Doors Open Saturday at Leominster Abolitionist Home
LEOMINSTER - The connection between Christmas and the city’s most famous abolitionist may not be obvious to everyone, but it’s there.
Frances Drake, a noted opponent to slavery throughout the 19th century and participant in the rescue of escaped slave Shadrach Minkins, made a name for herself as one of Leominster’s most outspoken proponents of the abolition movement, but as local historian Mark Bodanza explained, her crusade was partially financed through her ability to craft holiday wreaths.
“Mrs. Drake at this time of year was normally out in the woods cutting greens and fashioning them into holiday decor,” said Bodanza. “The proceeds from that went to benefit the abolitionist cause by bringing speakers to town and paying for pamphlets.”
To honor Drake’s legacy and pay tribute to her craftsmanship, the Leominster Historical Society will be hosting tours of the Drake House on Saturday and selling wreaths to benefit the city’s fuel assistance fund.
The city began renovations of the historic property in 2015, however the house has rarely been open to the public since then.
“It has been open in the past but not with any regularity,” said Bodanza, who explained that this is partially due to renovations not being completed yet.
What visitors will be able to see is the house’s parlor, where Drake’s sheltering of Shadrach Minkins took place.
Minkins was a fugitive slave who fled Virginia for Massachusetts in 1850, but was later apprehended in Boston as allowed by the recently instated Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Minkins was able to escape from custody and make his way to Canada, but the Drake House in Leominster served as one of his stops along the way and provided him temporary shelter.
“It was the first test case under that new law in New England and it was a big deal. It even drew rebuke from President Millard Fillmore,” said Bodanza. “I would submit that the rescue of Mr. Minkins and the Drake’s participation in it is the most important event to happen in Leominster.”
The open house will be held from 1 to 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Drake House, which is located at 23 Franklin St.