Greene Story Notes: Still Standing: The Friends Meeting House in Athens | Columnists

Local historic sites related to abolitionist activities in Greene County are few and far between. Many older homes in our area are mistakenly associated with heirlooms they don’t actually possess – the most popular and common being the oft-repeated claim that a given building “was a stop on the railroad clandestine”. Such claims are almost never supported by primary sources and often reflect a simple desire to cast an old building in a positive light. In this area, it is far more common for the facts to demonstrate a building’s direct connection to the institution of slavery itself. While this story is equally important, some would find it far less enjoyable to tell friends about it over dinner or include it on a real estate listing, and so the context and heritage of these buildings becomes obscured, neglected or completely changed.

It is because of this general paucity of verifiable abolitionist sites that it is exciting to discover one, especially when that site’s connection can be demonstrated through a variety of primary sources and contextual clues. Such is the case of the Old Meeting House of Friends in Athens, a site associated with the Hicksite Quaker movement and also the location of a lecture given by abolitionist Arnold Buffum in 1833. The Old Meeting House survives until to the present day as a private residence, but also endures as a site of conscience bearing witness to the tumultuous national struggle to end the institution of slavery in the United States.

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