Utica (pop. approx. 62,000) is the county seat of Oneida County. Utica began as a river settlement, then a canal, and later a rail boom town.
Mid-nineteenth–century Utica was a town divided between abolitionists—Utica was a principal waypoint on escaped slaves’ route to Canada—and pro-slavery agitators determined to preserve the flow of cotton to the city’s prosperous textile mills. An 1835 antislavery meeting in a Utica church was disrupted by a pro-slavery mob. Attendee Gerrit Smith invited delegates to complete the meeting in Peterboro, his hometown. Smith thereafter became a major leader (and funder) of the abolition movement.
In the early 1840s the Liberty Press, an antislavery newspaper, was published in Utica. It was edited by abolitionist and, later, dress reform advocate James Caleb Jackson.