By Lauren Pidgeon

Did you know that while on your Elm Street stroll, you are probably walking in a path once taken by people escaping enslavement?

Just down Elm Street on the right is a yellow house on the right that may have been the home of Deacon Sylvester and Susannah Morris’s house.

Sylvester was a Church Deacon and abolitionist and Susannah was the founding member of the Norwich Female Abolition Society. Susannah had Society meetings as well as sewing circles and female prayer meetings where they discussed abolition at her house. Her husband, Sylvester, often led public debates about the anti-slavery movement and was a staunch advocate for temperance.

In many communities, women were the primary leaders of the Temperance movement but in Norwich, Sylvester Morris was a vocal advocate. Morris was strongly against the consumption of alcohol which prompted some conflict between himself and those who liked to drink alcohol.

Morris tried to prevent the Norwich University cadets from drinking which led to the cadets burning an effigy of Morris as well as cutting down his trees and shearing his horse.


Uncle Tom’s Cabin was published in a series of installments that many families in Norwich would receive in the mail. The Morris family gathered in the evenings to read each installment. A local newspaper editor urged subscribers to get a copy.


Morris helped some of the people who had escaped slavery. Morris’s son recalled one time when he came down in the morning and found a group of fugitives eating breakfast. He said that his family never asked any of them any questions about where they had come from and where they were headed.

Although one might assume that most Vermonters were abolitionists, there were anti-abolitionists in the Norwich area. During his debates on abolition, Morris was often opposed by Alden Partridge, the captain of the Norwich University. Partridge called for an anti-abolition meeting in Quechee and strongly disagreed with Morris’s views.
As you walk around the Hopson loop, think of all the debates that once occurred in these houses.

Next time I’ll be exploring Blood Brook!