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George B. Swan - Bryan Thompson's Research

By: Bryan Thompson, De Kalb Town Historian

In the spring of 1863, George B. Swan was first elected a trustee for the Village of Potsdam. It was noted in Henry Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator March 20th 1863 that "G. B. Swan colored has been elected trustee of the village of Potsdam."

By 1883, Swan owned, The Parmeter Livery on Main Street; A second Livery on Main Street; a double barn, an old livery, and a blacksmith’s shop on Swan Street; a sash and door factory and a store on Maple Street and a planing mill on Fall Island (St Lawrence County Surrogates court); this was in addition to his personal residence.

Based on the information gathered from these sources, it does not appear that George B. Swan was hiding his race. Swan was a proud black man. Both his parents were listed as black and his maternal Uncle who he was named for was the first Black minister in the Methodist Episcopal church in NYS. The Uncle and Swan’s father are both known abolitionists. He grew up around people who were proud of their race. Racist-like attitudes would migrate north after the Civil War.

Sources

Estate of G. B. Swan, St Lawrence County Surrogates court

“The Ogdensburg journal., February 08, 1869, Page 2, Image 2.” NYS Historic Newspapers. Northern NY Library Network. Accessed Oct. 14 2020. https://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/sn85054113/1869-02-08/ed-1/seq-2… .