Gerrit Smith

The Famous Abolitionist Gerrit Smith: A Brief Synopsis

Gerrit Smith was a famous abolitionist and one of the largest land owners in America. A benefactor of two large failed slave escapes as well as numerous projects in the African-American community, Gerrit Smith also supported women’s suffrage though he did not financially contribute toward the cause.

The Famous Abolitionist Gerrit Smith: Childhood, Family and Marriage

Gerrit Smith was one of six children born to Peter Smith and Elizabeth Livingston. His cousin was renowned women’s rights activist Elizabeth Cady Stanton. linked by Gerrit’s maternal Aunt, Elizabeth Cady Stanton was said to have met her husband, Henry Stanton, at the family home owned by Gerrit Smith’s parents. He married Wealtha Ann Backus in January 1819, who died from ‘dropsy of the brain’ seven months later. In 1822 Gerrit Smith re-married and had five children with Ann Carroll Fitzhugh, however only Elizabeth and Greene survived to adulthood.

The Abolitionist Gerrit Smith: Land Owner and Benefactor

Gerrit Smith inherited significant wealth from his father, however, he was a shrewd businessman long beforehand. Purchasing the land his siblings had inherited made Smith one of the largest land owners in the United States. As an abolitionist, Smith often used his own funds to help those charged under the Fugitive Slave Act; he also provided funding to friend and fellow abolitionist to Frederick Douglass for his newspaper The North Star and gave away some of his amassed land to provide homes for former slaves. It is said that he gifted over $8,000,000 to causes that he championed; however, he also gave speeches against the injustice of slavery and racial and gender equality.


  • Name: Gerrit Smith
  • Birth: 6 March 1797
  • Death: 28 December 1874
  • Famed for: Providing financial assistance to aid former slaves
  • Parents: Peter Gerrit Smith and Elizabeth Livingston
  • Siblings: Peter, Cornelia, Adolphus, James
  • Spouse: Wealtha Ann Backus (1800-1819) M1819, Ann Carroll Fitzhugh M1822
  • Children: Elizabeth, Fitzhugh, Ann, Greene
  • The Abolitionist Gerrit Smith: Efforts Against Slavery

Gerrit Smith had also helped fugitive slaves and hid a young woman in his house until she could continue her escape via the Underground Railroad. He was partially responsible for Elizabeth Cady Stanton’s stance on slavery in so far as he arranged for the slave girl and his cousin to meet to show Elizabeth the horrors that her potential husband, Henry Stanton, was trying to eradicate. In 1836, Gerrit Smith was elected president of the New York State Anti-Slavery Society and Peterboro even became a stop for the Underground Railroad. Gerrit Smith had run for president of the United States in 1848, 1856 and 1860 and held office in Congress for a year and a half from 1853.

The Abolitionist Gerrit Smith: Involvement in the Harpers Ferry Raid and Later Life

In 1850, Gerrit Smith met John Brown. Nine years later, Smith would become one of his secret financial backers in what became the failed Harpers Ferry Raid. However, this was to backfire as the failed raid cast suspicion on Gerrit Smith; the stress caused him to be admitted by friends to the Utica State Asylum for a short time. Currently what remains of the Gerrit Smith Estate in Petersboro, New York is a National Historic Landmark.


  • Syracuse University
  • National Abolition Hall of Fame

The Biography of Famous Slave/ Abolitionist Gerrit Smith

  • The Biography of Gerrit Smith, for Education and Learning
  • Gerrit Smith’s Efforts to End Slavery
  • Gerrit Smith’s Childhood and Family
  • Quick Facts About the Abolitionist Gerrit Smith
  • Information About Gerrit Smith, Abolitionist and Wealthy Land Owner