Excerpt from Preston E Pierce’s A Tour Guide to Black History Sites in Canandaigua, NY.
Five times in the 19th Century, African Methodists tried to sustain congregations in Canandaigua. In 1832, they were meeting on Chapel Street, probably in the Methodist Chapel there. One congregation met here, for a while, in the former Saladin monument store on South Main Street.
In 1907, African Methodists purchased land at 86 Beal Street. A committee, which included leaders of several community churches, tried to help Rev. J. N. Bridgman raise money to build a church until 1909. In the end, there were never enough members to support a separate congregation and the would-be members of an African church eventually joined other local churches. The Congregational Church accepted African members from its earliest times and supported efforts to create a Black church and Sunday school until at least 1910.
Leaders of African churches were always leaders in the abolition and Underground Railroad movements. They frequently traveled to anti-slavery meetings throughout the region. Rev. Charles L. Remond, a Black abolitionist from Boston, spoke in the Rochester-Finger Lakes area often. In Syracuse, Rev. Jermain Loguen, an African Methodist minister and Bishop, was the acknowledged leader of the Underground Railroad movement. St. James AME Zion congregation in Ithaca; and a small African congregation in Bath; also assisted “freedom seekers” as they crossed the Finger Lakes Region.
Among other Black clergy who came to Canandaigua and Geneva were Henry Highland Garnet, a former slave and Presbyterian, who spoke at many abolition and Emancipation Day gatherings. Garnet was the pastor of churches in Geneva from South Butler (Wayne Co.). Another well-known Black minister, Samuel Ringold Ward, also spoke in Canandaigua on occasion. He was a cousin of Henry Highland Garnet.