Hoosick Township Historical Society
Mapletown Inn , a stop on the Underground Railroad
By Joan L. Dater
The Mapletown Inn on Rt. 7 in the Hamlet of Mapletown played an important role as a 'stop' on the Underground Railroad during the middle of the 19th Century. It is estimated that there were as many as 3,000 Underground Railroad 'operators' in northern states during the antebellum period, some of them ran 'stations', or safe houses for the Black fugitives on the run. Their destination was the freedom they could find in Canada. Such was the role of Garret Van Hoosen (Heusen) who in 1810 built this home, now the Mapletown Inn . He was connected to the Union Church* next door. Although the Church is no longer there, the Mapletown Cemetery connected to it remains.
Two letters housed in The Vermont Historical society pinpoints Van Heusen as a conductor who helped fugitives coming from Albany and Troy along their way to Bennington at the home of Charles Hicks in the Hinsdillville section of North Bennington. Hick’s home was near the present day entrance to Bennington College.
Active in the anti slavery movement in Troy, Van Hoosen was president of a convention held at the Rev. Fayette Shipherd's Free Congregational Church in January1845.**
In a letter dated June 9, 1842, Pastor Abel Brown, of the Sand Lake Baptist Church and corresponding secretary of the Eastern New York Anti Slavery Society, wrote a note to Garret Van Hoosen in Mapletown, asking him to receive the bearer (a fugitive) as a friend who needs your aid. He directs him on his way if Van Hoosen cannot give him work. The fugitive comes well recommended and was a slave a few weeks hence.
The Rev. Fayette Shipherd of the Liberty Bethel Church in Troy composed a letter to Charles Hicks in Hinsdillville. It is dated November 24, 1840. Addressed to “Brother Hicks,” he states that the Champlain Canal has closed. So he will send his Southern friends (the fugitives) along your road and patronize your house. The road would have been Rt. 102 from Mapletown, to Bayer Rd then Orebed, then over one of the covered bridges in Bennington (perhaps Henry Bridge) to Hicks Place near Rice Lane. Shipherd states that he had a fine run of business during the season, having 22 fugitives in Troy in two weeks 13 in the city at one time.
On June 10, 1843 Jane Hicks, the daughter of Charles Hicks, wrote to her sister, Eliza, in Manchester, VT. In it she relates an incident on a Friday evening when she heard a loud rap at the door. It was VanHousen with a fugitive family of a husband, wife and three children. They were seeking shelter, so Charles Hicks took them in and housed them for the night. The following morning, his son, Henry, was summoned. He then brought them to the home of Lemuel Bottum, and son, Simon, in Shaftsbury, VT (most recently known as the Vincent Hoy House) on Rt. 7A just south of Old Depot Rd. The two story colonial still stands and harbors a tunnel from the house to the barn. At the end of the letter, Jane Hicks commands her sister, "Please burn this as soon as you read it yourself. Let no one see it." Luckily for us, Eliza kept it intact.
It is believed that Charles' son, Henry Hicks, lived on Houghton Street in North Bennington. Further research should determine the whereabouts of his house, as there are several that can be considered good candidates.
More recently, in 1935 Harry N. Hawks, who was a dealer in Dodge Brothers Motor Vehicles near Hoosick Corners, documents his recollection of Garret Van Heusen, "The house which Garret Van Heusen built is about 100 years old and is now occupied by Addison A. Brimmer who bought it following the deaths of Van Heusen and his wife. Mr. Brimmer is 95 years old......The slaves came one or two at a time, usually two, and they brought a letter of identification to present to the master of the house. In this house the slaves were kept through the day in a small upstairs room and at night allowed to travel on to the next station which was between Bennington, VT, and North Bennington, VT, known as the Hicks' place."
This Society is eager to talk to descendants of established families who may have been told stories about the Underground Railroad. An initiative is underway to designate the Van Heusen House as an important stop along the Underground Railroad.
*The Union Church is the Liberal Religious Society at Mapletown, incorporated Jan. 23, 1836. It occupied the property of the old Mapletown Church which was originally the Hoosick Baptist Church founded March 16, 1785. The Union Church was a mission church and persons of several religious denominations worshiped there. See Landmarks of Rensselaer County, p. 433 for more information. Van Hoosen also served as president of the Rensselaer County Liberty Party in 1845 when a Convention was held in Troy (see Tom Calarco's The Underground Railroad Conductor: A Guide to Underground Railroad sites in Eastern New York.)
**See page 95, Tom Calarco's The Underground Railroad in the Adirondack Region. In the near future, the four letters discussed in this article will be placed on our website, Hoosickhistory.com
Joan Dater, a history buff, is a member of the Pittstown and Hoosick Township Historical Societies.