracuse, and is open throughout the thirteen-day run of the Fair, starting each year in late August. It is accessible only sporadically at other parts of the year, when the Center is opened to accommodate some other event taking place on the State Fair grounds.
Syracuse was home to a kaleidoscope of abolition, woman’s rights (nineteenth-century practice was to use the singular, woman's; later practice was to use the plural, women's), freethought, and related reform activism. Central figures included Matilda Joslyn Gage, L. Frank Baum, and Harriet May Mills.
Syracuse and its surrounding communities were home to the early abolitionist Hezekiah Joslyn and his better-known daughter, the suffrage leader and freethinker Matilda Joslyn Gage. That pattern was repeated with Charles De Berard Mills, a regionally prominent abolition and freethought activist, and his better-known daughter, the woman’s-suffrage activist Harriet May Mills.
Author L. Frank Baum (Matilda Joslyn Gage’s son-in-law) grew up in Syracuse; the idea for the Wizard of Oz’s unreliable balloon may reflect a wind-wracked balloon ascension the teenage Baum witnessed in Syracuse’s central square.
Syracuse was also the site of the 1851 “Jerry Rescue,” in which antislavery activists invaded a police station and freed “Jerry” Henry, an escaped slave being held awaiting forcible return to his owner in the South. The daring, if chaotic, rescue became a high point of Northern resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act.
The downtown Wesleyan Methodist Church was the site of an 1852 anti-slavery political convention and was also an Underground Railroad locus.
In addition, Syracuse was the final home of antislavery activist, woman’s-rights campaigner, and freethinker Lucy N. Colman; her homesite is now a community garden.
Finally, a North Syracuse oak grove honors The Wizard of Oz, L. Frank Baum, Matilda Joslyn Gage, Harriet Tubman, and many others.