The history of the Underground Railroad in Busti is associated with the efforts abolitionists “Squire” Plumb, Levi Jones, and most significantly, William Storum. All three homes were stations on the Underground Railroad.
The Storum family’s farm is located on Sanbury Road, not too far from Busti Corners. Originally William Storum came from Connecticut and his wife, Sarah, came from Massachusetts. The Storums had eight children, three sons and five daughters. Their family was held in high esteem by their neighbors and the community. It was whispered that they were abolitionists and that they ran a secret station on the Underground Railroad. Their farm was used to aid, hide, and assist runaway slaves on their way to Canada.
One of the Storum’s daughters, Catherine, married Lewis Clark on February 25, 1860. Clark was a runaway slave himself and he gained fame as a writer, lecturer, and abolitionist. Harriet Beecher Stowe used his life to develop her character George Harris of Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Stowe’s book was the most widely read book of the time (with the exception of the Bible) and it had an enormous influence in turning the sentiments of the North against slavery.
Another daughter, Caroline Storum, was married to Rev. J.W. Loquen, Bishop of the A.M.E. Church. He was a great friend of Frederick Douglass, perhaps the most famous abolitionist of the time. Caroline’s daughter, Amelia, married the son of Frederick Douglass.
In 1859 when Marinda Storum was visiting her sister, Caroline, in Syracuse, she met John Brown. Brown told Marinda of his plans to seize the U.S. Arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. Records show she was probably the only person outside of his officers that knew of his plan to raid Harper’s Ferry.
Seven fugitive slaves from Virginia had reached Busti by way of the Underground Railroad in 1850. One of the salves, Harrison Williams, decided to remain in Busti and work on the Storum Farm. Hs friend Sam Smith chose the farm owned by abolitionist Levi Jones.
This would be the year that the fugitive slave law of 1850 would be passed. Slave owners who had lost money on runaway slaves would now be protected. The law gave slave owners the right to cross state lines and take back their runaway slaves, with the help of local law enforcement officers.
Harrison Williams had been staying with the Storums for quite sometime. On September 30, 1851, the owner of Williams from Virginia, a slave catcher, and Sheriff Cotton from Fredonia, caught Williams while he was outside milking a cow.
News spread from neighbor to neighbor unbelievably fast. As the church bells rang, men on horseback and in carriages followed Sheriff Cotton and the slave through Fredonia, Dunkirk, and Buffalo. Still, Williams was taken back into slavery. However, twelve years after Harrison Williams was returned, to his master in Virginia, he met up with the Storum’s neighbor, Jim Broadhead. Both men were enlisted in the Union Army.
The Storums never left Busti. Sarah Storum died in 1856 and William in the 1880s. They are lying in unmarked graves and their graves have not been found in any of the Busti cemeteries.
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