Gerrit Smith’s father, Peter Smith (for whom Peterboro was named), established his homestead here in 1804. Upon his father’s death, the younger Smith inherited a fortune that he greatly expanded through shrewd business dealings. He erected various buildings, including a mansion. He also made his estate a regional center for reform agitation in such areas as abolition, temperance, and woman's suffrage (nineteenth-century practice was to use the singular, woman's; later practice was to use the plural, women's). From this homestead, Gerrit Smith and his wife Ann Carroll Fitzhugh Smith over their lives donated an estimated eight million dollars (more than $250 million in current dollars) to a spectrum of reform causes.
Smith resided here when he invited some 600 delegates to Peterboro to complete the first meeting of the reconstituted New York State Antislavery Society at the village’s Presbyterian Church. The site of that meeting now houses the National Abolition Hall of Fame and Museum. He also resided here when he was one of the "Secret Six" northern philanthropists who bankrolled John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. So active was Smith in the abolition movement and the Underground Railroad that African American abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet wrote: “There are yet two places where slaveholders cannot come, Heaven and Peterboro.” Frederick Douglass published this comment on the front page of his Rochester-based abolition paper The North Star on December 8, 1848.
Smith’s daughter Elizabeth Smith Miller resided on the estate with her husband, Charles Dudley Miller, between 1846 and late 1850. Prior to that the Millers resided as newlyweds in a small house in Cazenovia; after their four-year sojourn on the Estate, the Millers moved across the street to the House on the Green in Peterboro, one of two homes Gerrit Smith would give to the couple.
The Gerrit Smith Estate contains several buildings, though not the Smith mansion, which burned down in 1936. The Estate was named a National Historic Landmark in 2001. Self-guided tours of the grounds are permitted during daylight hours; an informative visitor’s center is open Sundays from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Additional information on the Gerrit Smith Estate is available here. Additional information on the Gerrit Smith Estate and other historical attractions in Peterboro is available here and here.